Do dock leaves cure nettle stings? Here's what to do if you get stung

For centuries dock leaves have been used by many as a simple way to stop the pain of nettle stings, but do they actually help or is it simply a placebo effect?

There are numerous home remedies which all claim to be the best way to cure nettle stings, but many vouch for the healing effects of the trusty dock leaf, whilst others deny the cooling powers of this humble weed.

Why do nettles sting?

The nettle's sting helps the plant to protect itself from predators who may try to eat or uproot it.

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The sting of a nettle causes any predator that may eat the plant or try to uproot it to stay clearThe sting of a nettle causes any predator that may eat the plant or try to uproot it to stay clear
The sting of a nettle causes any predator that may eat the plant or try to uproot it to stay clear

When the hairs of the nettle embed themselves into the skin, they break off the plant, releasing a mixture of formic acid, histamines and other chemicals. These are what cause the painful stinging sensation.

Do dock leaves help nettle stings?

The dock leaf is characterised by its large oval leaves with rounded tips. Some of the stems and leaves may have a reddish hue.

They can be found in similar locations to nettles, such as in meadows and damp areas.

There are different theories and debates regarding the dock leaf and the curing powers it can have in the treatment of nettle stings.

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Many believe that the sap in dock leaves contain an antihistamine, which can help to soothe the stinging sensation.

It has also been suggested that the cooling sensation of the sap evaporating from the skin affected can also relieve some of the stinging sensation.

The placebo effect

The centuries-old belief that dock leaves cure nettle stings is widespread, but some feel that it only works because people want it to.

While some say the leaves combat the acidic effects of a nettle sting due to their alkaline nature, others argue that dock leaves themselves are actually acidic in nature, suggesting that the 'cure' is actually a placebo effect.

What to do it you’re stung by a nettle

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-Wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible to relieve the sting and remove the nettle hairs. If no water is available, clean the area with a cloth or other available material

-Apply a paste of baking soda and water

-Avoid scratching or rubbing the itchy areas

-Use cool, light, bedding and clothing, as this will help relieve itching

-Avoid extreme heat, and only take lukewarm baths and showers

-Apply cold compresses

-Antihistamines may relieve itching and swelling

-A cream containing hydrocortisone will help to reduce inflammation

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-Some people also believe that milk can help with nettle stings.

-However, if you do believe in the curing powers of the dock leaf, try rubbing the crushed leaf, vein-side down, across the affected area and see if it helps you.