Lamium album / Dovenetel

Family: Lamiaceae
Common names: White Deadnettle/ White Dead Nettle; Archangel (2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Part(s) used:
Herb (2, 3, 7, 8);
Flowers/ flowering tops (5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).

Botany:
Lamium album is a perennial plant that grows up to 50-60cm(9, 11). It grows in many areas such as fields and waste grounds (9), at the side of the road, along fences, at the outskirts of woods and amongst bushes (10), along banks and hedgerows (6). In fact, one traditional text states that 'They grow almost everywhere (unless it be in the middle of the street)...' (4: p.15). The plant is native to Europe (5, 6, 9, 10, 11), and Asia (5, 6, 9, 11). It is widespread in England (3, 6) and also grows in North Africa (5) and North America (6, 11). The leaves are described as oval (9), or heart-shaped (2, 11), reticulate and veined (3) and occurring in opposite formation (3, 11). Leaves occur in pairs on the stems, each pair at right angles to those above and below it (2). Most descriptions refer to the serrated edge on the leaves (2, 3, 9, 11). The stems are square (2, 3, 4, 6, 9) and flowers are white with two lips (3, 9, 11) and arranged in whorls of six to twelve flowers (2, 6). The flowers have two pairs of stamens (2, 3) one of which is long and the other shorter (3).

The plants bloom in early spring, flowering through the summer (2, 3, 4). The flowers hold a good supply of honey, and therefore attract many bees (2). In general it is similar to the unrelated species, Urtica dioica (stinging nettle) in appearance (2, 6, 10, 11), however several differences are noted by various authors: First,Lamium album can often be mistaken for Urtica dioica until it is flowering, when the obvious difference in the flowers can then be seen (2). Secondly, The stem is different from Urtica dioica as it is square and hollow (2, 6). Thirdly, Lamium album has its common name of 'white dead nettle' as the leaves resemble those of the stinging nettle however without the stinging hairs (10): thus it is called "dead" because it cannot sting (2, 9). Even so, its similarity to the stinging nettle offers it protection (Lord Avebury in 2) and the two plants often grow near each other (2). Lamium album, when bruised has a strong, unpleasant smell (2).

History
The word Lamium comes from the Greek word laimos meaning throat, due to the shape of the flower (2). The plant is also known as 'archangel' or 'white archangel', as its first flowers appear around the date of May 8th, the day for honouring the Archangel Michael (2). In older herbal texts, such as John Gerard's 'The Herball' from 1597, the herb has a reputation as a mood and vitality enhancer: '…to make the heart merry, to make a good colour in the face, and to refresh the vital spirits' (cited in 9: p.225). Similarly, Nicholas Culpeper writes that it '… makes the head merry, drives away melancholy, quickens the spirits…' (4: p.16). Thus, historically, it brings merriment to both heart and head (4, Gerard in 9). In humoral terms Lamium album is classified by Culpeper as hot and dry, and he astrologically classes it as a herb of Venus, being therefore primarily used by women (4).

Major Active Constituents
Lamium album contains:
  • Saponins (8, 9, 11, 12)
  • Mucilage (6, 8, 9, 10, 11)
  • Tannins (6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
  • Flavonoids (6, 11, 12)
  • Flavonols (Kwasniewski in 10, 13), Rutin, Quercetin, Kaempferol (11)
  • Flavones (9, 10)
As stated, the plant contains tannins; it also contains other constituents that render it similar to the herb Capsella bursa-pastoris, that is, histamine, choline and tyramine, which probably explain the anti-haemorrhagic action of both plants and their similarity in this context (13). Other authors also refer to the biogenic amine content (6, Kwasniewski in 10, 12), namely histamine, tyramine, methylamine (Kwasniewski in 10) and choline (6). The flavonols may also contribute to the plant's haemostatic action (13).

Actions

Traditional
  • Drying (4)
  • Warming (4, Hildegard of Bingen in 13)
  • Astringent and pungent (Holmes in 13)
Traditional and Modern
  • Expectorant (11, 12)
  • Haemostatic (5, 12, 13), it 'stancheth bleeding at mouth and nose' (4: p. 16) [stops bleeding from the mouth and nose];
  • Astringent (3, 6, 9, 12)
  • Diuretic (3, 11, 12)
  • Anti-haemorrhagic in reproductive tract (13)
  • Menstrual regulator (12)
  • Uterine tonic (9)

Pharmacology
Even though Lamium album has been widely used both traditionally and currently, there is very little information on its efficacy (10). In the Commission E Monographs a distinction is made between the flowers of Lamium album (classified as an approved herb) and the herb (unapproved)(8). For the herb classification, it states that pharmacological properties, pharmacokinetics and toxicology are not known and lists data on its clinical applications (8). This includes use for gastro-intestinal ailments such as mucosa irritation, wind and fullness (8). It further lists clinical applications of the herb in combination with other herbs for many and varied uses (8), yet it is beyond the scope of this monograph to list them all.

Another source states under the heading of pharmacological effects that 'experiments have shown anti-inflammatory, weak diuretic and anti-microbial activity which could be attributed to the iridoids, tannins and triterpene saponins' (11: p.187). However, it provides no further information on these experiments, such as whether they are in vitro, in vivo or human studies, or the nature of the experiments, leaving one questioning the validity of such a statement. No further studies have been located, and further studies are required for the inclusion of valid pharmacological information in this monograph.

Clinical Outcome Studies
Even though its use is ongoing and popular, there is little research into the efficacy and active constituents of Lamium album (13). There is, however, evidence from the continued successful clinical use of the plant (13). There have been no gynaecological trials, yet there is continued demand and usage of the herb, particularly by women (10). It is hypothesised that the tannins in Lamium album are responsible for the positive effects of douching with a preparation of the herb, and that a saponin gives the beneficial effects from the tea, however further studies need to be undertaken to support these theories (10).

