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Stinging Nettles & Dock Leaves

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62192.  Tue Mar 28, 2006 5:07 am Reply with quote

... which said this:
Conkers were used to make acetone, for use in cordite production for shells.

Extra notes: During WW1, 248 millions shells were fired by the British. The propellant was cordite, and the solvent used in making cordite was acetone. Acetone, in turn, was made mainly from distilled wood. As timber became short in wartime, it was discovered that potatoes and maize could be used to produce acetone. But by 1917, the submarine war had led to a shortage of maize, as well.

Searching for an alternative to the alternative to unobtainable timber, scientists found that horse chestnuts would do. The Ministry of Munitions therefore began a campaign to collect that autumn’s conker harvest. Schoolchildren were given days off from school to gather the conkers which, the government helpfully explained, were to be used “for the production of an article of great importance in the prosecution of the War” and for “certain purposes.” The secrecy was necessary, since the Germans could have used the same technique if they’d known about it. (Children also collected acorns, on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, for pig fodder.)

Horse chestnuts in great numbers were gathered, but the scheme was not successful. Letters to The Times complained of piles of rotting conkers being left at railway stations; very few actually reached the munitions factory, and the conkers turned out to be pretty poor stuff for the purpose, anyway.

(All above from the Imperial War Museum, at

62193.  Tue Mar 28, 2006 5:09 am Reply with quote

Mat, do we know what the story is about the domestic fence being taken away to be turned into armaments?

62208.  Tue Mar 28, 2006 6:15 am Reply with quote

You mean like railings being melted down to build Spitfires? Not definitively, no; depends who you read. Some say it was for real; some say it was for real but misguided; some say it was just a morale-boosting gimmick - “You too can do your bit.”

62211.  Tue Mar 28, 2006 6:40 am Reply with quote

Yes, that's what I meant. Might be an interesting one to look into.

62218.  Tue Mar 28, 2006 7:06 am Reply with quote

Straight Dope has this about the US situation:

In 1942, when the first scrap drives were organized, the war was far from won, and frightened civilians at all levels were anxious to do something, anything, to help. So campaigns were organized to collect not just metal and rubber but kitchen fat, newspapers, rags, and so on. These drives were extremely successful--millions of tons of material were collected. It was only afterward, contemplating the assembled mounds of junk, that those in charge of the war effort asked themselves: What are we going to do with all this crap?

World War II shortages weren't just home-front propaganda. Japanese conquests in Malaya and the Dutch East Indies cut off access to natural rubber supplies. President Roosevelt urged Americans to turn in "old tires, old rubber raincoats, old garden hose, rubber shoes, bathing caps, gloves," and so on at their local service stations. Just one problem: there wasn't (and still isn't) an efficient way of recycling rubber products. Rubber's complex chemistry and the variety of formulations in use made recycling slow and expensive and the resultant material inferior to virgin rubber. Although the rubber recycling industry did produce a fair amount of material throughout the war, the rubber scrap drive didn't significantly boost its output. The real solution to the rubber shortage was development of synthetic rubber and conservation--gas rationing was primarily meant to save tires, not gas.

Many of the other materials collected couldn't readily be recycled either. Many who lived through the war remember collecting old newspapers, but apart from using them as packing material and such there was little to be done with them. A 1941 aluminum-scrap drive to help the plucky Brits pulled in 70,000 tons of aluminum pots and pans, but only virgin aluminum could be used to manufacture aircraft.

Iron and steel were a different story. These metals could be easily melted down and used for munitions. It's not as if the U.S. lacked domestic sources of iron ore, though. The real challenge was gearing up American industry for war production. That meant everything from increasing steel-making capacity to building more factories and designing better weapons. Recycling of steel and iron unquestionably helped. One campaign netted five million tons of steel in just three weeks, and scrap-metal drives continued for most of the war.

Useful though recycled steel and iron were, some scrap drives went overboard. In addition to old streetcar tracks, wrought iron fences, church bells, and the like, people carted off relics of previous wars, including cannons, park statues, and other memorials. When the memorials were being rebuilt after the war, many wished they hadn't been so hasty.

There's no denying scrap drives and other World War II home-defense efforts were meant in part as morale builders. Some seem pretty loopy in retrospect--air-raid blackouts in Nebraska, for example. But a few were surprisingly effective. In 1943 victory gardens produced 40 percent of the country's fresh vegetables. Salvaged kitchen fat was used to produce glycerin, an ingredient in drugs and explosives. Then there's the Civil Air Patrol, organized in 1941 to watch the coasts and assist in search and rescue operations. Less help than hindrance, right? Not so. In the 18 months before the navy took over patrol duty, the CAP spotted 173 U-boats, located 363 survivors of sunken ships and downed aircraft, and reported 91 ships in distress. Lest you think all home-front volunteers were paunchy air-raid wardens in tin hats.

