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Glitter Witch Gardens

Purple Dead Nettle

By 03/21/2024April 19th, 2024No Comments

Materia Poetica

Purple Dead Nettle, you pop up so fast
Your tell-tale purple blossoms most certainly don’t last.

Creeping Charlie and Henbit try to play us a fool
But we know your purple heart-shaped leaves – oh, they are cool.

You bring us such happiness coming out in early spring
And the “Dead’ in your name means there’s no sharp nettle sting.

Lamium purpureum feeds waking ants and bees.
It’s used in Western herbalism, but not Traditional Chinese

So what can you make with this purple spring weed?
You can quickly make a poultice to help when you bleed.

I suggest making an oil to calm itchy, red skin
And a salve soothes your muscles when the aching begins

There’s a mischievous story of fairies playing tricks
They hide a centipede’s shoes, and do it just for kicks.

If you want to know more about my lovely spring friend
Then scroll down, read and watch all the way to the end.

My Shamanic Life podcast logo
Episode 148

My Shamanic Life Podcast

Hosted by Debbie Philp

Is it good to be a weed? Purple dead nettle thinks so and shows us how to be a weed that is a gentle garden companion. Regular guest Sheri Kurdakul shares about this early spring plant and how it benefits its ecosystem and you even though it is not native to North America. Of course Sheri starts us off with another of her awesome herbal poems. Enjoy the episode!

LISTEN HERE
Isolated Purple Dead Nettle
Lamium purpureum

Purple Dead Nettle

Lamium purpureum, commonly known as red or purple dead nettle, is an annual weed that grows throughout North America.

It is one of the earliest plants to emerge in the spring, bringing welcome nutrients to hungry pollinators. 🐝 You will often see it in your yard, along roadsides and empty lots. It is sometimes confused with henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), another weed that looks similar. Both have ties to the fairy world, but one is musical in nature and the other has to do with shoes… 🤔 

Purple Dead Nettle in a dehydrator
Preserving

Harvesting and Drying

It is best to harvest aerial parts in the late morning after the dew has evaporated. In the image above, you’ll notice a long stem that leads up to the leaf bunch. I pick mine just below the start of that leaf bunch, making sure there are open flowers. Purple dead nettle are hermaphrodites (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees, meaning that the plant is self-fertile. When harvesting, leave enough flowering plants alone if you want to see them again next year. While they can spread, they do so by seed and can be eradicated by pulling the plants up in the early spring before the seeds have had time to set.

Purple Dead Nettle is an aromatic and soft herb. Due to both of these factors, my preferred method of drying is air drying. With that said, the timeframe for harvesting can be short if the heat sets in early, so I tend to pick a large batch early. I don’t have a ton of space to spread my herbs out to air dry (plus I have a dog that sheds like crazy!) so I put mine in the dehydrator, set it for the lowest heat, and crank up the time setting. I have found that at 95 degrees F, it takes about 10-12 hours to dry enough where I am comfortable making oils from the plant material. 

poured infusion in fancy tea cup
Tasting

Herbal Infusion

Most of my interactions with Purple Dead Nettle have been external, so I decided to brew up a cup of tea from this year’s batch of the dried herb. The smell of the dried herb was really strong, having only harvested it a few days earlier. I decided to start with a conservative pot, making a bit weaker than I normally would. Here was my experience.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ oz dried arial parts
  • 4 C water, just off the boil
  • 1 glass teapot with cloth tea steeping bag (the bag was a gift from my in-laws in Turkey!)

TASTING

As soon as I poured the water over the herbs in the glass teapot, the aroma permeated the house. I recognized the smell, but could not remember from where. Alfalfa hay? Parsley? Those sounded close, but not quite right.

The infusion steeped for 15 minutes while the color changed from golden yellow to a deep, rich, reddish gold. The smell… what was that!

I took a sip, swirled it around my mouth, then swallowed it. I took another sip, larger this time to try to recognize the taste – it was as elusive as the smell and driving me crazy! There was a slight scratchiness in the back of my throat that quickly dissipated. I attributed it to the astringent properties of the herb.

