By Heather Harris, Contributing Writer
Having children playing in the backyard in the summertime is always fun. There are butterflies to see, fireflies to catch in a jar, flowers to pick and berries to munch on. Of course, there is always the occasional bee to deal with. Most of the time, the honeybees won’t bother you at all, but there is always that one instance.
For example, my youngest was playing in his fort and out of nowhere, he screamed, “Ouch!” He had been stung. Since he is not allergic to bee stings, it was just a matter of easing the temporary owie. We grabbed the nearest weed, crushed it up and placed it on the site of the sting. His tears subsided as it began to feel better. What was that wonderful weed we grabbed? Plantain.
Herb Profile: Plantain
Plantain, or Plantago lanceolata is also known as “ripple grass”, “white man’s foot”, or “wagbread“.
It has been used medicinally since the ancient Greeks and Romans for its anti-inflammatory, astringent and antibacterial properties.
Uses for Plantain
When we talk about plantain, we are referring to the fresh or dried parts of the plant you see above ground, not the roots. (And also not the tropical fruit!) It is most commonly used topically, such as in a salve or poultice, like I did with my son for his bee sting. Plantain can also be used in a tea or infusion. It is used for everything from bites, bruises, scratches to treating gasotrointestinal and respiratory infections.
Cautions for Plantain
There are no known contradictions for the usage of plantain and no known interactions, making it safe for anyone to use.
This weed is common to most everywhere in warmer months, and many people do not realize its benefits. As a matter of fact, it is often referred to as “broadleaf” and is commonly sprayed with weedkiller to remove it. It will spread like wildfire in your yard, making it an invasive plant, but you can control it by removing some of the roots of some of the plants. Just make sure to leave some!
How to Prepare Plantain
For those times when you are not at home, or not around an area to forage for this helpful weedy herb, you can make a salve to keep in your purse, diaper bag or vehicle for cuts, scrapes, bumps and bruises. To make a salve, you will need:
- About 15-20 plantain leaves
- A cup of carrier oil, such as olive, coconut, or jojoba oil
Rinse the leaves off, then lay them flat on a baking sheet. You can dry them in a low oven-170-200 degrees for 5 hours, or place in a dehydrator on low. You want the leaves to be completely dry, since any water can lead to mold or early spoilage of your salve.
Once the leaves are dry, crush them into a large canning or other oven safe jar. Cover the leaves with your choice of carrier oil. Once the leaves are covered, place in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours to allow the oil to infuse. Drain the oil, removing all the plant matter. At this point, you have a great topical oil that can be safely used.
If you prefer a thicker ointment to carry around, add in 3 Tablespoons of beewax and place back in the oven to gently melt. Once melted, remove from the oven and give the oil and wax a gentle stir. If you desire, you can add up to 10 drops of your favorite essential oils. I like lavender for calming, helichrysm for its skin renewal, or sweet orange for a light, fresh scent. Pour into covered tins or a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Label with the ingredients and date prepared and store covered.
To use, simply place about a dime sized bit of salve on the affected area and gently massage into the skin. This is great for stings, bumps, bites and bruises!