Purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) is an herb with a wide variety of medicinal uses, including as a topical ointment for skin irritations.
Making your own salve at home is easy, inexpensive, and a great way to take advantage of the healing properties of this herb/weed that grows in almost every back yard each spring. Making salve is also a great skill to add to the knowledge bank. Helping to bring back the old remedies and traditions so they’re not lost to time.
History of the purple dead nettle plant
Purple dead nettle has been used medicinally as far back as the 17th century.
Facts like that always fascinate me. How did the first people to use it figure out it was good for certain ailments? Humans constantly amazing me.
Although purple dead nettle has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, it wasn’t until recently that scientific studies were conducted to determine its medicinal properties. Studies have shown that purple dead nettle contains various active compounds with antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that can be beneficial for health.
If you find any of this interesting, send this article to a friend! More people need to know about all the amazing plants we can harness the power of that are literally at our feet when we step outside!
How to tell if the plant is purple dead nettle:
When it comes to identifying Purple Dead Nettle, it is important to be careful and not confuse it with other plants.
Purple Dead Nettle can be easily identified by its square stems, with opposite pairs of toothed leaves. It also has small, purple and white flowers that grow in whorls from the upper leaf axils. The flowers of purple dead nettle are smaller and more delicate than other plants, such as henbit or field pennycress.
Additionally, the leaves of Purple Dead Nettle are more narrow and pointed than other plants, and its stems are square in cross section. By carefully examining the plants for these characteristics, it is easy to differentiate Purple Dead Nettle from other plants.
Plants that purple dead nettle gets confused with most is Henbit and Field Pennycress. These plants all have similar characteristics and can be easily mistaken for one another. Henbit and Field Pennycress have larger, rounder leaves and stems that are not square in cross section. By carefully comparing the plants, it is easy to differentiate Purple Dead Nettle from these other species.
Now that we have the basics covered, let’s move onto the salve!
Here’s a step-by-step guide for making your own purple dead nettle salve.
Step 1: Gather the Ingredients
You’ll need the following ingredients to make your salve:
- Dried purple dead nettle flowers (enough to fill up half a quart mason jar when pressed down)
- Cold-pressed olive oil
- Beeswax (local is best! I found mine from a local facebook beekeepers group.)
- Essential oil of your choice (optional, but I love to use 3 drops of lavender)
Step 2: Pick the Flowers
The best time to pick purple dead nettle flowers is in the early morning, when the dew is still on the plants. Gather the flowers in a basket and be sure to leave plenty of flowers behind so that the plant can continue to bloom. If possible, gather the younger looking stems, as they are more potent than the older, aging ones.
If the bunch you collect is a bit dirty, feel free to fill up a sink with cold water and swish them around just enough to dislodge the dirt, then set on a towel to dry.
Step 3: Dry the Flowers
Once you’ve gathered your flowers, it’s time to dry them. Spread the flowers out on a screen or tray in a single layer and place them in a warm, dry place. I placed mine on a baking sheet with a paper towel under them and set by a window that received a lot of sun.
Allow the flowers to dry for several days until they are brittle and papery. One way to know they’re dry is you’ll begin to see the seeds falling out.
Step 4: Make the Infused Oil
Once the flowers are dry, it’s time to make your infused oil. There are a few ways to do this.
1st- Place the dried flowers in a glass jar and cover them with the olive oil. Close the lid and store the jar in a warm, dark place for two to four weeks. Shake the jar every few days to ensure that the flowers are completely covered with oil. After two to four weeks, the oil is ready to use.
2nd- Place the dried flowers in the glass jar and cover them with olive oil. Taking a saucepan fill half way up with water, and set mason jar of oil and nettles into the center of pan, creating a double boiler. Simmer on medium low for 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Remove from stove, let cool, place lid on and store in cool dry place.
Step 5: Make the Salve
Now that you have your infused oil, you’re ready to make the salve.
Begin by taking 7 grams of beeswax, I carefully grate it off the block with a cheese grater. Add in 47 grams of strained, infused oil and stir until the two are combined.
Again with the saucepan, make another double boiler by setting the mason jar of wax and oil in the center of a saucepan of water. Place on medium heat.
Once wax is melted remove from heat, stir, and add essential oils if using. Pour the salve into a jar or tin and allow it to cool and solidify before using. It will make about 2 ounces.
How to use Salve
Dead nettle salve can be used as a topical ointment to help soothe minor skin irritations, such as bug bites, cuts, scrapes, and sunburns. It can also be used to help heal minor burns and to reduce inflammation.
To use dead nettle salve, simply apply a small amount to the affected area. Massage the salve into the skin until it is absorbed. Repeat this process two to three times daily, or as often as needed.
This is a great base recipe and can be added to and enhanced by using plants such as yarrow, calendula, plantain.
That’s it! You’ve just made your own purple dead nettle salve. Use it as needed to soothe skin irritations, or simply as a luxurious moisturizer. Enjoy!
This salve recipe, along with so many others similar to it, are something precious and timeless, passed down through countless generations with no known proof of origin date. And now, sweet friend, it’s up to us to keep this recipe alive, to preserve it in print, in our hearts, and to share it with the next generations. By doing this, we can ensure that this recipe is not forgotten and that it will continue to be a source of nourishment and comfort for generations to come.