How to Make Purple Dead Nettle Salve (3 recipes)

Learn how to make helpful herbal salves using purple dead nettle and other beneficial plants.

silver tin of green salve surrounded by fresh purple dead nettle plants

Purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) is an edible weed that pops up in yards and gardens in early spring.

You might often see it growing near henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), which is said to be its closest look-a-like. (They both have purple flowers and grow around the same time.)

If you’re a beginner forager, make sure your purple dead nettle has flowers and purple tops before gathering to ensure you’re getting the correct plant.

Here are some foraging tips for purple dead nettle:

  • has hairy leaves, turning purple towards the tips of the plant
  • opposite leaves are densely crowded together along stem
  • has a square stem, indicative of being in the mint family
  • purple flowers, bilateral with lips
  • there are no toxic look-a-likes while the tops are purple and flowering

Photo below: On the left is henbit, on the right is purple dead nettle.

henbit beside purple dead nettle in a wooden bowl

And here’s a photo of both growing out in my garden.

henbit and purple dead nettle, growing side by side

While its nutritious leaves can be used in salads, pesto, and smoothies, purple dead nettle’s anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties also make it a good candidate to include in salves and balms.

Looking for more creative ways to use purple dead nettle?

You may also enjoy my article, 9+ Things to Make with Purple Dead Nettle.

What’s a salve?

Salves and balms are soft spreadable preparations for your skin consisting of herbal infused oils and beeswax (or another wax.) They can be applied to help heal, soothe, or improve various skin or health conditions.

In this article, I’m sharing three salve recipe ideas:

  • Basic Purple Dead Nettle Salve
  • Purple Dead Nettle First Aid Salve
  • Purple Dead Nettle Aches & Pains Salve

Before you can make the salve though, you first must make an infused oil.

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purple dead nettle plants drying on a piece of wax paper

How to Make the Infused Oil

By steeping an herb in oil, we can extract its beneficial properties for our use in salves, balms, and other products.

To dry purple dead nettle, spread the plant pieces out in a single layer over a dish towel, paper towel, or wax paper and allow to air dry for several days. We’re using dried plant material here, since fresh plants are more likely to spoil when mixed into oil.

There are a few ways to infuse oil, we’ll cover a quick way, a medium way, and slower way.

The Quick Infusing Method

This method works best if you don’t have the time or desire to wait a few weeks for infused oil.

  1. Fill a glass canning jar 1/4 to 1/2 of the way with crumbled up dried purple dead nettle. (You can also mix in other dried herbs such as calendula, yarrow, etc – see the salve recipes below for ideas.)
  2. Fill the jar almost to the top with your chosen oil – olive or sunflower oil can be good for most skin types. For a slightly lighter feel, try apricot kernel or rice bran oil. You can also mix and match your favorite oils.
  3. Set the uncovered jar down into a saucepan containing a few inches of water, forming a makeshift double boiler of sorts.
  4. Place the pan over a low burner and heat for around 2 to 3 hours.
  5. Don’t allow the water to evaporate out of the pan, and monitor the oil while it’s heating.
  6. Remove from the heat and strain out enough oil for your recipe when needed. You can top off the jar with more oil and allow it to continue infusing the slow way until needed again.
  7. Store the remaining infused oil in a dark spot or cabinet out of direct sunlight and heat. Shelf life should be about 1+ year.




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The Medium Sunny Window Infusing Method

Repeat steps 1 and 2 from above, and fill a jar with crumbled dried purple dead nettle, plus any extra herbs you want to add, and fill with oil. Put a lid on the jar.

Place the jar in a warm sunny window for a week or two, then transfer to a darker spot to infuse another week or so. The heat from the warm sunny window helps gently speed up the infusing process a bit.

The Slower Traditional Infusing Method

This way requires more patience and time, but results in a strongly infused and lovely oil.

Repeat steps 1 and 2 above, and fill a jar with crumbled dried purple dead nettle (and any extra herbs you’d like to include) and oil.

Instead of infusing over heat, you’ll put a lid on the jar and tuck it away in a cabinet or on a shelf and let it infuse for at least 4 to 6 weeks, shaking occasionally as you remember to.

Strain out the oil needed for your recipe.

tin of purple dead nettle salve on a gray soapstone soap dish surrounded by fresh purple dead nettle plants

Basic Purple Dead Nettle Salve

This is an ultra-basic salve that contains just 2 (or 3) ingredients. It can be used on itchy, dry, irritated, chapped, or sore skin.

Yield: about 2 ounces of salve


How to Make

  1. Combine the infused oil and beeswax in a heatproof jar or container.
  2. Place the jar down into a saucepan with a few inches of water, forming a double boiler.
  3. Heat over medium-low heat until completely melted.
  4. Remove from heat and add the lavender essential oil, if using.
  5. Pour into a 2-ounce tin or glass jar.
  6. Let cool before putting the top on the container.
  7. Store in a cool dry place.
  8. Shelf life is at least 1 year.
salve in a gold tin, surrounded by fresh purple dead nettle plants in a wooden bowl

First Aid Salve with Purple Dead Nettle

This is a general all-purpose first aid salve that features purple dead nettle plus calendula flowers and/or plantain leaves and/or yarrow.

