If you have been tending your garden this Spring, you’ll have encountered the PROLIFIC Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum). NOTE: it is NOT related to Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). Purple Dead Nettle is part of the mint family and has the classic square stem. One of the reassurances that Spring is arriving is in the appearance of numerous scattered communities of this interesting plant. Similar to the Dandelion, it’s a good source of food for the bees in early Spring when few plants are blooming. Full disclosure: I’ve not been a fan of this plant because it takes over the garden, and it smells, to me, like…mushrooms. Hey, I like mushrooms, but not when they are taking over my beds.
That being said, I have come to appreciate its’ amazing ability to help with allergic symptoms. As in, markedly reducing the symptoms of swollen eyes, runny nose and itchy eyes within a day. I have seen this occur in several people who have taken it either as a tea (fresh plant) or an extract (again, fresh plant).
Medicinally, it’s considered astringent, diuretic, diaphoretic and purgative (if you take large amounts you can get loose stools). It also has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. The leaves can also be used as a poultice on external wounds to help dry dampness and prevent infection. Not bad for a plant that’s overrunning your garden!
It has a culinary use too. The leaves are edible, with the purple tops tasting slightly sweet at times (more so in the early part of Spring). Like many of the Spring weeds, you can make pesto with it, use in salads, soups, blend into smoothies or mince finely and use as a garnish.
Now when I go out and sigh as I view all the Purple Dead Nettle overtaking my beds, I see it with fresh eyes and realize that it’s Nature’s way of saying Here, take some! You need it.