Difference Between Henbit and Purple Deadnettle

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is one of the first Spring weeds to pop up after a long and cold Winter. A very similar look alike, is Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum). In this post we’ll talk about the difference between henbit and purple deadnettle.

Full of nutritional and medicinal benefits, Henbit is a fun and easy (and delicious!) foraged wild edible.

purple flowers on henbit plant

There are a number of plants that are all commonly called Henbit. The one I talk about in this article is also called henbit dead-nettle, common henbit, or greater henbit.

Native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa, Henbit has been naturalized around most of the world. However, because it is edible, medicinal, and beneficial to pollinators, it’s not one of the invasive that we’re anxious to get rid of!

Henbit got its name because it seems to be a particular favorite of hens, however it has been identified as a causative in staggers in horses, sheep and cattle in Australia. (But we’ve never had a case in the US)

Identifying Henbit

Henbit is identified by its pink-purpleish flowers, and opposite pairs of heart-shaped leaves with scalloped edges.

It usually grows to between 4-10 inches tall.

It is self-fertilizing, springs up early in the Spring, and spreads by producing up to 2000 seeds every year!

Purple Deadnettle
Purple Dead Nettle

A very similar look alike, is Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum). 

Where Henbit’s sets of leaves are spread out along the stem, Purple Dead Nettle’s triangular leaves grow almost overlapping.

Purple Dead Nettle’s leaves will be green towards the bottom of the plant, and become purple towards the top.

Regardless of which you find (Henbit or Purple Dead Nettle) they are both edible and used in a similar fashion. So pick them all!

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Eating Henbit

Henbit was a very appreciated Spring Green in early times, as it comes early, and is full of iron and vitamins; just what we need after a long Winter.

There are no poisonous look alikes, so it’s one of the safer spring greens to harvest.

The stems, leaves and flowers are all edible. You can add it raw to salads, soups, or smoothies, or use it to replace spinach in any of your favorite recipes.

The leaves can also be dried and used as a tea. Henbit tea can be used as an anti-rheumatic, a laxative and a stimulant.

spring wild edible henbit plant

Nutritional Benefits of Henbit

Henbit is high in iron, fiber and antioxidants.

Medicinal Benefits of Henbit

In addition to being a nutritionally power-packed wild edible, Henbit is also medicinal. It is:

  • Anti-rheumatic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Diaphoretic (induces sweating)
  • Febrifuge and antipyretic (reduces fever)
  • Astringent
  • Vulnerary (healing wounds)

Because of it’s anti-inflammatory, astringent and vulnerary properties, a poultice can be made from henbit to treat cuts, bruises and bee stings.

Now that you’re a henbit pro, keep your eyes out for these other wild edibles that pop up in the Spring: morel mushrooms, Japanese Knotweed and wild garlic!

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