Latin name: Boehmeria nivea
Synonyms: Boehmeria tenacissima
Family: Urticaceae (Nettle Family)
Medicinal use of Ramie:Antiphlogistic, demulcent, diuretic, febrifuge, haemostatic and vulnerary. Used to prevent miscarriages and promote the drainage of pus. The leaves are astringent and resolvent. They are used in the treatment of fluxes and wounds. The root is antiabortifacient, cooling, demulcent, diuretic, resolvent and uterosedative.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Rocky places to 1200 metres. A very common plant in China, growing in thickets, roadsides, edges of forests in mountains at elevations of 200 - 1700 metres.
Edible parts of Ramie:Root - peeled and boiled. A pleasant, sweet taste. We can detect very little flavour, but the root has a very strange mucilaginous texture that does not appeal to most people who have tried it. Once in the mouth, it takes a lot of chewing before it is ready to be swallowed.
Other uses of the herb:A fibre is obtained from the inner bark of the stem - of excellent quality, it is used for textiles, linen etc and is said to be moth-proof. Yields are from 375 to 900 kilos of fibre (per acre?). Two to four harvests per year are possible depending upon the climate, it is harvested as the stems turn brown. Best harvested as the female flowers open according to another report. The outer bark is removed and then the fibrous inner bark is taken off and boiled before being woven into thread. The fibres are the longest known in the plant realm. The tensile strength is 7 times that of silk and 8 times that of cotton, this is improved on wetting the fibre. The fibre is also used for making paper. The leaves are removed from the stems, the stems are steamed and the fibres stripped off. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with lye, fresh material might require longer cooking, and they are then beaten in a Hollander beater before being made into paper.
Propagation of Ramie:Seed - sow spring in a warm greenhouse and only just cover the seed. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well. Layering. Basal cuttings in late spring. Harvest the shoots when they are about 10 - 15cm long with plenty of underground stem. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Grow them on for their first winter in the cold frame and then plant them out in the summer.
Cultivation of the herb:Rocky places to 1200 metres. A very common plant in China, growing in thickets, roadsides, edges of forests in mountains at elevations of 200 - 1700 metres.
Known hazards of Boehmeria nivea:Although members of the nettle family, plants in this genus do not have stinging hairs.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.