While children once sucked the sweet nectar from white dead nettle flowers,1 today’s wild food enthusiasts may enjoy the plant in many other ways.
White dead nettle.
Green-white flowers with heart-shaped, hairy, green leaves. The hollow, hairy, square stems distinguish the plant from true nettle.
Native to Europe, Asia; naturalised in Britain, Ireland and introduced to North America and New Zealand.
The plant is found growing along roadsides, waste places, hedgerows, and gardens.
Parts used for food
Leaves, flowers, stems.
This perennial flowers May to December with seeds ripening July to December.
Food uses of white dead nettle
The tender leaves and stem tips can be boiled and eaten as a potherb or vegetable, or the leaves chopped and added to omelettes.2
The leaves can also be treated like spinach.3
Serve the young flowering tops lightly steamed, mixed with spring onions and dressed with butter.4 For sweet treats or garnish, the flowers can be candied.2
Wine is still made from the flowers in Yorkshire, England.4
White dead nettle leaves contain about 6.5 g of protein, 76 mg of vitamin C and an incredible 644 vitamin A retinol per 100 g of fresh weight.
The greens are similarly nutritious and contain other constituents such as 76 mg calcium, 34 mg phosphorus, 411 mg potassium, 23 mg magnesium, and 3.4 mg iron per 100 g of fresh plant material.5
White dead nettle recipes
Herbal medicine uses of white dead nettle
As a women’s herb, white dead nettle has been used to relieve heavy painful periods and for treating ‘whites’ – leucorrhoea, a white or yellow discharge of vaginal mucous.4
In Irish folk medicine, white dead nettle, along with red dead nettle (L. purpureum), was mainly used as a treatment for skin complaints.4
In parts of England, white dead-nettle was a remedy for skin problems and bleeding cuts.6
A lotion made from the flowering tops was applied to piles and varicose veins.4
White dead nettle flowers are a helpful crop for bees,5 while Pliny believed the plant discouraged snakes from entering the garden!7
The dead white nettle is generally considered a safe plant to use in food and medicine. There are no known contraindications during pregnancy, when breastfeeding, or when taking prescribed medications.8
This is not absolute proof of its safety and it is always best to consult with your health advisor.
About The Author
Robin Harford is a plant-based forager, ethnobotanical researcher, and wild food educator. He is the author of Edible and Medicinal Wild Plants of Britain and Ireland.
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- Vickery, R. (1997) A Dictionary of Plant-Lore. Oxford paperback reference. Oxford?; New York: Oxford University Press.
- Facciola, S. (1998) Cornucopia II: A Source Book of Edible Plants. Vista, CA: Kampong Publications.
- Bartram, T. (1998) Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. New York: Marlowe.
- Hatfield, G. (2007) Hatfield’s Herbal. London: Allan Lane.
- Grieve, M. M. (1998) A Modern Herbal. 3rd edition. London: Tiger Books International, PLC.
- Allen, D. E. & Hatfield, G. (2004) Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition: An Ethnobotany of Britain & Ireland. Portland, OR: Timber Press.
- Anon (2016) Herbalpedia.
- Duke, J. A. (2002) Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. 2 edition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.