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!

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