Calendula (Calenduala officinalis) has antiseptic, anti-itching, and anti-inflammatory properties. (It’s sometimes called pot marigold, but shouldn’t be confused with regular marigolds. Here’s a good article on the difference between calendula and marigold flowers.)

Plantain (Plantago major) is a common leafy weed found in many backyards and driveways. It cools, soothes, and moistens and is one of the best herbs for skin irritations, cuts, bug bites, and scrapes.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and is helpful for minor wounds and cracked damaged skin.

You can buy high quality organic dried calendula flowers, yarrow, and plantain leaves at Mountain Rose Herbs.

Yield: about 2 ounces of salve


How to Make

Follow the directions above for making Basic Purple Dead Nettle Salve.

tin of salve beside wooden bowl filled with purple dead nettle beside bottles of tamanu oil, pepeppermint and rosemary essential oil

Aches & Pains Salve with Purple Dead Nettle

This salve features purple dead nettle, arnica, and comfrey, though you could also include goldenrod, daisy, and/or dandelion flowers if you’d like.

I also included tamanu oil – which is fantastic for soothing all sorts of skin problems and achy/sore situations.

Arnica (Arnica montana) is an anti-inflammatory herb that’s traditionally used to treat swelling, bruising, sore muscles, and arthritic joints.

Comfrey root (Symphytum officinale) can be helpful for bruising, pulled muscles, sprains and strains. (Comfrey leaf can be used as well.)

Yield: About 2 ounces of salve


How to Make

Follow the directions above for making Basic Purple Dead Nettle Salve.

References and Sources:

Purple Dead Nettle & Henbit – University of Tennessee Extension Website

Five New Phenylethanoid Glycosides from the Whole Plants of Lamium purpureum L – compounds in Purple Dead Nettle have potent free radical scavenging activity

Antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities of some medicinal plants from the Lamiaceae. (including Purple Dead Nettle/Lamium purpureum)

In vivo anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive actions of some Lamium species. Several Lamium species have been used to relieve pain in arthritic ailments in Turkish folk medicine.

Antimicrobial properties of calendula (multiple studies)

Medicinal Plants Used in the Treatment of Inflammatory Skin Diseases

Making Plant Medicine, Richo Cech.

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  1. I have a yard full purple dead nettle and knew it had good propertys for health reasons, i would like to make more things from this plant and was excited to receive your news letter. Thank you

  2. Hi Jan, thank you for this great info! One question, are Comfrey leaves okay to use instead of the root? I’m happy to see Purple Dead Nettle, it means Spring isn’t far off! Thanks again, Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa, Thanks for such a great question! Yes, you can use the leaves too. I just went in and updated the post. Thank you for the reminder to include them! :)

  3. Jan can North American Nettle leaf be used I just ordered it from Mountain Rose (Urtica dioica) I am interested in making thie nettle salve but wanted to use the right herb. Thanks for your blog

    1. Hi Debbie! It’s not the same thing as purple dead nettle, but stinging nettle (Uritca dioica) can also be used in salves, lotions, creams, etc. and would work fine in these recipes as well. :)

  4. I am drying out my Purple Dead Nettle as I type this and look forward to making my first batch.
    I saw another posted about a News Letter and I’m wondering where I sign up

  5. So excited to try this! Just foraged a huge batch of purple dead nettle today. For drying – do you remove the leaves and flowers from the stem before infusing? Or do you dry and infuse the whole thing? Thank you ♥️

  6. thanks for the article. are you just using the leaves of the plant? dried? and can you use henbit I have some of that too. Thank you

    1. Hi Laura! I use the whole tops of the plant, dried. You could throw in a little bit of henbit if you’d like to use both plants, though I’m unsure if it has the potency of purple dead nettle. :)

  7. Was wondering how you got that beautiful color green. I used apricot kernel oil to step the dried purple dead nettle so the oil was a yellowish. What oil did you use? Thank you!

    1. Hi Laurie! That lovely color comes from the tamanu oil. It gives products such a soft pretty hint of green and is amazing for your skin too! :)

  8. Thank you thank you – fabulous – now have jobs to do! Also want to make a gardeners salve with all this lockdown gardening 😊

  9. Your article is very informative and easy to follow the directions of recipes posted. Do you think the salves will work well for psoriasis?

    1. Hi Kelly! So happy to hear that you like the recipes! You could definitely give the salves a try for psoriasis. One salve that gets a ton of good feedback for psoriasis is pine tar salve.
      It has a really strong scent, but it’s super effective too. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to check it out!
      You could use purple dead nettle to make the infused oil, or mix and match it with other herbs too!

  10. Our dead nettle is growing right now-will wait a bit but will surely try this – sounds wonderful. Thank you. Donna

  11. Thanks! We have so many of these purple dead nettle plants in the area where I live. Now I finally know what they’re called, and what to do with them :D

    1. Hi Staci! I’m not sure there’s a comfrey essential oil, though you can buy ready-made comfrey infused oil at Mountain Rose Herbs.
      I haven’t used arnica essential oil – but looking at the listing at Eden Botanicals, it looks like you could use it at 0.5 to 1% rate.
      These salves are almost 2 ounces, so 0.5% would be six drops.
      You could leave out the arnica and comfrey too, if you’d like. Just the purple dead nettle infusion alone + essential oils can be effective! :)

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