Friday, July 13, 2012

Plantain first-aid salve

We had a run-in with some wasps yesterday.  There was one nest being created on our back porch, which we thought we had taken care of (knocked down in the middle of the night to disperse the wasps).  A second nest had been made, unnoticed by us, under an old wooden board that acts as one of our garden paths through the kale bed.  When harvesting some kale yesterday I heard a little shriek behind me, and saw my daughter dancing around saying there were wasps on her.  I brushed one from her arm and swatted another from her hair, and we ran from the garden to see what damage had been done.  Four stings, one on the arm, and several on her ankles and feet (one wasp got caught inside her sandal)!  She was brave, saying she felt more sorry for the wasps than for her stings.  We slathered on crushed fresh plantain leaves as a poultice (see below) - not pretty but very effective - after administering the homeopathic remedy "apis".  Since this was the first time our 4-year old had been stung by wasps I decided to have her rest quietly while we read books, so I could watch closely to see if there would be any serious swelling or other reactions.  There was not, and amazingly the plantain took the sting, redness and pain away within less than 15 minutes.  Now plantain is called a "magic" healing herb by her, highly prized right beside comfrey, peppermint, lemon balm, nettle and lavender - and we have a large batch of plantain harvested to make a salve for our herbal first-aid supplies.

Plantain is an easy herb to find - it's growing wild in nearly every yard, park or sidewalk crack.  If you wild harvest make sure to harvest in a non-sprayed area, away from where dogs have been walked (i.e. harvest uncontaminated plantain).  Use broad leaved plantain if at all possible.  Here is the recipe for Plantain Salve - add it to your list of "must-haves" among your herbal remedies.  This salve is a great help for bug bites, bee and wasp stings, mosquito bites, stinging nettle rash, poison ivy, and other skin irritations:

Plantain Salve

You will need:
fresh plantain leaves, slightly wilted and not damp/wet (enough to fill a 1 litre mason jar)
olive oil (enough to cover plantain leaves in 1 litre mason jar)
pure beeswax (aprox. 1 oz per 1 pint/2 cups oil in your recipe)
vitamin E oil (aprox. 1 tsp)
a few drops pure essential oil (e.g. lavender, peppermint)

1. Do not wash the plantain leaves as water on the plant may cause mold to develop during the steeping time.  Roughly chop plantain leaves and pack into 1 litre mason jar.
2. Pour olive oil over plantain leaves and fill jar with oil upto about 1/2 inch over the leaves, to completely cover them.
3. Let steep in a sunny warm window for 6 weeks, shaking jar every few days.  When oil is fully infused it should be a rich dark green colour.  Other methods for infusing include lightly warming plantain and oil in a double boiler or crock pot for a few hours; or blending plantain and oil in food processor and straining this fresh oil into your salve.
4. Strain oil through fine meshed sieve.  Reserve the oil, and add aprox. 1 oz pure beeswax per 2 cups (1 pint) oil.  Heat over low in a stainless steel saucepan, stirring to combine and melt the beeswax.
5.  Test for consistency by dipping a teaspoon into the oil/beeswax mixture and setting this spoon into the freezer for a minute.  Add more oil if consistency is too thick, or more beeswax if consistency is too thin.
6.  Add vitamin E oil, and pure essential oils (optional).  Pour into clean dark glass jars, label and store in cool dark location.


  1. Your daughter is really brave, and really cute as well! It’s so funny and adorable how she pitied the wasps. Good thing you had some Plantain with you. This is sure to be one of my go-to herbal remedies from now on.

  2. This is very helpful to me, although I've also read that you want to keep your jar of plantain and olive oil in a dark place. What are your thoughts on this? I just started my jar to let sit for 6 weeks and want to do it right :) Thanks!