Purple dead nettle is an easy to forage edible and medicinal plant that is most likely growing in your backyard or somewhere nearby! You’ve probably seen this “weed” and didn’t even know that it has edible and medicinal uses.
If you want to learn more about the edible and medicinal weeds that surround us and how to use them, check out my eBook: Wildcrafting Weeds: 20 Easy to Forage Edible and Medicinal Plants (that might be growing in your backyard)!
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Identifying Purple Dead Nettle
Because of its widespread nature, foraging for purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) is usually pretty easy. It is native to Europe and Asia, but has become commonplace in North American gardens and disturbed areas.
I can almost guarantee that you’ve seen purple dead nettle growing at one time or another. You may not have realized it, as it can sometimes be fairly inconspicuous, but if you really start to pay attention to the plants around you, I’m certain that you will see it growing.
Purple dead nettle is one of those plants that when you see a picture of it, you immediately recognize it, but never knew what it was called.
This is how I was with plantain – I’d seen it my entire childhood, and up until I was almost 30 years old, before I had any idea of what it actually was! I was happy to discover its benefits, just as I was with purple dead nettle.
It sometimes grows in huge patches, which can be annoying if that patch happens to be your garden, but it does make collecting it easier!
I have a good bit of it growing in my backyard, and I see it everywhere when I’m out on walks. I finally decided to look it up to see what it was, and was happy to find out that it’s edible and medicinal!
Purple dead nettle is in the mint family, and is called “dead nettle” (or sometimes “deadnettle”) because of its apparent resemblance to stinging nettle, minus the sting. This confuses me somewhat, because I don’t think it really looks like true nettles at all, but to each their own.
It’s easy to identify with its square stem (like all mint family plants), fuzzy leaves, and purple tops with little pink flowers.
They are usually fairly low growing, but can sometimes reach up to 8-10 inches tall.
Purple dead nettle does not have any toxic look-alikes. It is sometimes confused for henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) which is closely related and another tasty edible weed.
You can see the difference between purple deadnettle (left) and henbit (right) in the photo below.
Purple dead nettle is one of the plants covered in my gather + root online foraging course! Sign up below to get a free downloadable info sheet from the course, all about purple dead nettle.
Edible Uses of Purple Dead Nettle
Purple deadnettle is not only a wild edible green, but a highly nutritious superfood. The leaves are edible, with the purple tops being even a little sweet.
Since the leaves are relatively fuzzy, they are better used as an herb garnish or mixed with other greens in recipes, rather than being the star of the show.
Purple deadnettle can also be added to soups, salads, or blended into smoothies. Basically any way that you would use any other green leafy vegetable or herb.
Medicinal Uses of Purple Dead Nettle
Purple dead nettle also has medicinal benefits. It is known in the herbal world as being astringent, diuretic, diaphoretic and purgative. It’s also anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal.
Here is a post for how to make dead nettle salve three ways.
Purple dead nettle can be made into an infusion or tea, with either fresh plant material or dried. This may be the simplest way to enjoy its benefits, although it may also have a laxative effect if used in large amounts.
It can alternatively be made into a tincture using the same method as this lemon balm tincture.
It’s good for the kidneys and may even help with seasonal allergies. Many people have told me that it has been very helpful for relieving allergy symptoms!
Other Uses for Purple Dead Nettle
Purple dead nettle can be given to chickens as a nutritious food, along with other weeds like henbit and chickweed. I chopped some up and gave it to my young chicks, and they went absolutely bonkers over it!
It is also an important species for bees. Not only do bees seem to prefer it over other plants, but it is one of the first plants to flower in the spring. In mild climates, it may even flower through the winter, making it vital bee forage.
It can even be used to make a natural dye for wool and yarn!
Here are more ideas and recipes for how to use purple deadnettle.
That’s a lot a benefits for one little plant that is often frowned upon! This is what I love about so many “weeds,” they are often extremely beneficial for us, and easy to find. I’m going to start picking more purple dead nettle while I can!
Want to learn more about medicinal herbs? Check out The Herbal Academy!
Do you have any purple dead nettle growing near you? Did you know that it was edible and medicinal?