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White deadnettle is a uterine tonic with an ability to stop loss of fluids from the body, whether excessive menstrual flow, abnormal vaginal discharge, diarrhea, or a runny nose.

The leaves and flowers can be eaten, raw or cooked. The flowers are full of nectar, enjoyed by insects and children alike, and the leaves can be used as a poultice for cuts and splinters.

The white deadnettle is so named because it resembles a stinging nettle, but has no stinging hairs. Other old names, such as deaf, dumb, or blind nettle, also refer to the plant's benign nature. The white deadnettle is also known as bee nettle, with stores of honey at the base of its corolla attracting the humble bees that fertilize it. The same sweet taste has also made sucking the white flowers irresistible to generations of children.

It can be confusing in spring when both the stinging and non-stinging plants, which often grow together, are in leaf and there are no flowers to distinguish them. The secret lies in the stem, which is square and hollow in white deadnettle, but round and solid in stinging nettle.

The white deadnettle is perhaps too common for its own good, and has been unduly neglected both as an attractive plant with some garden border potential - and making an excellent mulch - and for its many medicinal qualities.

Lamiaceae (Labiatae) Deadnettle family

Description: Perennial with leaves similar to stinging nettle, but paler green and without the sting. Grows to 2 ft and has whorls of creamy white flowers.

Habitat: Roadsides, gardens, and waste ground.

Distribution: Found across north and central Europe to Asia; naturalized in North America and Australasia.

Related species: There are several other common species in the genus, but none that can be confused with white deadnettle. The other species were used medicinally in the past.

Parts used: Flowering tops whenever flowering, which can be at almost any time of year.

The plant's older name of archangel refers to Archangel Michael, whose day at one time correlated roughly with the first deadnettle flowers. We like the name for its protective connotations: the plant supports the female reproductive system and prevents the body from losing precious fluids through discharges of all sorts.

White deadnettle blooming at the Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire, April

Use white deadnettle for... The main use herbalists make of the plant is as a uterine tonic. Julie finds it effective in treating painful periods and bleeding between periods, in reducing excessively heavy menstrual flow and for cystitis. It can be used for treating leucorrhea or vaginal discharge (once called "whites"), in which case the tea treatment (three cups a day) is continued for at least three weeks. A douche, made from a strong deadnettle tea, is good for vaginal discharges.

The tea also forms part of a treatment regime for benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), and to speed recovery after prostate surgery.

The tea's mild astringency is supportive in treating respiratory complaints, especially where there is phlegm and catarrh.

White deadnettle also helps to regulate the bowel, and works well for gastrointestinal disorders, constipation, flatulence, and, in particular, diarrhea. It eases cramps and increases urination.

Externally, it has its uses in treatment as a poultice for cuts, bites, bruises, burns, splinters, varicose veins, and arthritic pain. For first aid, if you are out walking, the simplest method in the field is to chew deadnettle leaves and apply them to the sore point.

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