Plant-Lore

Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Docks and Nettles again

The use of dock (Rumex obtusifolius) leaves to treat nettle (Urtica dioica) stings is undoubtedly the most widely known folk remedy in the British Isles. However, it appears that this remedy is virtually, perhaps totally, unknown elsewhere in Europe (see News, 11 May 2011).
Occasionally it has been suggested that a substance in dock leaves helps to neutralise the chemicals which cause the stings, but, in my Garlands, Conkers & Mother-die, 2010, p.37, I state that ‘it is more likely that the cure works on a psychological level – searching for a dock leaf provides a distraction from the pain’. This is disputed by Anne Barker, a medical herbalist and collector of Scottish herbal remedies, in her review of Conkers in Folk Life, 49, p.169, 2011: ‘This assertion would come as a surprise to the many people throughout Scotland who have told me that dock(an) leaf works wonders for a nettle sting’.
However, Patrick Logan, a medical doctor in his Irish Folk Medicine, 1999, p.67, seems to be even more dismissive of the healing properties of dock leaves than I am, according to him: ‘The pain of the sting only lasts for a few minutes, so that by the time a dock leaf is found the pain will have begun to get less.’

Any comments would be appreciated.

Image: dock leaves, Christian Hummert, Wiki Commons.

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