• Jayne Tamburello

Archangel (a/k/a purple dead nettle)

Culpeper used this "herb of Venus" (i.e., a woman's herb), for not only female issues, but also for reducing tumors and for mild depression. See what else this great herbalist has to say about such a prolific "weed".

Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) was an English botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer who believed in healing with herbs based on a patient's (and the herb's) astrological charts. He disdained his contemporaries who used such methods as blood letting, and other tactics that today, we would consider barbaric. He also believed in tending to the poor who often had little money to pay him. His main books are: The English Physician (1652, later rename the Complete Herbal) and Astrological Judgement of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick. We are going to explore Culpeper's materia medica, in his own words, with translations at the bottom. You can also get his work on line at Google books.

Archangel (a/ka/ dead nettle) Lamium Album, purpureum.

To put a gloss upon their practice, the physicians call an herb (which country people vulgarly know by the name of Dead Nettle) Archangel; whether they favour more of superstition or folly, I leave to the judicious reader. There is more curiosity than courtesy to my countrymen used by others in the explanation as well of the names, as description of this so well known herb; which that I may not also be guilty of, take this short description: first, of the Red Archangel. This is likewise called Bee Nettle. (note: it is known as purple dead nettle in the US).

Description. This has divers square stalks (note: the square stalk connotes the mint family), somewhat hairy, at the joints whereof grow two sad green leaves dented about the edges, opposite to one another to the lowermost upon long foot stalks, but without any to ward the tops, which are somewhat round, yet pointed, and a little crumpled and hairy; round about the upper joints, where the leaves grow thick, are sundry #.; flowers of a pale reddish colour; after which come the seeds three or four in a husk. The root is small and thready, perishing every year; the whole plant hath a strong scent but not stinking.

White Archangel hath divers square stalks, none standing straight upward, but bending downward, whereon stand two leaves at a joint, larger and more pointed than the other, dented about the edges, and greener also, more like unto Nettle leaves, but not stinking, yet hairy. At the joints, with the leaves, stand larger and more open gaping white flowers, husks round about the stalks, but not with such a bush of leaves : as flowers set in the top, as is on the other, wherein stand small roundish black seeds; the root is white, with many strings at it, not growing downward but lying under the upper crust of the earth, and abides many years increasing; this has not so strong a scent as the former.

Yellow Archangel is like the White in the stalks and leaves; but that the stalks are more straight and upright, and the joints with leaves are farther asunder, having longer leaves than the former, and the flowers a little larger and more gaping, of a fair yellow colour in most, in some paler. The roots are like the white, only they creep not so much under the ground.

Place. They grow almost every where, (unless it be in the middle of the street) the yellow most usually in the wet grounds of woods, and sometimes in the dryer, in divers counties of this nation.

Time. They flower from the beginning of the Spring all the Summer long.

Government and virtues. The Archangels are somewhat hot and drier than the stinging nettles, and used with better success for the stopping and hardness of the spleen, than they, by using the decoction of the herb in wine, and afterwards applying the herb hot into the region of the spleen as a plaister, or the decoction, with spunges. Flowers of the White Archangel are preserved or conserved to be used to stay the whites, and the flowers of the red to stay the reds in women.

It makes the heart merry, drives away melancholy, quickens the spirits is good against quartan agues, stancheth bleeding at mouth and nose, if it be stamped and applied to the nape of the neck; the herb also bruised, and with some salt and vinegar and hog’s- grease, laid upon an hard tumour or swelling, or that vulgarly called the king's evil, do help to dissolve or discuss them; and being in like manner applied, doth much allay the pains, and give ease to the gout, sciatica, and other pains of the joints and sinews. It is also very effectual to heal green wounds, and old ulcers; also to stay their fretting, gnawing and spreading. It draws forth splinters, and such like things gotten into the flesh, and is very good against bruises and burnings. But the yellow Archangel is most commended for old, filthy, corrupt sores and ulcers, yea although they grow to be hollow; and to dissolve tumours. The chief use of them is for women, it being an herb of Venus.


Divers - diverse

Strengthen the whites - I have no idea

Stay the reds - reduce the menstrual flow

quartan agues - mild fevers

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