Purple Dead Nettle

Purple Dead Nettle
Photo by Ali Majdfar, All rights reserved / Getty Images

Like many of the herbs that we can use in magic, purple dead nettle is, for all intents and purposes, a weed. It will take over a spring garden in no time at all, spreading with wild abandon through your yard. So why not take advantage of its folklore and magic, and use it in your workings? It’s a handy little herb to harvest.

Purple Dead Nettle Folklore & Legend

First of all, it’s easy to spot because it’s a bit unusual looking. Rather than having a round, tubular stem, the stem of the purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) is actually squared. It has four sides with clearly delineated corners. Also, as the name suggests, it’s got dark purple flowers that are actually quite pretty. Finally, keep in mind that it’s not a true nettle, because it doesn’t have those stinging spikes that make many of us break out in an allergic reaction. Unlike members of the Urtica family, purple dead nettles generally won't hurt you. 

In some places, it’s known as purple archangel, because it blooms around the Feast of the Apparition on May 8, which was when St. Michael, the archangel, appeared to onlookers at Mount Gargano in sixth century Italy. It’s popular with bees all summer long, and it’s an annual, not a perennial, so once you’ve gotten rid of it, it’s gone… at least until more seeds fly into your yard. If you ever do any wildcrafting, purple dead nettle is an easy plant to forage for when you're out and about. Watch for it in sandy, patchy, thin soil, in particular.

Although it's an invasive species, in some parts of Europe purple deadnettle is used in the treatment of allergies. "A natural source of flavonoids including quercetin Purple Dead-nettle can improve immune system performance while reducing sensitivity to allergens and inhibiting inflammation. The anti-allergy properties of flavonoids come from their ability to reduce the release of histamine."

According to Maud Grieve’s A Modern Herbal, purple dead nettle has some useful medicinal applications:

  • The leaves and flowers can be used, either fresh or dry, “to make a decoction for checking any kind of haemorrhage.”
  • Mash the leaves so they’re bruised, and apply them to minor skin abrasions and wounds.
  • Make the dried leaves into a tea and sweeten with honey, to help promote perspiration and urination.

Obviously, if you have any of the above issues, you should consult with a medical professional before ingesting any herbal decoction.

Many people forage for purple dead nettle, and use it fresh in salads and teas. It’s got a bitter flavor, and can be eaten raw or cooked, depending on your preference. Collect and harvest the stems and flowers, hang them to dry, and use them for medicinal or magical purposes.

Magical Uses for Dead Nettle

Deadnettles (Lamium) in the evening light
Wolfgang Werner / Getty Images

From a magical standpoint, purple dead nettle is associated with happiness and cheerfulness. You'll also notice that it can grow just about anywhere, even when the soil is of poor quality, which brings to mind a certain amount of determination and tenacity. 

You can use dead nettle in a number of magical ways, based on these associations.

  • Use the dried leaves and flowers in a loose incense blend to lift your spirits when you’re feeling blue.
  • Need to help yourself feel more grounded in a time of challenges? Bring out the purple dead nettle, and use it in workings to represent fortitude and willpower.
  • If you’re doing a working related to healing magic, you can include purple dead nettle to help improve the health of the spirit as well as the body.
  • Purple dead nettle is hardy and resistant to obstacles – use it in magic related to the security and stability of home, jobs or relationships.

So, how do you actually use it? Well, you can harvest and dry it and use it in incense blends. You can also incorporate the leaves into a tea or healing decoction. Grace Elm at the Little Victorian says,

"Popping up in the earliest spring-like moments, purple deadnettle is a maideny herb. In older folklore it was said to be a cheerful herb that makes the heart merry. It grows enthusiastically were groundcover is patchy or where the soil has been disturbed, pointing to a tenacious nature and the ability to make something lovely and useful out of a barren environment."

Do be cautious when using purple deadnettle — ingesting too much internally can have laxative effects, and it's not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women to use.

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Purple Dead Nettle." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, learnreligions.com/purple-dead-nettle-magic-and-folklore-2562033. Wigington, Patti. (2023, April 5). Purple Dead Nettle. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/purple-dead-nettle-magic-and-folklore-2562033 Wigington, Patti. "Purple Dead Nettle." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/purple-dead-nettle-magic-and-folklore-2562033 (accessed June 10, 2023).