Sunday, February 22, 2015


PURPLE DEAD NETTLE/RED HENBIT:  Lamium Amplexicaule, Lamium Purpureum, Lamium Maculatum, etc.

Also known as:  arch angel, dumb nettle, spotted henbit, bee nettle, giraffe head, blind nettle, red henbit

Parts Used:  leaves, flowers

Meridians/Organs affected:  skin, kidneys, blood, digestive

Properties:  astringent, styptic, vulnerary, depurant, emmenogogue, anti-inflammatory, laxative, diaphoretic, anti-rheumatic, stimulant, nutritive

Henbit and Purple Dead Nettle are both members of the mint family often mistaken for one another in spite of their obvious differences in appearance.  They are also lacking the typical mint odor but both are edible.  Henbit can get up to 12 inches tall and has rounded, deeply grooved, opposite leaves that look much like a paw or hand to my eyes.  The flowers are pinkish purple, tubular and bloom intermittently from leaf axils.  The flowers also have a hairy upper lip while the rest of the bloom curls downward.  Purple dead nettle on the other hand has triangular shaped leaves that are serrated (much like regular nettles but without the sting) and are grouped in altering layers on the upper part of the stem.  To me it looks like an upside down partially opened umbrella but to others they say it looks like a skinned rabbit.  They are early plants coming out in the colder spring months and blooming on and off throughout the summer.  Most often found in areas where the ground has been disturbed or in cultivated fields or yards.   Many a gardener hates this class of plants as they can become invasive.  One such gardener I came across online said that these plants laugh in the face of Round Up as it doesn't seem to phase them (I was just thinking how awesome that was but kept it to myself rather than argue with a fellow gardener).  As they are an edible and an early spring plant it makes them a valuable foraging plant for survivalists.

 Purple Dead Nettle
Red Henbit

Henbit received its name supposedly because hens love it.  There is some dispute over this as well although it is trivial.  The Latin 'amplexicaule' means 'to clasp' which refers to how the leaves attach themselves to the stem.  These plants are loved by both bees and hummingbirds as they produce a fair amount of nectar in the months where hardly anything else is in bloom.  The Latin term for purple is 'purpureum' which was taken from a greek word for shellfish.  The Romans used this particular rare shellfish for dyeing their royal robes.  It would take tens of thousands of these shellfish to make enough dye for the clothing.  (Incidentally the dye comes from the anus of the shellfish so it makes me wonder who was the person who figured that one out and WHY were they looking at a shellfish's behind....hmmmm).  The generic term for purple dead nettle is 'lamia' which roughly translates into 'devouring monster' which comes from the jaw-like appearance of the flowers.  Both these plants also have medicinal uses and can be used interchangeably one with another in that regard.  The flower and leaf tea was used to stop MINOR internal and external bleeding and to aid digestive issues as well as diarrhea.  The infusion was also used to promote sweating for fevers and detoxification of the kidneys.  A poultice of the fresh leaves was said to be useful for stings, wounds, minor burns and to help reduce swelling.  A decoction of the leaves and flowers was used to purify the blood and help with skin diseases.  Recent scientific studies have found that it does have emmenogogue capabilities.  Culpeper stated that it, 'makes the heart merry, drives away melancholy, quickens the spirits, is good against quartan agues (malaria), stauncheth bleeding at the mouth and nose if it be stumped and applied to the nape of the neck.'.  A wine decoction was made and applied to the spleen to remove the hardness from the organ when inflamed and when macerated and mixed with salt, vinegar and lard it was used topically for sciatica, gout and muscle aches and pains.  The seeds of plants are found to contain high amounts of antioxidants and the plants in general are high in iron, fiber and vitamin content.  Purple dead nettle can produce 27,000 seeds per plant while henbit makes about 2000 seeds or more per plant.  It tastes nothing like mint and to my palate is more like a mild form of kale.  It is good picked young in the springtime and used in soups, smoothies, wraps, salads or even sauteed.  They can also be candied and eaten.  

Do not give this to pregnant women as it can stimulate menstruation.

 Red Henbit
 Red Henbit
Purple Dead Nettle

As per my posts I am including some links below for your perusal.  Stay strong and healthy!


STILLINGIA:  Stillingia Sylvatica, Stillingia Treculeana, Stillingia Sebifera

Also known as:  Queen's root, Queen's delight, Yawroot, Silverleaf, Nettle Potato, Cockup-Hat, Indian Flearoot, Marcory, etc.

