White Deadnettle (Lamium Album)

Family: Lamiaceae

Part used: aerial parts

Lamium album L. is a spreading perennial, common in Britain, found by roadsides and on rough ground in »ny and shady sites. The Flora of Turkey gives 27 Lamium species, including Lamium album and Lamium purpureum.

Erect, pubescent, square stems (to 25 cm) bear opposite, fresh-green, dentate, stalked leaves. White flowers occur in whorls. The tubed corolla (2 cm) has a curved upper lip, the lower lip has two to three teeth on each side and the calyx is five-toothed. The flowers are creamy-yellow in bud. It flowers for long periods from early spring.

Other species used

Culpeper lists white, yellow and red deadnettles. Yellow deadnettle Lamium galeobdolon, syn. Lamiastrum galeobdolon or Galeobdolon luteum is a perennial plant of woodlands. It has yellow flowers and taller stems than the white deadnettle. Culpeper describes red deadnettle as an annual with pale, reddish flowers. This is probably Lamium purpureum L, which is a common weed.

The Galeopsis genus is closely related and some descriptions could be of common hemp-nettle, Galeopsis tetrahit L, which is native to Europe and Western Asia and grows on disturbed sites or roadsides. It is a herbaceous annual with hairy stems to 1 m tall with swollen nodes that bear coarsely serrate leaves. The tiny flowers are purple. Bisset & Wichtl (2001) include an entry for Galeopsidis herba, hemp-nettle Galeopsis segetum, which has yellow flowers. It is used in lung complaints and as a diuretic and is available under its synonym, Galeopsis ochroleuca for the indications of asthma and enuresis.

White Deadnettle: Quality

Weiss suggests that the flowers have to be pulled from their calyces one by one but the recommendation of Grieve for the whole herb when coming into flower in May and June is more practical. As Lamium album is a robust and common herb, there does not seem to be any need to use the other species.

Enigma

White deadnettle is an enigmatic herb. Its key functions are hard to grasp through the literature and its effects appear more subtle than obvious. Bisset & Wichtl (2001) cite the Commission E monograph where the list of traditional uses is very long and wide ranging. It begins with use for the gastrointestinal tract, for irritation of the gastric mucosa, bloating, flatulence and strengthening the intestine. The cited combination preparations of the herb are exhaustive: for ‘nervousness, restlessness, irritation, for sleep disorders, for invigoration, relaxation and stimulation, during the menopause, for female ailments of all kinds, menstrual disorders, ‘blood purifying’, metabolic stimulation in support of gallbladder and liver function, proneness to biliary gravel, to stimulate the appetite, for neutralisation of gastric hyperacidity to promote digestion, in flatulence, for stimulation of pancreatic function, regulation of the blood lipid level, irrigation of the urinary tract in inflammatory and spasmodic bladder ailments, functioning of the prostate gland, stimulation of the heart and blood circulation, in dizziness, flickering of the eyes, tinnitus, for increased blood supply to the heart, increased heart capacity improvement of lymph flow and stimulation of lymph formation, strengthening of the respiratory tract, dissolving mucus, and improvement of vitality and general weakness, especially after illness or surgery’. Use of the flowers alone is for ‘catarrh of the upper respiratory tract, local treatment of mild inflammation of mouth and throat mucosa, and for non-specific fluor albus (leucorrhoea)’; externally for mild, superficial inflammations of the skin. However, Commission E suggests efficacy of use for the herb is not substantiated and therefore does not recommend therapeutic use. There is no evaluation on the use of the flowers. It is surprising to find quite so many claims with so little outcome, but it is difficult to trace many of these uses through our texts.

White Deadnettle: Elusive Identity

White Deadnettle: Renaissance Debate And Use

Interim Opinion

Other sources between the Ancients and the Renaissance throw no more light on the matter. The Old English Herbarium carries no entry for this plant. Hildegard has a ‘blind nettle‘ but she does not describe the plant. It is hot, she writes, and a person will smile with pleasure on eating it since it touches his spleen so his heart is made happy. The plant will help ‘leucoma’ in the eye if it is picked and put in spring water for a night, ‘then having taken it from the water, heat it in a small dish (plant or water?) and place it warm, over the affected eye’. This is done for three nights and the leucoma will disappear.

The Myddfai text, again with no description, urges use of deadnettle for two conditions: scabies (which actually refers to eczematous diseases in that erythema and thickening of the skin are combined with pruritis, pustules and ulceration) and menorrhagia. For menorrhagia ‘take archangel, pound well with strong red wine, strain carefully, give to drink night and morning freely”. Its use is of great benefit, the text records. It should also be kept dry for winter, taken as a powder, a spoonful in warmed wine, drunk as warm as possible. The pounded root in wine is good to the same purpose. The text then adds if growing the herb in the garden it should be grown apart from other plants, but offers no reason for the isolation. Its use for scabies is external application of the decoction as a wash for the whole body every morning. There is also a recipe for ointment for the same purpose ‘boil the residue of archangel and garlic in unsalted butter, make into an ointment and anoint the whole body with this for nine mornings’ The Salernitan herbal is clearly following Dioscorides on leukas for it only records use of the plant, crushed in wine and drunk, for bites of serpents or vipers.

