Sunday, March 25, 2012

Archangel--Lamium purpurium

In these early days of spring I'm getting my garden started, but Nature is way ahead of me. As I'm cleaning my beds and pulling out weeds, I can't help but marvel at how many of the spring weeds we pull out of our garden beds are edible, nutritious and cleansing. If I can find the time to get to this space a little more often in these busy spring days, I hope to highlight some of my favorites. For now, I'll start with one that I'm sure most folks would recognize, even if they don't know what it is called, because it is so prolific. I wrote this post a couple years ago on a different blog, so I'm just reprinting it here. Enjoy...

Well, most call this plant purple dead nettle, but I much prefer archangel, as it truly is an amazing and virtuous gift of the fields. I have always admired this little beauty, which grows so freely in disturbed areas and seems a nuisance to farmers. Large groupings of it, seen from afar are a brilliant wash of purple, a splash of color so welcome in the drabness of early spring.

Archangel is a self-seeding annual from Europe which seems to have naturalized over most of the world. It stands only a few inches high with opposite leaves and pretty purple flowers near the top. The top leaves also have a purple tinge and the stem is distinctly square, a trait of the Labiatae family which also include the mints. Around here, archangel is just starting to flower and easy to spot.


©[Daniel Reed] - www.2bnthewild.com
Information about the virtues of archangel is hard to come by in modern herbals, but the older herbals show that this plant was once highly respected for its gifts. The aerial parts (leaf, stem and flower) are edible, both raw and cooked. It can be cooked like any other leafy green, or added to salads. I like its taste, mild and earthy. The plant is high in iron and other vitamins, so this is a chance to gather some fresh greens in early spring before our lettuce and spinach is ready in the garden.
And speaking of gardens, the flowers attract bees and butterflies, and some sources claim this an excellent companion plant for potatoes, improving growth and flavor while deterring potato bugs. I'll have to try that this year!

As to archangel's healing gifts, well I don't understand how we could have neglected this plant. Firstly, here is yet another of nature's abundant styptics. Which means it stops bleeding, both internal and external. The fresh leaves can be crushed (or chewed, he he) and placed directly on wounds or to draw out splinters. Nicholas Culpeper, the famous 17th century herbalist, ranks archangel very highly as a wound healing herb, claiming its efficacy in healing bruises, burns, wounds and "old, filthy, corrupt sores and ulcers." He also claims the herb can dissolve tumors. Interesting, huh?

Here's another quote from Culpeper... "It makes the heart merry, drives away melancholy, quickens the spirits..." I think we could all use some archangel in our lives.

The tea is very pleasant and warming, acting on the kidneys and driving away chill. Drink it alone or with other tonic herbs to nourish uplift our winter depleted systems.

The seeds are high in anti-oxidants, adding to the nutritious aspects of the plant.

The plant can be dried and saved for the winter months as well, but it seems that Nature has provided us with a very loving springtime gift. Now is the time (early spring in these parts) to harvest the virtues of archangel, and give thanks to the gifts of the Earth.

5 comments:

  1. Cool! I saw 3 varities of Archangel at the New Garden Park the other day. They were fuschia, this common purple, and hot pink! I would like to get some seeds of those. Tracy told me she added this to her smoothie and I am going to give it a try right now! Thank you April!

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  2. Oh how timely! I just transplanted this plant to the gardens! thank you for sharing April! xxx

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  3. Well, now that it's transplanted I imagine you'll never be wanting for it again, mints you know.

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  4. w-e-l-l.... we keep two ducks, they gobbled it right down:( lol! i think i will have to fence it till it spreads next time! :) oh well, an excuse to go get some more at the edge of the woods:)

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  5. Ah, I just posted a photo of this very "weed" to /r/whatsthisplant to figure out what it is... looks like I didn't need to ! Thanks for the info! :-)

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