Parts Used:  young root

Meridians/Organs affected:  respiratory, skin, lymph, blood, mucus membranes, kidneys, bowels, glandular

Properties:  anti-syphilitic, depurant, expectorant, sialagogue, anti-scrofulous, alterative, laxative, diuretic, tonic, emetic (in large doses), cathartic (in large doses), stimulant, anti-carcinogenic

Stillingia is a member of the Eurphorbiaceae (Spurge) family along with croton, poinsetta, cassava and the plants that produce tung and castor oils.  Being a member of this particular family means that they produce both male and female blossoms on the same plant.  They also contain a milky sap.  Stillingia has a leather-like, lance shaped leaf that is fine toothed and gets up to 3-4 inches long.  The flowers are a yellowish-green and bloom year round in tropical climates.  The plant can get up to 4 feet tall and is native to the Pine Barrens of the southern states of north america.  It prefers moist, sandy, well drained soil and warm temperatures.

The is MUCH controversy over this plant.  Modern medicine would have you believe this plant is highly toxic and worthless, unproven by science against anything.  Herbalists would tell you that it is an amazing medicinal plant but when it is overused can cause one harm and the ancient physicians would say use it for everything.  Well perhaps not everything but you get the point.  I find it so interesting how much opinions can change over the years.  So...what is the real skinny on this controversial plant?

The Eclectic physicians (these would be referred to as 'integrative practitioners' now) were a group of people who used both the natural and modern methods of their time to help their patients.  In many of their writings stillingia was something highly regarded and used regularly in small amounts as they found in high amounts it could make a person violently ill.  Still they used this herb to treat severe chronic diseases to help the body build up resistance and prolong life in cases of tuberculosis and syphilis.  In the late 1800's Scudder said stillingia was specific for laryngeal issues (laryngitis, loss of voice), bronchitis, croup, sore throat and lymphatic issues.  He goes on to say that, "stillingia, either alone or in combination with other alteratives, has been employed successfully by hundreds of physicians in the treatment of scrofulous disease in all its forms....In secondary and tertiary syphilis it is considered by many of our best practitioners to be one of the most efficient agents in materia medica for the eradication of the disease."  

Modern science would say that it doesn't work for syphilis at all.  In some cases they have even said it has been disproven to work for that particular malady.  Most of the old eclectics said that it would only work when the fresh root was used and modern day herbalists only use the dried which the eclectics considered useless.  (See what I mean about controversy?)  Scudder goes on to say that the oil of stillingia mixed with the oil of cajeput and the oil of lobelia was the, "most efficient remedy for the cure of long standing and obstinate coughs."  In 1898 the eclectics Lloyd and Felter stated that in small doses stillingia is an alterative, "exerting an influence over the secretory and lymphatic functions, which is unsurpassed by few, if any other known alteratives."   That is a pretty hefty statement about an herb that modern science says doesn't work.  These two eclectic physicians also found it to be more effective as a fresh herb tincture or fluid extract rather than a decoction or a syrup so that is something to keep in mind.  In 1905, Neiderkorn found it effective for chronic skin diseases and it was actually included in the first edition of Kings American Dispensatory  until 1852.  It is also an effective blood purifier and was part of the famous Hoxsey cancer formula for which the AMA drove him out of the country.  (Very interesting story...if you wish to know more I recommend the book entitled, 'When Healing Becomes a Crime').  It has been used as a laxative for constipation, an expectorant to get rid of phlegm in the lungs and to create saliva.  It has been used to rid the body of toxic chemotherapy chemicals as well.  It was used by early physicians for eczema, psoriasis, acne, congested lymph, mastitis and swollen lymph nodes.  Stillinga contains diterpene esters which are thought to be highly toxic by the medical community and can cause swelling and inflammation.  However, recent studies on diterpene esters in vitro have found them to have anti-tumor abilities.  And an extract of the root was shown to reduce tumor growth in mice with RC mammary carcinoma transplants.  American indians used it as a flea repellant and the women of the Creek tribe would consume the boiled, mashed roots to prevent infections after giving birth.

If harvesting the plant for use wear gloves as the sap can cause blistering on the skin.  The roots should be collected in the fall before they are 6 months old (use young plants only) and used fresh or sliced and dried for later use say modern herbalists.  DO NOT STORE for more than 2 years as the efficacy of this plant greatly diminishes at that point.  Do not give to pregnant or nursing women.  Excessive amounts can cause diarrhea, vomiting, muscle weakness, gastroenteritis and tachycardia.  USE WITH CARE.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal.  Use them with caution and only if you know HOW TO USE THE PLANT yourself or are with a qualified practitioner or herbalist who knows the herb well. Stay strong and healthy!


Violets:  Viola Adunca, Viola Canadensis, Viola Nuttallii, Viola Orbiculata, Viola Odorata, Viola Tricolor, Viola Beckwithii, Viola Purpurea, Viola Arvensis, Viola Diffusa, etc.

Also known as:  hearts ease, pansy, johnny jump ups, wild okra, field pansy, bonewort, cuddle me, constancy, love-lies-bleeding, etc.

