Purple Dead Nettle
Lamium purpureum ( Lamiaceae)
Parts Used: aerial parts – leaves and tops
Key Constituents: Antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, immunostimulating, nutritive, styptic
- Dead Nettle
- Purple Archangel
- Purple Dead Nettle
- Purple Dead-nettle
- Red Dead Nettle
- Red Dead-nettle
- Red Dead-nettle,
Purple dead nettle is another of those early spring “weeds” that are often found abundantly growing in most backyards, making them easy targets for wildcrafters like me.
Purple Dead Nettle Identification
Purple dead nettle belongs to the mint family, hence its square stem. This stem holds up an umbrella of triangular leaves that are almost heartshaped. At the tips of each plant grows tiny pink flowers. The leaves of purple dead nettle form in opposite pairs, and those pairs grow perpendicular to each other. So every 4 leaves form a compass rose. Dead nettle leaves are covered in fine hairs.
Purple dead nettle like other mint family members usually grows with wild abandon and can spread profusely if left unchecked. Some gardeners and landscapers find it to be an invasive nusance, but I love it for its nutritive properties as well as its medicinal properties. The bees also love it!
I recommend only foraging for purple dead nettle when they are in bloom because when they’re in this stage, they’re easily identified and have no poisonous look alikes. If foraged early (before their tips turn purple/green, other poisonous look alikes might be harvested accidentally.
Not to be confused with stinging nettle, purple nettle doesn’t not have any parts of the plant that will sting.
Culinary Uses for Purple Dead Nettle
Once you have mastered purple dead nettle identification, you can enjoy the fun part…foraging!
Purple dead nettle is a nutritious wild edible food that is often overlookd as simply a weed to be eradicated from garden beds and lawns. However, because of its nutritive properties, should be included in your spring diet.
This plant is abundant in vitamins, particularly vitamin C, along with iron and fiber, while the oil in its seeds is packed with powerful antioxidants.
Its leaves and tops can be eaten both raw and cooked, although to be honest, I’m not a fan of eating it raw since its leaves are hairy. I am not a fan of hairy foods!
I have found that I like purple dead nettle as a pesto, dried for use in tea or tea blends, or cooked as you would spinach or kale.
Health Benefits of Purple Dead Nettle
Purple dead nettle’s best use in my opinion is medicinal. It is a mild antihistamine and anti-inflammatory, plus has high dose of vitamin C and bioflavonoids making it a great treatment for winter colds or seasonal allergies.
I like to prepare dead nettle tea as a detox or cleanse since it’s a diaphoretic, diuretic, and laxative. Eating dead nettle leaves can give you some of these benefits, but the best way to take full advantage of them is to make a tea. Just keep in mind not to overdo it, as it is a laxative. I would recommend drinking only 6-8 ounces to begin with to see how your body reacts.
Dead nettle leaves can also be used to stop bleeding or placed on wounds due to its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial compounds.
Dead nettle is highly nutritious – like any other dark leafy green, it’s high in vitamins C, A, and K, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and fiber.
How to Harvest
First and foremost, make sure you are harvesting from areas free of chemicals. I don’t recommend gathering from roadsides, as these tend to be areas that often get sprayed with herbicide.
Harvest the first 5-10 cm of the flowering tops in the early spring. Dead nettle is often confused with henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), another member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family that is low-growing with purple flowers; however, henbit is also edible!
How to Dry Dead Nettle
To dry the nettle leaves for later, lay them flat on a dehydrator sheet and dehydrate for 6-8 hours on low. You can also dry them in a low oven, 175 degrees or less, for 8-10 hours. Add 3 Tablespoons dried leaves for every 8 ounces of boiling water.
Purple Dead Nettle Salve
Basic Purple Dead Nettle Salve
- lavender or tea tree essential oil
- heatproof jar, saucepan or double boiler
- 2 oz. tin or 2 oz. glass jar.
- 1.65 oz 47 g purple dead nettle infused oil
- 0.25 oz 7 g beeswax
- optional – 2 to 3 drops lavender essential oil
- Combine the infused oil and beeswax in a heatproof jar or container.
- Place the jar down into a saucepan with a few inches of water, forming a double boiler.
- Heat over medium-low heat until completely melted.
- Remove from heat and add the lavender essential oil, if using.
- Pour into a 2-ounce tin or glass jar.
- Let cool before putting the top on the container.