18th And 19th Century

Miller and Quincy in the 18th century appear to consider the red deadnettle as Dioscorides’ galeopsis. Quincy has an entry under lamium, deadnettle, galeopsis, archangel, but he qualifies the name saying the plant is distinguished Lamium non foetens, folio oblongo (non-foetid lamium with oblong leaf) by Caspar, and Urtica iners floribus albis (deadnettle with white flowers) by Bauhin; there is also a lamium rubrum (red lamium), he says, which is the galeopsis of Dioscorides, and a lamium luteum (yellow lamium). Quincy does not rate the herb highly, commenting, ‘The plant itself is of no great esteem’. He accounts its application as soft, lubricating and strengthening, hence given in some female weaknesses as the whites and in heat and difficulty of urine. He confirms its meagre reputation with the discouraging, but practical, remark ‘a conserve is made of them in shops, but it is not often prescribed and on that account seldom to be met with fresh and good’. Miller writes about two deadnettles, the white, which is counted specific against the fluor albus and frequently (no agreement with Quincy on this) made use of in a conserve or decoction which is to be continued for some time. Some commend it, he says, against the king’s evil and all scrofulous swellings, so Pliny is echoed here. The only official preparation is conserve of the flowers. Then Miller covers lamium rubrum, red archangel, the purpureum foetidum folio subrotundo sive Galeopsis Dioscoridis (the purple foetid lamium with roundish leaf or galeopsis of Dioscorides), which has a strong, earthy, unsavoury smell, he says. In application of this plant he appears to echo Parkinson (white to stay the whites, red to stay the reds) saying as the former archangel (white) is accounted specific for fluor albus, so this is helpful for ‘the excess of the ‘catamenia’ (menses) and all other haemorrhages’. Furthermore, it is serviceable externally for wounds and inflammations.

Hill writes of Lamium album for the whites and all other weaknesses. The flowers only are used, gathered in May, 1 lb beat up with 2½ lb sugar as conserve. I can find no coverage in Cullen. The herb was not used in the USA by Cook nor Ellingwood.

White Deadnettle: Later Confusion

White Deadnettle: Research Application

White Deadnettle: Modern Use

Recommendations

  • The confusion and lack of clarity in the tradition does not allow us to make the broader recommendations for this herb that it might deserve after its reputation in central Europe. We can say there is a fairly consistent tradition of use in leucorrhoea, menorrhagia and metrorrhagia internally as tea, tincture or decoction and externally as a douche. It may have broader genitor-urinary applications. For these indications, Barker (2001) recommends an infusion of 10-20 g in 500 mL of water three times a day, and double this strength for douches and compresses.
  • Externally as a wash for wounds and ulcers.
  • Other uses need more research and confirmation.

Dosage: Barker (2001) recommends 2-5 mL three times a day of 1:5 tincture of dried flowering tops, aerial parts.

Recommendations On Safety

No safety concerns are documented.

White Deadnettle: Constituents

Volatile oil

Total 0.01-0.31 % mainly alkanes: squalene; sesquiterpene: germacrene.

Triterpenes

Ursolic acid, amyrin.

Iridoid glycosides

C10 type: lamalbid, caryoptoside; C9 type: alboside A, alboside B and isomers.

C10 type: lamalbid, caryoptoside (wild, Bulgaria).

Lamium maculatum, C10 type: lamalbid, penstemoside (wild, Bulgaria).

Similar iridoid glycosides in Lamium album, Lamium garganicum, Lamium amplexicaule, Lamium maculatum, Lamium purpureum (wild, Bulgaria).

Lamium galeobdolon, C9 type and benzoxazinoids, which are commonly found in grasses.

Lamium purpureum var. purpureum, C10 type: lamalbide.

Hemiterpene glycoside: hemialboside.

Phenylpropanoids

Total polyphenols 23 mg/g (flowers, commercial, Poland).

Phenolic acids

Chlorogenic acid, 5-caffeoylquinic acid (flowers, wild, Poland).

Protocatechuic acid, chlorogenic acid, vanillic acid, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid (flowers, commercial, Poland).

Phenylpropanoid glycosides

Acteoside (verbascoside), lamalboside.

Lamium maculatum, acteoside (higher in flowers) (wild, China).

Lamium purpureum, phenylethanoid glycosides: lamiusides A, B, C, D (wild, Japan).

Flavonoids

Tiliroside, rutoside, quercetin and kaempferol 3-O-glucosides.

Tiliroside, quercetin glycosides: rutin, isoquercitrin.

Lamium maculatum, 3,7-dimethoxy-quercetin, rutin (wild, China).

Tannins

6-7% condensed and hydrolyzable.

Phytoecdysteroids

These insect steroid hormone analogues are thought to inhibit the activities of some plant-eating insects. Lamium album and Lamium purpureum are hosts for some moths and butterflies. Highest levels were in young leaves and side-shoots. Abutasterone, inokosterone, polypodine B and pterosterone (aerial parts).

Lamium maculatum: 20-hydroxy ecdysone (flower).