White dead-nettle, sometimes known as White Archangel, is commonly found in hedgerows and on shady banks and the edges of woodland. It bears a striking resemblance to the Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) and is often indistinguishable until the whirls of beautiful creamy white flowers appear. White dead-nettle thankfully does not sting, hence the name dead-nettle, and the plant is actually from a different genus to the Stinging Nettle. Being a member of the Lamiaceae tribe it is in fact far more closely related to the mint, lavender, thyme and oregano families.
The orchid-like flowers and fresh green tops are succulent, mildly fresh and can be eaten raw in salads. The younger leaves are also perfectly palatable steamed and eaten like spinach or added to stews and soups. In days gone by the plants triangular hollow stems were a favourite of children who picked them and blew them like whistles or used them as tiny pea shooters.
White dead-nettle is a very healing herb and has been used for centuries for that purpose.
The plant was considered a woman’s herb and a tea made from the plant was taken to aid a range of menstrual problems often in combination with Lady’s Mantle and Yarrow. It was specifically utilised for heavy bleeding and cramps and as a natural antispasmodic and blood stauncher it would have been beneficial for both. For the same reason it was given to mothers who had haemorrhaged after childbirth, to stop the bleeding. The plant was also used as a wash to ‘stay the whites’ or to treat any other lady infections. It is still used by some herbalists to treat leucorrhoea.
The distilled water was an ancient beauty treatment, able to brighten the eyes and to minimize eye bags. A tea made from the flowers was a country cure for insomnia and as a natural mild sedative it was also used for cases of hysteria. Being an astringent the plant has a long history as a remedy for cuts, bites, splinters and burns. The shredded leaves are high in tannins and can be applied to the affected area as a quick and soothing first aid fix. This calming and astringent action meant the herb was a common country cure for swellings and itchy skin complaints, particularly eczema.
In centuries past the leaves and flowers were heated and used as a hot compress on both piles and varicose veins. As a gentle diuretic a tincture of the plant was an everyday remedy for bladder and kidney complaints. A tea made from the flowering tops was a popular folk remedy for arthritis and rheumatism, probably due to the plants anti-inflammatory powers. The astringent nature of the herb made it a widespread cure for gastro intestinal problems and diarrhoea whilst it was once an equally tried and trusted remedy for dysentery. In recent times it has been used in combination with other plants to treat IBS.
White dead-nettle is a natural expectorant and has a long history as a catarrh and bronchial treatment. The herb was at one time used to cure T.B, specifically the ‘Kings Evil’ which is tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands. The plant was thought just as beneficial as a gargle and mouthwash for sore throats and various kinds of oral inflammation.
Bees adore this herb and some of its colloquial names such as Bee Nettle, Honey-bee and Honey-flower attest to its Bee popularity. In modern research it has been discovered that an extract of White dead-nettle is effective against the Hepatitis C virus, so who knows what further scientific testing may discover about this pretty wayside ‘weed’.
• White dead-nettle should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women
• Should be avoided by those suffering from high blood pressure or on blood medications
These are some of my personal experiences using White dead-nettle combined with information I have researched over a number of years. I am not encouraging people to self-medicate, in the treatment of specific conditions it is always best to consult a herbalist or your GP. If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the above please stop using the herb immediately. And always take care when identifying the plant.
LIFE ON PIG ROW DISCLAIMER: We’d like to thank Claire for this wonderful piece, as she points out, this is her personal experience and common sense must prevail in homemade herbal remedies. Therefore, if you are out and about foraging and aren’t confident that what you are about to pick is edible or medicinal the best advice is to leave it where it is. In the event of an adverse reaction to any homemade herbal remedy or foraged edible food you are advised to seek out medical advice. While every care is taken in the production of these posts neither Claire Fleetneedle nor Life on Pig Row are responsible for adverse reactions. Please remember to check local by-laws before foraging and never forage on private land without permission. Please use common sense when foraging.