Then it hit me! ASPARAGUS! It smells and tastes just like boiled asparagus. It seems strange to me that two plants from completely different plant families and no similar compounds can taste so much alike. 

After 25 minutes of drinking one cup, I started experiencing some slight gripping in my sides, just below my rib cage. It felt like the weaker infusion and only one cup was plenty for me.

While it wasn’t completely distasteful, I think I will leave the rest of my dried herb to use in future batches of oil for salves and lotions. 

Herbal Actions & Medicinal Uses

Parts Most Frequently Used: Arial parts (flowers, leaves, top stems)

Flavors: Bitter

With any herbs and supplements, always consult with a licensed health professional before use.

Herbal Actions

There are some plants that work inside and out. Purple Dead Nettle is one of them because of its aromatics and anti-inflammatory properties. On a rare early spring day when the sun is shining and the air feels unseasonably warm, I love to lie in the grass among the purple dead nettle, listening to the drowsy bees buzzing around, happy that Mother Nature made them an early breakfast. The purple dead nettle is soft and inviting. If you are like me, you’ll probably take a nap with them.

Externally, Purple Dead Nettle is great for relieving bug bites. You can make a poultice by grabbing a handful of the arial parts, crushing them up, and placing it right on the bite. It’s that easy.

If you are like my husband, shaving can leave your skin irritated. I make a simple oil that he applies on his skin and the itch and redness disappear. I’ve included a recipe for that as well so you can try it for yourself. 

Some of the herbal actions of Purple Dead Nettle include:

  • Astringent – this helps tighten the pores so they are less inflamed, which leads to…
  • Anti-Inflammatory – this can help calm those bug bites and rashes by calming the tissues down.
  • Hemostatic – this means it stops bleeding and allows your body to begin to repair at the injury site. 
Purple Dead Nettle in the yard
Recipe

Purple Dead Nettle Oil

This oil is fantastic as a base oil for salves and lotions, but it is also amazing as a standalone oil. If you have reactionary spots on your body (rash, bug bites, allergic reaction), just apply a small amount and let the magic of this plant do its thing. I make my oil using a folk method.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Quart glass jar (I use canning jars)
  • Clean, dry Purple Dead Nettle, arial parts dried and cut into small pieces
  • Fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth
  • Olive Oil, organic, cold-pressed, extra-virgin
  • Vitamin E oil (optional for extended shelf-stability)

DIRECTIONS:

  • Using a clean, sterile quart-sized jar, fill your jar about ¾ full with dried Purple Dead Nettle.
  • Pour the olive oil over the herbs until the oil is about ½ inch from the top of the jar.
  • Use an object to push the herbs down into the jar and work any air bubbles* out of the oil (I use a chopstick).
  • Wipe the top of the jar so it is dry and free from both oil and any debris. Seal the jar (I use a canning lid and ring).
  • Set in a cool, dry place for 6 to 8 weeks, gently shaking the jar once a day in a back-and-forth rocking motion).
  • Strain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth, squeezing all that golden goodness out of the herb.
  • Pour it into a glass jar, preferably a dark glass bottle/jar, and seal and label it. 

Your oil should keep for 6 months to 3 years, depending on how much moisture to which your oil is exposed.
*Air, light, and moisture are NOT friends to herbal oils!

Purple Dead Nettle oil in a glass bottle behind the plant. The oil is a bright yellow.

Horticultural Information

We associate Purple Dead Nettle with spring, but this is a full sun to partial shade winter annual that primarily emerges in the fall, and flowers and sets its seeds in the spring. In the fall, it emerges from the soil usually less than 1 inch and then winters over. 

It grows up to 1 foot high and 8 inches wide in the spring and when there’s no competition, each plant produces about 27,000 seeds. While it does grow quickly and spread easily, it is not considered invasive and will not overtake existing plants. When the weather turns hot and dry, the plants die back, usually in late-May and June. 