63662.  Tue Apr 04, 2006 9:22 am Reply with quote

Link between Nettles and Death:

A bit sick, but nettles grow much higher above sites where bodies are buried - this fact was used to find victims of the Srebrenica massacre.

The graves are becoming increasingly hard to find, he says, but the process is helped by his revolutionary new system.

His team begins by examining satellite pictures for signs of unusual vegetation - nettles grow a foot higher over bodies.

They then carry out a geophysical survey, passing electrical currents through the ground, to build up an exact picture of the grave before exhuming.

64270.  Fri Apr 07, 2006 10:59 am Reply with quote

Plants used in WW2, see also post 64268

Laughing Feet
206871.  Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:49 pm Reply with quote

The spritual belief is that: for every disease the cure is close nearby.

Dock leaves do work - I've done that dozens of times - and they always seem to grow beside nettles. I wonde how many other cures we are overlooking? Maybe there are some Wiccans or Picts out there who could advise?

Jim Phelps
222230.  Sun Oct 21, 2007 4:36 am Reply with quote

Laughing Feet wrote:
Dock leaves do work - I've done that dozens of times
Well, in the words of the song, 'ain't necessarily so'. You haven't tested the hypothesis. For all you know, any leaf or any rubbing action might work. Or, any leaf that you had been told worked, might work. And you might find that doing nothing much except just waiting for the unpleasant sensation to subside might take no longer than it does with the dock leaves ritual.

If you really want to check if there is anything specifically efficacious about dock leaves, you'd need to conduct a blind trial where some stings were treated with dock leaves, and others with leaves that you were told were dock leaves, without you knowing which is which, and see if it made any difference. Not the sort of research that's easy or important to do on an amateur basis (it would involve yourself and/or others getting stings purely for research) and not the sort of thing I can imagine the professionals wasting their time on. But... you know... just saying.

222232.  Sun Oct 21, 2007 5:09 am Reply with quote

I had the misfortune to run through a large patch of stinging nettles during the Great Dockleaf Shortage of 2005.

I was in pain for hours!

Laughing Feet
222410.  Sun Oct 21, 2007 7:52 pm Reply with quote

For all you know, any leaf or any rubbing action might work. Or, any leaf that you had been told worked, might work.

Oh, crap! That's the placebo effect shot to ribbons, then. Now when I rub dock leaves on my nettle stings I won't expect them to work - so they won't. Shazbat!
Mind you, I can't remember the last time I actually suffered a nettle sting - so the NEXT time I get stung I'll probably have forgotten this post, so they probably will work after all... mmm?

1136315.  Fri Jun 05, 2015 5:25 pm Reply with quote

@ Jim Phelps: I'm not a Wiccan or a Pict, but after realising that dock leaves just don't work, I decided to try a dandelion leaf because they also grow near nettles and 'dandelion and burdock'. I discovered that spreading the sap of the plant over the sting initially intensifies the sensation, which is then gone after just a few hours. Prior to my discovering this, my nettle stings wouldn't go until the day after I received them at the soonest.

1136366.  Sat Jun 06, 2015 5:09 am Reply with quote

I believe that my previous comment should have been directed to Laughing Feet rather than Jim Phelps, but the confusing way that comments are linked to their authors here prevents me from knowing for sure.

Alfred E Neuman
1136442.  Sat Jun 06, 2015 4:58 pm Reply with quote

Sheogorath wrote:
I believe that my previous comment should have been directed to Laughing Feet rather than Jim Phelps, but the confusing way that comments are linked to their authors here prevents me from knowing for sure.

Given that eight years have passed by since they posted, I'd not worry too much about it.

1136458.  Sun Jun 07, 2015 2:49 am Reply with quote

(since this thread is revived)

I've just imparted the sage knowledge to Pos Jr that:

Stinging nettles were introduced by the romans. They thought it was so cold up here, that they used sandals made of the nettle to stimulate the circulation - and nettles grew wherever they marched because some had seeds which grew.

I suspect it's little more of a just-so story, but it's a great one for connecting us with our past.

Having said that - the interwebs suggest that nettle seeds were deliberately scattered to help defend their roads.


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