Red or Purple Dead-Nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Finding  another “weed” growing in my garden makes me smile. This one has beautiful purple flowers.

Its exciting researching what these new herbs are as they appear. Firstly I take a good close look at the herb. I see that its top leaves are also purple and that it has a square stem. After researching further I find out that the herb is called red or purple dead nettle.

Mine is growing at the edge of the grass near my stone patio and in my herbal patch! It amazes me to see these herbal beauties naturally growing alongside herbs that I plant myself.

I love that I can now appreciate the beauty of these so called weeds.

How to Identify

When I find a new herb I am always very careful to identify it correctly.  To help me to do this I look at herbal books that I have bought, check my course notes, and thoroughly research the internet. I was struggling to identify this one and therefore decided for the first time to use a mobile app to identify it.

Therefore using the PlantNet mobile phone app I took a photograph. As it happens this immediately pointed me towards the correct identification. However I still research a lot further afterwards to make absolutely sure that it is purple dead-nettle. You really can’t be too careful when identifying a herb, especially if you are thinking of eating, drinking or using it externally.

Give this free PlantNet app a go yourself,

https://identify.plantnet-project.org/

I love using it!

Interesting Info about Purple Dead-Nettle

  • Red or Purple Dead-Nettle is part of the mint family.
  • Its name is dead-nettle because its supposed to look like stinging nettles but without the sting.
  • The top leaves turn purple as the plant matures.
  • Bees love purple dead-nettle so much that it is traditionally known as bumblebee flower.
  • Magically purple dead nettle is said to be associated with happiness and cheerfulness.

Don’t Confuse with Henbit

The purple dead-nettle is often confused with red henbit but I find that there are some easy to see differences to tell them apart. I do this by looking at the differences in their leaves;

Purple dead-nettle leaves
  •  Hairy
  •  Triangular shaped
  •  Not very scalloped edges
Henbit leaves
  •  No hair and glossy looking
  •  Kidney shaped
  •  Pronounced scalloped edges

If you are just starting to forage take a look at my tips for beginners;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/foraging-tips-for-beginners/

Eating Purple Dead-Nettle

Purple dead-nettle and henbit are both edible and highly nutritious. They contain iron, fibre, antioxidants, along with vitamins A, C and K.

To try what it tastes like my husband and I each pick off a leaf because it can be eaten raw as well as cooked . The hairy texture is very strange and my husband thinks that it has a slightly peppery taste.

Reading about the herb I find that the leaves are very versatile. They can be used like any other green because they can be put in salads, soups and even smoothies.

Apparently its best to pick this herb when it has flowered because then it has more flavour. I easily spot my purple dead-nettle due to them already have their blossoming flowers. These flowers appear from March to October.

Drinking Purple Dead-Nettle

Infusing the purple dead-nettle leaves makes a tea. Personally I don’t want to drink too much of this one because it can have laxative effects. Research suggests that the leaves may be good for supporting the body with regards to;

  • The kidneys
  • Promoting perspiration
  • Helping with seasonal allergies.

I decided to try a cup to see what it tastes and smells like. To do this I made a simple infusion as follows;

  1.  Place 1 teaspoon of dried herb or two teaspoons of fresh herb into a cup of boiling water
  2.  Cover with a lid or plate
  3.  Infuse for 10 minutes and then drink

Removing the fresh leaves after infusion gave me a tea with a very slight green tinge.

My personal review of purple dead-nettle tea

Picking the cup up and holding it between both hands I bring the cup up to my nose. Breathing in deeply the smell reminds me slightly of a fresh cut garden.

While drinking the tea I am met with a earthy but not unpleasant taste. Approaching the last dregs of the tea I decide that I like the earthy sensations.

In conclusion the tea is something that I would drink again on the occasions when the purple dead-nettles appear in my garden.

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Useful Externally for Wounds and Cuts

Researching tells me that the leaves have astringent properties. This means that they may cause the contraction of skin cells and other body tissues. Therefore it may help the body with regards to external cuts and wounds.

I decided to give this a try as follows;

  1. I pick and wash the dead-nettle leaves by placing them into a colander.
  2. Using a pestle and mortar I lightly crush the leaves because they need bruising.
  3. Finally I apply the bruised leaves to a small cut on my arm.

I like to apply the herb with a plaster because its quick and easy. Using a plaster also means that I can leave the herb on my skin for longer. After applying the leaves my cut starts tingling.

Removing the plaster an hour later it was amazing to see a scab already forming over the wound. The next morning it was also pleasing to see that the inflammation from the day before had gone too.

Therefore I will keep the purple dead-nettle in mind when out and about foraging.  Its easy to cut or graze myself while pushing through undergrowth or picking from thorny bushes. If its around when I need it I will simply pick up a few leaves, crush them in my hands, and place them on the cut.

Cautions
  • Its said that purple dead-nettle may be of use for menstrual problems and therefore it is not advised to ingest or drink it while pregnant.
  • If the herb is left on the skin for too long a blister may occur.

 

Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. Therefore only try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.

 

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