New USDA Hardiness Zone(s), as of 2023: 4-8

New USDA Hardiness Zone Map as of 2023
New USDA Hardiness Zones as of 2023

Materia Magicka

This is an herb that, when it appears after a long, cold winter, brings happiness, joy, and cheerfulness to our hearts and minds. We take in a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief that spring is finally setting in. 

Purple Dead Nettle is not the stinging kind, but the soft and gentle kind. In its name, “Dead” represents the death of that which is hard (winter) and the rebirth of the sun and warmth (spring). It is relatable like the Death card in tarot.

  • healing spells
  • rebirth spells
  • strength spells

Below is some of the symbolism associated with Purple Dead Nettle.

Planets: Deities:
  ♀︎ Venus   Norse: Nanna
Element: Chakra:
  🜁 Air   Throat Chakra
Throat chakra highlighted in person with purple dead nettle background

References

The following sources were used to research the above information. 

  • Aleschewski, N. (Ed). (2008). Lamium album [Southern Cross University website]. Retrieved from https://www.scu.edu.au/southern-cross-plant-science/facilities/medicinal-plant-garden/monographs/lamium-album/ 
  • Cardona, F., Andrés-Lacueva, C., Tulipani, S., Tinahones, F., & Queipo-Orutño, M.I. (2013). Benefits of polyphenols on gut microbiota and implications in human health. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 24(8), 1415-1422. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2013.05.001
  • Davis, D., Epp, M., & Riordan, H. (2004). Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden plants, 1950-1999. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(6), 669-682. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2004.10719409 
  • Deer, T.S. (2016). Allergy sufferers get ahead with purple dead-nettle. Retrieved from https://wisdomoftheplantdevas.com/tag/medicinal-plants-2/ 
  • Fraga, C.G., Galleano, M., Verstraeten, S.V., & Oteiza, P.I. (2010). Basic biochemical mechanisms behind the health benefits of polyphenols. Molecular Aspects of Medicine, 31(6), 435-445. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mam.2010.09.006
  • Grieve, M. (1971). A modern herbal (Vols. 1-2). New York, NY: Dover Publications. (Original work published 1931)
  • Hunter Gather Cook. (2012). Red dead-nettle: A spring side dish. Retrieved from https://huntergathercook.typepad.com/huntergathering_wild_fres/2012/04/red-dead-nettle-a-spring-side-dish.html
  • Magee, D.W., & Ahles, H.E. (1999). Flora of the Northeast. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.
  • Milburn, M. (2004). Indigenous nutrition: Using traditional food knowledge to solve contemporary health problems. American Indian Quarterly, 28(3-4), 411-434. https://doi.org/10.1353/aiq.2004.0104
  • New York Botanical Garden. (n.d.). New York City EcoFlora: Lamium. Retrieved from https://www.nybg.org/content/uploads/2018/03/NYBGEcoQuest_2018_March_LookForLamium_MoreInformation.pdf
  • Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew. (n.d.a). Lamium album L. Plants of the world online [Database]. Retrieved from http://www.plantsoftheworldonline.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:448792-1 
  • Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew. (n.d.b). Lamium purpureum L. Plants of the world online [Database]. Retrieved from http://www.plantsoftheworldonline.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:448939-1 
  • Steckel, L. (n.d.). Purple dead nettle and henbit. University of Tennessee Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W165.pdf
  • Uekoetter, F. (Ed.) (2010). The turning points of environmental history. Pittsburgh, PA: University of PIttsburgh Press.
  • Vergun, O.M., Grygorieva, O.V., Brindza, J., Shymanska, O.V., Rakhmetov, D.B., Horčinová-Sedlačková, V., … Ivanišová, E. (2019). Content of phenolic compounds in plant raw of Cichorium intubus L., Lamium purpureum L. and Viscum album L. Plant Introduction, 84, 87-96. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3404149
  • Wood, M. (2008). The earthwise herbal: A complete guide to old world medicinal plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
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    • Wigington, Patti. (2023, April 5). Purple Dead Nettle. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/purple-dead-nettle-magic-and-folklore-2562033
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