purple dead nettle - purple dead nettle tea

Wildcrafting Purple Dead Nettle for Food and Medicine

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Purple Dead Nettle

Lamium purpureum ( Lamiaceae)

Parts Used: aerial parts – leaves and tops

Key Constituents: Antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, immunostimulating, nutritive, styptic

Common names:

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 - purple dead nettle tincture

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. 

purple dead nettle

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. 

purple dead nettle tea

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 a 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 antifungal and antibacterial 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!

purple dead nettle - purple dead nettle tea

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 1-3 Tablespoons dried leaves for every 8 ounces of boiling water.

Get Your Free Purple Dead Nettle Monograph

purple dead nettle monograph

Disclaimer: outdoorapothecary.com is informational in nature and is not to be regarded as a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. While we strive to be 100% accurate, it is solely up to the reader to ensure proper plant identification. 

Some wild plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. We are not health professionals, medical doctors, nor are we nutritionists. It is up to the reader to verify nutritional information and health benefits with qualified professionals for all edible plants listed in this website.  The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the guidance of your qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.

9 thoughts on “Wildcrafting Purple Dead Nettle for Food and Medicine”

    1. Yes. They do grow wild in Oregon. I live in Southern Oregon and my yard grows tons of wild purple dead nettle.

  1. Good to know because these are invading my yard. I don’t even know where they came from because they weren’t here last year.

    1. Barbi Gardiner

      I’ve never actively grown this plant, as it simply grows wild on my property. It’s one of those plants that just appears. While I don’t have personal experience cultivating it indoors or outdoors on purpose, it’s important to note that purple dead nettle is non-native and can be quite opportunistic, spreading easily. This characteristic doesn’t quite tip it into the invasive category in every region, but it’s certainly something to be mindful of. Given its robust nature, I wouldn’t recommend actively planting it, especially since you can usually find it easily in a variety of conditions without much help.

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