White Deadnettle: Later Confusion

Grieve is no less confusing. There is an entry for white deadnettle with no medicinal uses appended, followed by purple deadnettle with medicinal actions and uses ― decoction of herb and flowers for haemorrhage, leaves to staunch wounds, dried herb as tea with honey to promote perspiration and act on kidneys, useful in cases of chill. Then, under a subheading ‘other species’, henbit, spotted deadnettle and hempnettle are described. This is followed by a quote from Gerard on white archangel after which the next heading, ‘parts used medicinally’, begins ‘the whole herb collected…’, but which herb is meant here is far from clear. Then a further ‘medicinal actions and uses’ confuses the picture even more. Whichever plant (or plants) is meant, it is astringent in nature, Grieve tells us, and used for stopping haemorrhage, spitting of blood and dysentery. The decoction of the flowers is a blood purifier for rashes, eczema etc., but no source is cited. Reputations from the tradition then follow – healing green wounds, bruises and burns. Culpeper and others follow, on lifting spirits, against quartan agues, and bleeding of nose and mouth applied to nape of neck. She rehearses use in the past for hardness of spleen, the seat of melancholy, the herb applied as a hot plaster. Finally, a further familiar use appears, bruised and mixed with salt, vinegar and lard (sounds like chips!) for reduction of swellings and ease in gout, sciatica and other pains in joints and muscles. Yellow deadnettle has its own entry, Lamium galeobdolon. The galeobdolon, Grieve tells us, comes from two Greek words gale meaning weasel and bdolos a disagreeable odour, a reference to the strong odour of the crushed plant. It is used for the same purposes as white archangel, she says.

There is no entry in the National Botanic Pharmacopoeia, Wren, Priest & Priest, nor the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia.

Weiss is clearer. He writes only of Lamium album. The flowers are used, which need pulling from the calyces individually. He stresses its heavy popular use and how women in particular ‘keep asking for the drug and using it’, although he says he finds little information on its efficacy. He suggests use for leucorrhoea of asthenic young girls, taken internally and used as a genital wash. The flowers make a good family tea too, he says. Treben reinforces a wider folk use, at least in central Europe, in recommending a range of applications. The entry is for yellow deadnettle Lamiastrum galeobdolon, but she includes white deadnettle, saying both are ‘valuable medicinal herbs’. The leaves and especially the flowers are used. White deadnettle, three cups a day, is good for abdominal and menstrual complaints, cleansing the blood, for sleeplessness and ‘diverse female troubles’. Yellow deadnettle is used similarly, but apparently with more emphasis on the urinary system. It is especially used, says Treben, for scanty and burning urine, bladder troubles, serious kidney disorders and fluid retention in the heart, for bladder malfunction in older people and chill in the bladder and nephritis. In renal dialysis she recommends a mix of yellow deadnettle, bedstraw Galium species and golden rod Solidago virgaurea in equal proportions. The flowers are taken for digestive troubles, scrofula and skin rashes, one cup each morning; externally used for ulcers and varicose veins. So here is filled out a little the traditional uses cited in the Commission E monograph that the post began with.