Purple Dead-Nettle in the Food Forest
In the earliest days of spring you’ll find the purple dead nettle blooming. It will take over a spring garden in no time at all, spreading with wild abandon through your yard. It’s a bit unusual looking so it’s easy to spot. As a member of the mint family, Lamium purpureum has a square stem. It has four sides with clearly delineated corners. As the name suggests it’s got dark purple flowers that are actually quite pretty. Keep in mind that it’s not a true nettle. Unlike members of the Urtica family, purple dead nettle doesn’t have those stinging spikes. In some places it’s known as Purple Archangel.
Bees and butterflies love purple dead-nettle. It serves as an important food source in the early spring for these pollinators. The flowers and leaves are edible, although slightly bitter. Add a few to your salad or smoothie, or steep them in an herbal tea.
Although it’s an invasive species, purple dead nettle is used in the treatment of allergies. It is a natural source of flavonoids including quercetin. It 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.