Parts Used:  leaves, flowers, roots

Meridians/Organs affected:  skin, bone, respiratory, capillaries, blood, stomach, liver, heart

Properties:  antiseptic, expectorant, laxative, alterative, antispasmodic, emetic (roots), antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, emollient, demulcent, antipyretic, vulnerary, anti-hypertensive, diuretic, mild sedative, anti-inflammatory, cosmetic

Violet is a member of its own family known as Violaceae.  These plants are fairly easy to identify in bloom.  Each flower has five petals with two upper petals bent slightly backwards, two lateral petals and one lower petal with a spur at its base for its nectar. Each flower also has 5 stamens.  This class of plants also has heart shaped leaves for the most part.  There are three classes of violets; the white flowered, the blue or violet flowered and the yellow flowered.  There are over 900 species of violet globally and over 30 wild varieties that grow just here in the Pacific Northwest.  They get between 3-14 inches tall and the flowers might make 3/4 inch if one is lucky.  They bloom from April to June and are considered a forager's food.  They are no relation to the African violet which is not edible.  Wild violets are edible, both the leaves and the flowers can be consumed.  The leaves picked early in the spring have been used in salads, soups and sauteed and used much like spinach.  The flowers have been used in vinegars, wine, salads, jams, syrups, honey and candied for use on wedding cakes or pastries.  Too much of the leaves, as they have a fair amount of saponin, can cause upset stomach or vomiting.

The name violet is said to originate from 'Ion or Io" who was a greek maiden that Zeus turned into a heifer to hide from his wife (this I must admit made me laugh out loud).  Both Virgil and Homer spoke of violets often in their works and the Athenians used them to help with sleep, mood and mental clarity.  The Chinese would burn the blossoms underneath abscesses believing they would help to heal the wounds.  They also used the blossoms and leaves in a variety of poultices and decoctions.  Pliny said mixing the root with vinegar was a useful topical for gout or spleen complaints.  He also believed if one wore a crown of violets on their head it would help with hangovers and dizziness.  In the mid 1500's, William Turner wrote that it could help to mend broken bones, Gerard said it was excellent for respiratory issues (bronchitis, whooping cough), skin issues, fevers, epilepsy and other spasmodic illnesses.  Culpeper used it for venereal disease and in the Middle Ages it was used to repel evil spirits.  In 1525 in a publication called 'Bankes Herball' it stated, "Heat oil of violet meddled with powder of poppy seed and anoint the small of the back therewith....also for him that may not sleep for sickness, steep this herb well in water and at even let him soak well his feet in the water...and when he goeth to bed, bind this herb well to his temples."  Gerard said that violet stood for honesty, virtue and comeliness.  It was used by many southern women in their 'tussie mussies' which was a kind of floral bouquet used to keep them alert during long religious meetings (they would squeeze the flower to sniff the aroma and it would help to keep them from fainting).  The violets in tussies also were said to represent modesty, loyalty and chastity. (Be that the case they should pass them out in every school instead of condoms.  No doubt capital hill could use a huge amount of them as well).  Mohammed referred to violets in his writings stating, "The excellence of the extract of violets above all other extracts is as the excellence of me above all the rest of creation."  Clearly the man had a high opinion....of a great many things.

The herb is high in vitamin A, E and C as well as iron and rutin.  It has more vitamin A than spinach and 1/2 cup of the leaves and flowers has more vitamin C than 4 oranges.  The rutin content is high enough to have been found beneficial for strengthening capillary blood vessels and it is also fairly high in salicyclic acid (an aspirin like compound).  It has been used as a laxative but the yellow flowered variety seems to be the best for that particular use.  The blue flowered varieties were used by the early pioneers to ease labor pains and the native americans used violet roots to induce vomiting in cases of poisoning.  It has been used for asthma, sore throats, rashes and boils, eczema, psoriasis, bruises, heart palpitations, to stimulate urination, for cradle cap, mastitis and to soften hard tumorous masses or cancerous lumps.  Due to the salicyclic acid content it also has been found beneficial for rheumatism and arthritis.  The flowers have been said to reduce atherosclerosis which in turn helps to lower one's blood pressure.  The Chinese have used a variety of violets to treat leukemia, mumps, anemic conditions and poisonous snakebites.  Violets contain anthocyanins which have been found to be effective against E. Coli.  As violets have a lovely scent and are good for the skin they have been used in a number of perfumes and cosmetics.

All violets are edible (except African violets).  The leaves are often used to thicken soups (much like okra) and should be gathered in the early spring and eaten or dried for tea.  The flowers should be gathered while in bloom.  Consume this plant in small amounts as large portions can cause severe vomiting.

Water violet is one of the Bach Flower remedies.  It is used for people who are loners, who are chronically shy or have problems making human contact in general.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal.  Use them as you feel best.  Stay strong and healthy!