Is Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon) edible?

At our experimental garden and nursery, you notice a nettle-like creeping plant called Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon syn. Lamiastrum galeobdolon). We use it as ground cover around robust perennials like Daubenton’s kale as well as under bushes and trees along the hedge. It tolerates plenty of foot traffic and very easy to maintain if planted in the right place. It’s nettle-like but doesn’t sting.

But is it edible? Many articles online say so, but almost never reference any sources. So let’s take a critical look at what basis there might be for the edibility of this species.

Other edible Lamium

Other members of the genus Lamium have some history as potherbs. For example, white dead-nettle (L. album) seems to have been used for quite some time. In France, it’s featured in an Escoffier recipe for eel with a green sorrel-herb sauce (Anguille au vert, withsee 310 in Guide to Modern Cooking, just for gods sake don’t cook eel, it’s endangered). According to Danish ethnobotanist Vagn Brøndegaard, leaves of white dead-nettle were dried and used to mix with flour as well as having various medicinal uses.

Given that Lamium album is edible, it’s possible yellow archangel should be safe to eat too, right? Inferring like this is problematic though, as taxonomists are still not at all sure about the status of the genus Lamium. Some claim it’s something like a placeholder for a number of genera in the subfamily Lamioideae that no one knows where to place. Yellow Archangel even had its own genus until recently (Lamiastrum). So exactly how close they are is unclear!

I have so far found almost no historical or ethnobotanical sources on the edibility of this species. I’ve found one which mentions children sucking the nectar of its flowers in Spain, but that’s it. The other sources don’t seem to hold up when scrutinized. Stephen Facciola mentions the plant in Cornucopia. Facciola claims the leaves are eaten boiled or sautéed in butter and references Richard Mabey’s Food for Free (2012). Mabey himself doesn’t reference any source though, so I’ll assume it’s based on his own experiences or perhaps hear-say. Plants for a future only references back to Facciola. The perennial vegetables forums I’ve searched on Facebook didn’t have any discussions on it and the always meticulous Stephen Barstow doesn’t mention it on his blog either.

I believe this plant should not be described as an edible species until more robust evidence comes along. I don’t imagine it being the new hot perennial vegetable, but given its vigor and ease of harvest, it’s certainly one worth considering as an edible. In any case, this is what many articles and books already do, just without sources.

Yellow Archangel contains a potential genotoxin

So what do we know about the plant? Well, we know the plant contains a little-researched benzoxazinoid abbreviated DIBOA (2,4-dihydroxy-1,4-benzoxazin-3-one) and at fairly high concentrations in all plant parts. Benzoxazinoids are common defense compounds in many plants and are not necessarily toxic for humans in the doses we would eat this plant. In-vitro studies do show genotoxic effects of DIBOA, so this seems like reason enough to at least be cautious.

We can expect more research on this benzoxazinoid, because many sprouts currently being used in haute cuisine restaurants also contain it and so pose a potential health risk. I hope it will turn out to not be a problem, but it seems we currently just don’t know. I will probably continue to occasionally use this plant as a potherb, but will as of now not recommend it to others without at least this caution.


Bendiksby, M., Brysting, A. K., Thorbek, L., Gussarova, G., & Ryding, O. (2011). Molecular phylogeny and taxonomy of the genus Lamium L.(Lamiaceae): Disentangling origins of presumed allotetraploids. Taxon, 60(4), 986-1000.

Menendez-Baceta et. al. 2012: Wild edible plants traditionally gathered in Gorbeialdea (Biscay, Basque Country). Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, 59(7), 1329-1347

Schullehner, K., Dick, R., Vitzthum, F., Schwab, W., Brandt, W., Frey, M., & Gierl, A. (2008). Benzoxazinoid biosynthesis in dicot plants. Phytochemistry, 69(15), 2668-2677.

Buchmann, C. A., Nersesyan, A., Kopp, B., Schauberger, D., Darroudi, F., Grummt, T., … & Knasmueller, S. (2007). Dihydroxy-7-methoxy-1, 4-benzoxazin-3-one (DIMBOA) and 2, 4-dihydroxy-1, 4-benzoxazin-3-one (DIBOA), two naturally occurring benzoxazinones contained in sprouts of Gramineae are potent aneugens in human-derived liver cells (HepG2). Cancer letters, 246(1-2), 290-299.