Tag Archives: natural medicine

Dock Leaf: A Stinging Nettle Remedy

Main piece: Stinging nettle is a plant that stings a lot when you touch it, and leaves like welts and stuff – it’s nasty, but there’s like knowledge that there’s this plant called Dock Leaf, that you can use and it will reduce the stinging from a nettle if you just rub the leaves on wherever you were affected by the plant. 

I think that they just happen to grow together, like they just grow side by side. I mean, nobody plants nettle. I think it’s just a natural occurrence that, for whatever reason, those two plants just like to grow next to each other, so you can usually find Dock Leaf if you find nettle. 

Background: O’s father grew up in Malmesbury, a town in Wiltshire, England. O has been visiting her grandparents and aunt, who still live there, once every year or two since as long as she can remember. Her father and grandparents taught her about the dock leaf remedy.

Context: O started talking about visiting her family in rural England, and how she and her brother would entertain themselves there, as there isn’t much to do. She recounted a particular story where her younger brother got stinging nettle all over his body, and they did not have enough dock leaves to help him negate the pain he was feeling, but she has engaged successfully with the practice before.

Analysis: Dock leaf is a folk medicine that arises from the existence of stinging nettle. Dock leaves and stinging nettle grow in similar environments, and it has been found that rubbing dock leaves against one’s skin releases a soothing moisture (kind of like aloe). Stinging nettle and dock leaf both grow in abundance in that particular area of England, so it makes sense that other plants surrounding stinging nettle could be sought after/experimented with for a cure. O and her family continue to use dock leaf to combat nettle stings, both because dock leaf is often found nearby (instead of having to go back to the house to grab other medicine), and it can abate some of the immediate effects more quickly. (For another version, see Sutter, May 18, 2020, “Stinging Nettle Plant Remedy”, USC Folklore Archives).

Paiute Indian Cure for Warts


As the main text of this piece describes, my informant learned this cure from a friend whose Grandfather was a Paiute Indian. Although he lived in a rural area between Cloverdale and Boonville, California, the man probably brought his knowledge of the treatment from somewhere in the Great Basin area that the Paiutes inhabited before genocide was committed upon them by white settlers.


This remedy was introduced to my informant by a childhood friend of hers who, upon seeing the wart on her thumb, asked to show her how to treat it.

Main Piece:

“So I had a wart on my bone of my thumb knuckle, and it would go away– I would get like the wart remover at the store, and I’d put it on and it would go away but it would come back. And my friend G who’s grandfather was Paiute Indian had these fish bones that he had saved when he was alive for just this process. Um–He had stored this fish-bone-jar in his pantry and he was long past but the fish was caught at the creek on their property and I believe it was a steelhead. And–uhhh–she told me that her grandfather told her if you take these fish bones and you put them in your wart, going in one side and coming out the other side in as many different angles as you could, the wart would fall off and never return. And so I did that and it looked like I had a little porcupine on my thumb and I had to put a Bandaid over it so it didn’t catch on things, but it eventually fell off with the fishbone spikes and it never came back!”


Because this treatment worked for my informant, it’s a perfect example of the effectiveness of folk medicine. While many people of Western society disregard the potential benefits of folk medicine, much of it promises value. Even though modern medicine is thought to be much more precise and successful than its folk counterpart, many folk remedies have undergone hundreds or thousands of years of trial and error. This has allowed their tradition-bearers to understand which natural compounds are good for use in medicine along with their specific applications, and which are not. Illustrating the idea I’ve just presented is the fact that many cures which we consider to be modern medicine are compounds synthesized from plants that are commonly used in folk medicine.