What is Dead Nettle? Lamium purpureum to be exact. You might think it’s “just a weed”, and it can be weedy and invasive, but it doesn’t really cause any fighting out in the playground like knapweed for instance.
Dead Nettle is a member of the mint family, with fuzzy, somewhat heart-shaped, scalloped leaves on square stems. It is native to Eurasia. Dead Nettle does not smell like mint, but it does smell a little like stinging nettles, or the places where nettles grow. The plant is not very tall, it will reach about 8-10″ in height, usually shorter, and it definitely spreads if allowed. Bees love it as it is a very early flowering plant. I like it in my yard, which isn’t very yard-like partly because of gophers; I smooth the dirt-mounds down, and often Dead Nettle takes over. Fine with me!
Dead Nettle is edible and one of the earliest wild herbs to come up, but because of it’s texture it is used sparingly for accent; the taste is mild, and you could even just sprinkle the flower petals on your food. As an herbal ally, there are several ways to use it.
- Some people tincture the herb to use as an anti-histamine for minor inflammatory conditions such as hay-fever.
- Small cupfuls of the tea are laxative. It is also diaphoretic, helping to bring on a sweat, which may be of use if you get the flu.
- Dead Nettle makes a fine poultice out in the field to use for bites and scratches, and it helps stop bleeding.
- You can even make a Dead Nettle decoction and which in turn can be made into throat-soothing pastilles.
In our home apothecary, Dead Nettle Balm is made from olive oil, fresh Lamium purpureum flowering stems, and beeswax. We gathered the plant here on our homestead, and turn it into a first-aid ally to carry with you on hikes, to the beach, anywhere you might expect to have a run-in with Mother Nature by way of bites, stings or scratches. Hey, it happens to the best of us!
Said Nicholas Culpeper, the English herbalist astrologer of the 17th century, “… it makes the head merry, drives away melancholy, quickens the spirits,” and I would have to agree, it certainly cheers me up to see it growing so freely in all sorts of terrain and soil consistencies.
© Doreen Shababy
For more in-depth information about Lamiuim spp. including chemistry and biological activity, read this – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6571824/
Dead Nettle First-Aid Balm is available on our business website, www.wildnweedy.com.