In terms of early spring plants to forage, Purple Dead Nettle is top of the list for me. There are other popular varieties of Dead Nettle such as Bee Nettle (white flowers) and Yellow Archangel (erm, yellow flowers, clearly). For this post I am focusing on Purple Dead Nettle as it grows prolifically near me and is the one I use most. It’s a nutritious little potherb, has many medicinal uses and is early food for pollinators so please, always be sure to leave plenty for our wee friends.
Although it is called ‘dead nettle’, it is actually a member of the Mint family. The leaves look very similar to Nettle and they often grow in the same place, being literally everywhere! My favourite spot to visit is located right in the middle of a Nettle patch making it ‘fun’ to get to (life is an obstacle course after all). The early flowers are the easiest way to identify it; short of giving it a little stroke; which I encourage you to do if you’re not afraid if getting it wrong and being stung. Personally, I am so used to nettle stings these days it really doesn’t bother me. Dead Nettle has soft fuzzy leaves rather than stabby venomous ones (hence the name) and a light musky smell. The purple to reddish flowers grow in whorl at the top. It can sometimes be confused with Henbit however that is also edible and has similar properties; so, fairly low risk.
Purple Dead Nettles are high in vitamin C and very high in Vitamin A. Like true Nettle, it is also high in calcium and minerals making it a valuable plant ally for health in general like a lot of other greens. Taken internally it has antioxidant, antibacterial, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties (all the Anti’s!). It stimulates the liver and is Diaphoretic (induces sweating) helping to break fevers and clear out toxins. It is also well known as a ‘women’s herb’ as it eases a heavy period and reduces candida growth with its anti fungal properties. It promotes a healthy gut and the immune system but my favourite use for it is for allergies.
As a person allergic to (what feels like) literally everything, Purple Dead Nettle has become a firm friend. Particularly in the season of ALL THE FUCKING POLLEN! It contains Quercetin; which reduces the amount of histamine produced in the body. It’s anti-inflammatory properties protect the soft tissue and mucus membranes and is an expectorant (helping to remove phlegm).
Externally, it can be used to soothe insect bites, eczema and staunches bleeding; making it a great addition to any healing balm and poultice recipes. It’s a good plant to familiarize yourself with as the other plants such as Yarrow and Plantain, used for this purpose aren’t abundant in spring. Older recipes suggest a balm made of the flowers for piles and varicose veins. However, I’ve never tried it for that.
*Disclaimer* I am not a doctor, speak to one if you have existing medical conditions. Dead Nettle can have a laxative effect if taken too much. Therefor, it is not safe for during pregnancy or when breastfeeding. Never consume anything unless you are 100% sure you know what it is. Always do your own research.
Due it’s ability to grow in pretty much any condition it represents stability, strength of will and resistance; making it useful in grounding, uplifting and overcoming obstacles. Use it for career spells, and anytime you need a boost in success. Being part of the mint family, it is sacred to Mercury and the element of air. Carry it with you for success in contracts, legal matters, exams, job interviews and new ventures.
To sum up, Purple Headed Dead Nettle is the perfect plant ally to acquaint yourself with in spring, especially if you suffer from allergies such as hayfever or pet allergies. It is nutritious pot herb and a valuable addition to any apothecary. As a witches ally it wants to support your success while helping to stay grounded and ‘rooted’ in even the most barren of situations.
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Happy Foraging, Peace out witches!
Love Kate xxx