The Mysterious World Of Nettles

taras

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#1
Britons braced to grasp the nettle -- and eat it
By Gideon Long

LONDON, June 17 (Reuters) - A handful of hardy souls will descend on a quiet English village this weekend to stuff their mouths full of stinging nettles in a bizarre competition which started as an argument in a pub.
Combatants will gather at The Bottle Inn in Marshwood, southwest England, on Saturday night to take part in the 9th annual World Nettle Eating Championship.
It is a mouth-watering prospect.
Competitors must pluck and eat as many leaves as they can from the feathery, stinging plants in the space of one hour. Their achievement is measured in feet and inches -- the combined length of the bare stems they discard.
"You have to adopt the correct technique to stand any chance of winning," said Shane Pym, landlord of the Bottle Inn. www.thebottleinn.co.uk.
"The art is to fold the top of the leaf inwards, get it past the lips, crunch it and then get it down the neck. You can't let your mouth get dry or you will get stung."
The championship has a short but colourful history.
It started in 1986 as a heated argument in the pub between two farmers who both claimed that the nettles at the back of their silage pits were the longest.
The landlady of the Bottle Inn intervened and declared an competition to resolve the dispute. Other farmers were also invited to take part.
Three years later, local man Alex Williams threw down a gauntlet to his rivals in the shape of a nettle measuring 15 feet 6 inches (4.7 metres). If anyone could produce a longer one, he boasted, he would eat it.
For the next eight years, Williams was forced -- almost literally -- to eat his words. Each year, someone would step forward with a longer nettle and, each year, Williams would dutifully chomp his way though it.
In 1997, the event evolved in to a straight fight to eat the most nettles, a format which has endured until now.
The rules are strict.
Competitors cannot wear gloves and must eat the leaves of ordinary "Urtica Dioica" stinging nettles supplied by the pub. Beer is allowed but mouth-numbing drugs are strictly forbidden.
Around 40 entrants are expected to take part this year and while most of them are local farmers from rural Dorset, a few are coming from Ireland and Belgium to take part.
Last year's winner ate 42 feet's worth of nettle leaves while the world record is an impressive 74 feet.
"We've never had any serious injuries but we do have ambulance men standing by, just in case," Pym said.
"It can sometimes get a little bit contentious."
 

OneWingedBird

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#2
I believe the Romans were quite fond of flagellation with nettles. It's supposedly rather stimulating :shock:
 

Jerry_B

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#4
Not really - it's the same as using branches in saunas. It's supposedly good for the skin. Nettles were used in Roman baths (IIRC, they bought the plant over to this country in the first place).
 

rynner2

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#6
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/771563.stm
Nettles 'ease arthritis suffering'

Stinging nettles can be an effective therapy to relieve the pain of arthritis, researchers say.
There is anecdotal evidence from around the world of the usefulness of nettles in treating the condition - from soldiers in Roman times to modern day Ecuador.

But a study carried out at the University of Plymouth is thought to be the first of its kind to apparently prove scientifically that the therapy works.

Stinging nettle leaves were applied to the hands of 27 arthritis sufferers daily for a week.

The results were then compared to the effect of using a placebo, the white deadnettle leaf, which does not sting, also applied for a week.

The researchers found that stinging nettles not only significantly reduced pain, but also that the level of that pain stayed lower through most of the treatment.

Although pain relief "was most likely to occur if a sting with weals was produced", 85% of patients said that this was an acceptable side-effect, and most said they preferred the stinging nettles to their usual pain relief.

It is not known why the nettles work, but they contain serotonin and histamine, both of which are neuro-transmitters, and might affect pain perception and transmission at the nerve endings.

Other possibilities could be that the sting has an acupuncture-like effect, or that it acts as a "counter irritant" like capsaicin, an ingredient derived from peppers which is used in products like Ralgex.

Conventional treatments

Some of the patients were already taking conventional treatments - analgesics and anti-inflammatories, but none had used nettles before.

Dr Colin Randall at the university led the research and first became interested in the possibility of nettles as a therapy as a GP when patients claimed it eased their pain.

He said in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine: "The stinging nettle is a freely available plant and its sting seems a safe treatment for musculoskeletal pain."

The pain of the sting could have an effect on patients' perception of their arthritis, he added.

The Arthritis Research Campaign is about to fund research into complementary medicines, including dietary supplements, herbalism and acupuncture, for the first time.

Chief executive of the charity Fergus Logan said: "New medicines and treatments have traditionally been developed under a convention which says in a nutshell 'Don't use it if you can't prove it'.

"But in complementary medicine, it is often believed that the proof is provided by use and that no further investigation is needed.

"Scientists find this concept difficult, hence the scepticism some feel."

Professor Paul Emery, a leading rheumatologist, said: "I'm all for testing complementary therapies. We have to work out if they work or not - we can't simply ignore them."
 

hokum6

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#7
Check out 'A Fete Worse Than Death' by Iain Aitch for an outsiders view of the nettle eating plus many more odd English customs.

Amazon
 

GNC

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#8
According to Mythconceptions in FT 369, the nettle is one of the most mysterious plants around ("Almost everything known about it seems to be half-known").

The column busts the myth that nettles were brought to Britain by the Romans so they could perform urtification: hitting each other with them for the stinging sensation. Anyway, it's rubbish, the plants have been around for far longer.

I suppose the biggest question is: how do dock leaves know to grow next to nettles so you can rub the stung area with them? Ain't evolution wonderful.

First person to mention Bergerac gets a Paddington hard stare.
 

GNC

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#10
*Calls on Paddington*

*Realises Paddington is stuck on the escalator*
 

catseye

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#11
Although you could probably cure a hard stare by flagellating it with nettles...
 

Mikefule

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#12
True story as told to me by the person concerned.

I am a Morris dancer. Morris dancing is a traditional English dance and the dancers are often accompanied by strange characters such as the Fool (I am a Fool) and the Betsy. The Betsy is obviously a man (usually an oldish man with a long beard) who dresses as an old woman. It is not "cross dressing" in the modern sense, but plays to the medieval sense of the grotesque. Done well, it can be very disconcerting to see, although many modern Betsies go more for a pantomime dame approach and play it for laughs.

A man I know called Roger was Betsy for an East Anglian Morris team. They were performing outside a rural pub when a group of trouble makers started to make fun of the dancers. One of the dancers said, "Betsy, do something."

The Betsy walked straight through the middle of the group of trouble makers, pausing only to stare at them in thoughtful silence and identify the ringleader. Then, once he had their attention, he crossed the road to the hedgerow and took a handful of nettles. He turned to the gang and then brushed the nettles up and down his own bare forearm in silence. Then, without a word, he held them out to the ringleader like a bouquet, the implication being that it was his turn to do the same.

The combination of the unfamiliar grotesque man-woman, the silence, and the calm and sinister way that (s)he went about it was enough to break their resolve and the gang made their excuses and left. The Betsy waited until they were out of earshot before uttering his first cry of pain.

Not quite the same thing as the subject of the thread, but a nettle-related story I have cherished since the day I heard it.
 
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