You are here:

Stinging Nettles: Do Dock Leaves Work?

Stinging nettles! With their infamous reputation for delivering a sharp sting upon contact, nettles often evoke feelings of frustration for outdoor enthusiasts, gardeners or mostly anyone who comes into contact with them! However, these seemingly pesky plants are packed with remarkable health benefits and have a huge history in herbal medicine. In this insight, we’ll explore the fascinating world of stinging nettles, uncovering their nutritional value and medicinal uses. Additionally, we’ll provide practical tips on how to safely handle and treat nettle stings, ensuring you can appreciate these versatile plants without the discomfort. Join us on this journey to transform your perception of stinging nettles from nuisance to natural remedy.

Stinging Nettle - Commonly found


Stinging nettles: what’s it all about?

Stinging nettles are perennial plants (they live more than two years), and deliver a sting with their tiny, hair-like structures on their stems and leaves, similar to some other animals and plants that sting. These hairs, also known as trichomes, act as tiny needles that inject histamine and other chemicals, such as formic acid into the skin upon contact. This causes a stinging sensation, redness, and itching. Despite their irritating nature, stinging nettles have been used for centuries for their medicinal properties. They are rich in vitamins A, C, D, and K, as well as minerals like iron, potassium, and calcium. Like many other plants, nettles are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, and this makes it an excellent ingredient in tea and even for a tasty treat in soup.

A warm cup of tea with a teapot

Where do you find dock leaves?

The proximity of stinging nettles and dock leaves in many ecosystems is more than just a coincidence. Both plants thrive in nitrogen-rich soils and disturbed areas, which are common in human-altered landscapes. This close association has led to the widespread traditional knowledge of using dock leaves as a remedy for nettle stings. The relationship between these two plants highlights how our natural world can benefit us in many ways, whether that be for building, technology or medicinal purposes.


Do dock leaves relieve stinging nettle stings?

There is a lot of speculation about whether dock leaves actually work when treating nettle stings. It’s a classic example of the bridge of traditional or herbal medicine and modern knowledge. The sap of dock leaves contains compounds like oxalic acid and tannins, which have astringent (constricts body tissues) and soothing properties. However, usually thought to have helped to neutralise the formic acid in nettles, dock leaf sap is also acidic, not alkaline! Although they may not ‘neutralise’ the sting, dock leaf sap has been found to have an almost cooling affect on the nettle sting area, due to the dock leaf juice evaporating. Another way dock leaves may work is purely down to the placebo effect!

Rash caused by nettle sting

Are there better ways to treat a nettle sting?

There are quite a few methods you can use at home to treat nettle stings with no dock leaves in sight, but this one is the most safe and reliable:

  1. Wash the area with soap and water
  2. Don’t scratch or rub the area
  3. If it gets worse or doesn’t improve, apply a cold ice pack or damp cloth to prevent further swelling


So, next time you’re unlucky enough to be stung, remember the efficacy of the dock leaf in countering the chemicals released by the nettle is now dismissed by modern science. Is it time to move on from the practise of rubbing nettle rashes with dock leaves that has been entrenched for millennia?