Indications
• Menstrual irregularities and complaints (8, 11):

General:
  • dysmenorrhoea (6, 9, 14)
  • menorrhagia (excess menstrual bleeding)(6, 9, 12, 15)
  • metrorrhagia (intermenstrual bleeding )(5, 9) due to hormonal imbalances (13, 15)
  • irregular periods (15)
Specific:
  • Overdue and profuse menstrual bleeding due to stress/ nervous tension (13)
  • Excess bleeding due to uterine hypotonicity (13)
  • Various other menstrual and reproductive problems (13, 15)
  • Haemorrhage of the uterus (5)
  • Leukorrhoea (1, 4, 8, 9, 11, 12):
Specific:
  • Leukorrhoea due to parasites (frequently Trichomonas and Candida albicans)(10)
  • 'Leukorrhoea of asthenic* young girls' (10: p. 314) [*Asthenic: 'pertaining to a condition of weakness, feebleness or loss of vitality.' (16: p. 147)]
  • Use the herb as an alternative to the over-harvested Trillium erectum to help in childbirth, as anti-haemorrhagic or for any abnormal bleeding (13)
  • Prostatitis (6, 12)
  • Haemorrhage (1), including bronchial haemorrhage (5)
  • Respiratory conditions, especially with catarrh (8, 11, 12), bronchitis (1)
  • Externally on varicose veins (9, 11) and haemorrhoids (9, 12)

Contra-indications and Cautions
For the flowers of Lamium album there are no known contra-indications, side effects or interactions with other drugs, and for the herb, there are no known risks (8).
One author states that Lamium album or any other haemostatic herb should not be used for haemorrhage until the possibility of cancer/ malignancy has been excluded (10). Only when certainty prevails that the condition is benign should one treat with such herbs (10); otherwise, the plant is safe (10).

Posology
Use as tea for internal use; decoction for douche/wash. For young women, especially virgins, give tea internally and prepare a wash to use externally on genitals. Use a small handful of the fresh flowers to one cup of boiling water and infuse. The herb can be used in combination with Achillea millefolium in equal parts for this purpose (10).
Used in sedative mixes, shampoos, baths, lotions and rinses (11).
Used as a poultice for 'swellings, bruises, varicose veins and other skin inflammations' (11: p. 187).
Use 1g of dried herb [per cup] to make an expectorant tea that is sipped throughout the day.
For metrorrhagia combine a fluid extract of the flowers with an aromatic syrup and give every 30 minutes until the patient stops haemorrhaging, followed by administration every 4 hours or as needed (5).

For the flowers, 'unless otherwise prescribed:
Internal: Average daily dosage: 3g of drug.
External: 5g of flowers for one sitz bath; equivalent preparations.' (8: p.229, 11)

For the herb no dosage regime is given, as it is an unapproved herb (8).
Use 1-4g dried herb equivalent three times per day (6).
Use 2-4mL three times per day (13).
For tea, use 1-2 teaspoons per cup of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Drink one cup three times per day. Can also use as eye douche. For vaginal douche use 57 grams of flowers to 1 litre boiling water, infuse until cool, strain and then inject. The leaves of the plant can also be eaten, used like spinach (12).

References
1. Felter HW, Lloyd JU. 1898-1900. King's American Dispensatory vol. 2. 18th edn, 3rd revision (1983). Sandy, Oregon: Eclectic Medical Publications. pp. 2033-4.
2. Grieve M. 1994. A Modern Herbal: the Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic, and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folklore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs and Trees with all their Modern Scientific Uses. London: Tiger Books International. pp. 579-580.
3. Wren RC. 1975. Potter's New Cyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. New edn. Saffron Walden, England: CW Daniel Co Ltd. p. 19.
4. Culpeper N. 1653. (1995) Culpeper's Complete Herbal. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd. pp. 15-16.
5. Lyle TJ. 1897. Physio-medical Therapeutics, Materia Medica and Pharmacy. Ohio. (Reprinted 1932 London: by the National Association of Medical Herbalists of Great Britain Ltd) p.231.
6. Mills SY. The Complete Guide to Modern Herbalism. London: Thorsons- Harper Collins Publishers. pp.215-216.
7. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds). 1997. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. New York: CRC Press.
8. Blumenthal M (ed). 1998. The German Commission E Monographs. Austin, Texas: American Botanical Council. pp. 228-229 (flowers); p. 382 (herb).
9. Chevalier A. 2001. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Revised edn. NSW, Australia: Dorling Kindersley. p.225.
10. Weis RF. 1988. Herbal Medicine. Stuttgart, Germany: AB Arcanum. pp. 313-314.
11. van Wyk BE, Wink M. 2004. Medicinal plants of the World: an Illustrated Scientific Guide to Important Medicinal Plants and their Uses. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press Inc. pp. 187; 362-363; 414.
12. Bartram T. 1998. Bartram's Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: Robinson Publishing Ltd. p. 451.
13. Trickey R. 2003. Women, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle: Herbal and Medical Solutions from Adolescence to Menopause. 2nd edn. NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin. pp. 446-7; 449; 208.
14. Mills s, Bone K. 2000. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, an imprint of Elsevier Ltd. p.241.
15. Mills SY. 1991. The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine. England: Arkana, Penguin Group. p.581.
16. Harris P, Nagy S, Vardaxis N. 2006. Mosby's Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions. Australian and New Zealand edn. NSW, Australia: Elsevier. p.147.


This monograph was authored in 2008 by a student in Southern Cross University's Bachelor of Naturopathy programme, and edited by Nena Aleschewski BNat. While the author and editor have strived to cite published information accurately, Southern Cross University will not be responsible for any inaccuracies that may have occurred.
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