While weeding through our flowerbeds, my mother and I found a familiar weed that is most recognized for its shape and color. This purple-leafed, square-patterned plant that tends to grow out of control when not intervened has taken over our flower gardens, leaving us with many sunny afternoons of yard work.
Rather than just tossing it out, we decided to do more research on this plant ‘pest’ to find any potential uses for the abundant plant source. Now that we know all the medicinal uses, we’ll never complain about it growing in our gardens again!
First, let’s review why someone may or may not consider natural remedies like pulling weeds out their flowerbeds… I am a full believer in the medicinal use of plants and the oils they produce; however, this does not spill over to the majority of serious medical conditions.
If you are currently being prescribed medication for any of the benefits that people have had with this plant, please consult your doctor before quitting. For those of you treating eczema like me, take the necessary steps to make sure this won’t harm your skin more or cause you to have a negative reaction.
What I recommend
I suggest trying a patch test of the salve that I will be putting *somewhere* in this post. If you have particularly sensitive eczema that doesn’t like new ‘solutions,’ try diluting the recipe to half the amount of leaves to the same amount of carrier oil. Less potent oil will lower your chance of having a negative reaction, granted you don’t have any adverse effects from the carrier oil.
Patch testing on another part of your body that lacks eczema rash will tell you if your skin is inherently sensitive to the oil. If you put it on your eczema and it feels any different than your healed skin, consider trying another solution as this may irritate your skin more.
My particular eczema flareup was caused by trauma to my nailbed and skin cells back in November. I documented my skin turning bright red and stinging as if I had burned it, even months after the initial irritation. While I know eczema is popular in my family, I’m lucky to (hopefully) not have it chronically and I do give some credit to this salve—though it’s really just our care that heals us.
The first step was to take the initiative to heal my skin, aka stumble across the potential benefits of Deadnettle, and be inspired by the possibility of healed skin. That’s right! I accidentally found this solution and was honestly surprised by the effectiveness—I even saved more of the dehydrated leaves and any unused salve for the next flareup.
I had to do a great deal of research before I could feel comfortable with putting a new substance on my skin, whether it’s natural or not. Since everyone’s skin could react differently, it’s important to patch test the oil and not go crazy while slathering on the first application. If you feel any discomfort, take a gentle soap and rinse your hands or the area you applied it to with a warm washrag.
When my flareups would get worse, I sometimes had to opt for plain coconut oil rather than the deadnettle salve. It would irritate my skin if it was raw from too much handwashing on a particularly dry day and it was best to keep a plain carrier oil (coconut) on my skin.
Another benefit of (even plain) oil is that there is no added alcohol! That’s right—many lotions, particularly those that are scented, have alcohol in them to preserve the scent while you wear it. Check your ingredient lists! Even trace amounts of alcohol will dry out your skin and reapplying the lotion because of this effect will actually contribute more to the problem than it will help heal your skin.
Deadnettle is known to be anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial, making it perfect for an oil-based salve. This allows it to be applied topically, where it is absorbed through the skin. The anti-inflammatory properties are what urged me to try it for my eczema and I had surprising results!
Luckily, deadnettle isn’t toxic to be ingested and many people include it in smoothies. I’m not opposed to leafy green smoothies, though I’m yet to try deadnettle in them. Deadnettle does not need to be blanched before including it in recipes, though stinging nettle, its plant relative, does!
Setting up the salve
First, you will need to harvest some fresh deadnettle leaves! This plant is a great winter pollinator, so we don’t mind it growing in our flowerbeds to get weeded out in the springtime. I had plenty of it to choose from and since the plants were mature, some of the leaves were pretty hefty! I started by snipping off the larger stalks and then brought them inside to then remove each leaf from the plant.
You may want to rinse them if you use fertilizer or weed and pest killers in the area you are harvesting from.
You’ll then want to place the leaves in a dehydrator and ‘cook’; overnight. I put my machine on the lowest setting (you can go down to 175F) for 8hrs overnight and they were ready the next morning. If you’re impatient like me, I’d set it up before bed and turn it off when you wake. Then, place the now dry leaves in an airtight container until you get the time to infuse the oil.
For the oil to be infused, you’ll want to put 1 part dry leaves and 2 parts carrier oil into an oven-safe bowl. I baked mine at 200F for 2hrs on the top rack of my oven. Since it was my first batch, I stuck to 1 cup oil and 1/2 cup leaves so the batch wouldn’t be wasted if I had an adverse reaction.
To store the mixture without having leaves throughout, I recommend using a coffee filter or cheesecloth to catch the pieces as you pour it into a new container. I stored mine in a small mason jar and it was pretty easy to pour the mixture into if you place the metal rim lid over the cheesecloth before pouring—then you don’t have to worry about it falling in! If you’re using another container, use a tightened rubber band to hold it in place, or leave the leaf pieces in!
Let the oil cool completely before applying the first time as things may get messy! Being patient while it cools will also ensure that you have a smooth finish on the top rather than having lots of oil on the sides of your container.
When the salve is done cooling and resembles the consistency of coconut oil again, you’re free to use however much you find yourself needing! It’s best to start with a small amount even if you had no adverse reaction during the patch test. Patch tests can be done on the inside of your wrist and should be given enough time to allow it to soak in before making a decision to use more product.
I rubbed the oil on my skin in circular patterns just to ensure it all applied evenly and would get absorbed, though your skin will absorb it no matter how you apply it. If you’re like me and have discomfort on days where your skin isn’t doing as well, stop the application and wait until your skin has had time to heal a nit on its own before reapplying.
This salve washes off with warm water and soap, in case you start to have a reaction to the patch test or don’t want oily hands while using technology. My eczema was on the tops of my hands, so sometimes I would put the oil on the back of one hand and rub it in with the back of the other to avoid getting my palms oily. I’ve been looking forward to sharing this post with you for months! I knew that I was having positive reactions and signs of healing early on with the salve use, but I wanted to ensure it had no long-term adverse effects.
Now all signs of my eczema are gone and my hands are softer than ever!
Even with the increased handwashing in the past few months, my skin retains moisture and gets a natural treatment several times a week.
Would you ever try something like this natural salve? There’s a surprising number of natural ingredients available all around us and you can look forward to seeing more natural remedies like this on the blog this summer—I’ve got some posts up my sleeve already!