The term urtication can have various meanings:

  • In biology, it refers to the stinging hairs of plants or invertebrates, of which nettles (the plant genus Urtica) is the example from which the term was derived, but only one of a great many such plants. Many caterpillars have modified setae with associated venom glands, and these are called urticating hairs. A common example is the "saddleback caterpillar".
  • In medicine, urtication, or flogging with nettles, is the process of deliberately applying stinging nettles to the skin in order to provoke inflammation or rash. An agent thus used is known as a rubefacient (i.e. something that causes redness). This is done as a folk remedy for rheumatism, as it provides temporary relief from pain.
  • Urtication is also performed by BDSM practitioners who use stinging nettles for sexual stimulation.

References in popular culture

  • In the flash movie Salad Fingers, the main character finds it exceedingly pleasurable to urticate himself, especially with nettles. He uses the nettles to "make the milk drop out from inside [his] 'teat'."


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