The red dead nettle – also called purple dead nettle because of its intense color – is a decorative and edible plant. In addition, it convinces with its healing effects thanks to its health-supporting ingredients.
Purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) belongs to the genus of dead nettles. This botanical genus also includes golden nettle, stem-clasping, white and spotted dead nettle. They are all considered labiates (Lamiaceae). The majority of them are used as medicinal herbs.
Dead nettles have been used as medicinal plants for centuries.
The purple dead nettle can be used both internally and externally. Lamium purpureum is used for complaints with the urinary tract or the digestive system (gastrointestinal system) as well as for symptoms of the respiratory system. Furthermore, injuries of the skin and mucous membranes can be treated gently with the medicinal herb.
Lamium purpureum: For urinary tract and digestive problems
As a herbal drainage agent, purple dead nettle can be used for detoxification purposes. In the form of teas, the medicinal plant can provide long-term relief from recurring bladder infections, among other things. In addition, the tea of the medicinal plant relieves gastrointestinal complaints – be it bloating, flatulence or diarrhea.
Respiratory infections: Breathe easy
Purple dead nettle also has an expectorant and antibacterial effect. This pays off in the case of colds and coughs. For this purpose, the tea of the medicinal plant can be drunk as well as inhaled. The entire respiratory tract benefits: the bronchi as well as nasal mucous cavities.
First aid for injuries to the skin and mucous membranes
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory effect, Lamium purpureum is used for minor injuries. An external tea infusion can provide relief for both nail bed inflammation and insect bites.
However, the medicinal plant is also used in the form of compresses for the treatment of the following ailments:
- skin swellings
- varicose veins
- gouty nodules
- teas can also be used to alleviate mild inflammation and burns in the mouth effectively.
Ingredients with the healing power
Dead nettle occasionally finds its way onto the home dining table as a raw vegetable salad. The edible parts include the shoot tips, the leaves (herb), and the flowers. As a remedy, however, mainly the petals of the red nettle are used. Essential ingredients of the plant are:
- Vitamin C: supports the immune system
- Vitamin B: positive effect on the metabolism
- Essential oils: disinfecting and expectorant properties
- Flavonoids: anti-inflammatory effect
- Tannins: relieve pain, itching, and inflammation
- Mucilages: soothe the skin and digestive system
The individual ingredients are each attributed to a specific effect. Medicinal plants can combine all these effects and be used in a wide range of therapeutic applications.
Healing effect as a tea, tincture, or compress
Dried petals of purple dead nettle can be processed in various ways. Teas and refreshing drinks are especially suitable for internal treatment, whereas tinctures and compress are more beneficial for external complaints.
Internal use – tea preparation
To make a tea from dead nettle flowers, follow the recipe below:
- Bring 250 ml of water to a boil.
- Measure 2 teaspoons of the dried flowers and put them in a cup.
- Pour the water hot – but no longer boiling – over the herbs.
- Let the tea steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Enjoy hot as a cold and detox tea, or use cold for anti-inflammatory tea infusions.
External use of purple dead nettle
For external use, besides tea infusions, tinctures are also suitable. These are extracts of medicinal plants containing alcohol. Alcohol is the solvent that binds the active ingredients of the plant. The tincture can be applied dropwise to inflamed skin areas but also in the form of baths, washes, or compresses.
The latter is particularly useful on the arms and legs for:
- skin swellings or
- varicose veins
Dissolve the tincture in warm water and soak a cloth in it. The compress then works both through the heat and the active ingredients contained.
Practical tips for the safe identification of Lamium purpureum
When collecting purple dead nettle, care is the first rule. For a safe determination of the medicinal herb, there are some typical characteristics.
Stem: tetragonal with cross-angled stem leaves – each pair of leaves is arranged at right angles to the next lower pair of leaves rotated.
Stem leaves: notched leaf blade, characteristic heart shape, and serrated leaf margin.
Flowers: two-lipped with purple lip flowers in dense false whorls – that is, nodular arrangements of flowers.
The preferred location of the plant is nutrient-rich and sandy loamy soils. The plants grow primarily in sandpits, fields, roadsides, and the home garden – and almost all year round.
Despite evident characteristics, there is a risk of confusion with other plants when collecting. With a bit of know-how, however, they can be reliably distinguished.
Unlike stinging nettles, dead nettles generally do not have stinging hairs.
In contrast to golden nettle/white dead nettle, the petals of Lamium purpureum are purplish-red.
Unlike spotted deadnettle, the purple lower lip of red deadnettle has no white markings.
The collected components are edible even when fresh, but it is worth hanging the deadnettle flowers to dry for medicinal use.
Be sure always to leave some plants, and harvest only as much as necessary to leave food for insects and allow the plant to regenerate.
How to prepare a delicious spring salad
- 1 handful of deadnettles (young shoots, leaves, and flowers)
- 1 handful of other wild herbs to taste such as daisies, young dandelion leaves, lesser celandine, garlic, or chickweed
- optional 1 handful of green salad like arugula, chard, or spinach
- Salad dressing:
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or herb vinegar
- 1 teaspoon liquid sweetener such as honey
- optional 2 tablespoons salad herbs
- Salt, pepper, and garlic to taste
How to prepare the spring salad:
Wash herbs and lettuce under cold water and drain well. Remove the firm stems from the herbs, roughly pluck them into pieces along with the remaining salad greens, and place them in a bowl. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the salad.
Optionally garnish with toasted sunflower seeds, nuts, almonds, or cheese. The salad tastes great with fried tofu and grilled vegetables.