Plantago Poppin' - Plantain for Modern Time Boo-Boos
What’s poppin’ today at the homestead? Plantago spp. a.k.a. Plantain!!
Plantain Hustles Harder. This is my driveway and the only thing growing in it is plantain. Plantain is that hustler, that make do with what you got herb, that bounce back factor, that reverb, that dealer healer!!
You have plantain in your yard. It may be in your backyard, your front yard, the schoolyard, the vacant lot, the park, the playground, and in that place were nothing will grow, you will probably spot plantain. Look around the edges, near the curbs or around the median. It grows in distressed and disturbed places and was therefore given the name "whiteman's footprint" by the First People. There is a broad leaf plantain (Plantago major) and a narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata). These can be used interchangeably.
2014 - The beginning of wildcrafting. My daughter, harvesting plantain because I told her to. She thought I was joking...
Note! This is not the banana like fruit plantain (Musa paradisiaca
that is so delicious fried up on the side of a plate of Caribbean cuisine, even though it *is* spelled the same. So far I have not been able to find a connection but will keep asking. If you know of a connection or a reason why these plants share the same name, holla' at me. I would love to know!
Plantain is a very hearty medicinal plant with so many uses that I would consider this to be one of the “gateway” herbs. Speaking from my own experience alone, I have used it as a tea, a gargle, a poultice, an infused oil made into a first aid salve, and have whirled it up in smoothies. This would become a very, very long blog post if I went into depth about all the uses of plantain. I'm therefore just going to give a few examples of external uses and will speak more to its other uses in other posts. I will say however, if you are interested in herbalism and don't know where to start, plantain is a great herb to get to know. It is gentle and mild yet very effective and I haven't heard of allergic reactions to this plant. You can practice a wide variety of medicine making techniques with plantain as well. Plantain offers ancient wisdom to soothe these modern time boo-boos. As a matter of fact, if plantain were a song is would be Modern Time Blues by Jean Luc Ponty. Get in the wayback machine and enjoy while taking in the magic!
If plantain were a song, it would be Modern Time Blues by Jean Luc Ponty.
(Open Mind Album, 1984)
One of the most popular uses of plantain is for stingy, itchy things, especially bee stings. I, of course, had to learn this the hard way. I had gone with a small group of herbalists to do some foraging at a nearby property and we spotted a beautifully flowering linden tree. She was heavy with blossoms and heady with fragrance and I was really excited about creating a fresh linden flower tincture for sleeplessness and anxiety. I began to collect blossoms in that greedy human way we have sometimes of just rushing into a situation and gathering up as much as we can possibly take. As much as we can possibly take of something that isn’t even ours to start with. Or, it may be a resource that is currently in use by someone or something else but we feel entitled to it. Does any of this sound familiar? (See: Detroit history, gentrification)
Now, I heard the buzzing. But me, being all human and human-centric, did not allow it to register. I did not take into consideration who or what might already be using this resource. I didn’t feel as if I had to take into consideration any reaction to me taking my fill of this resource. I did not enter respectfully. So, I was still greedily plucking away blossoms and I heard this buzzing go up an octave. Now, even though I had somewhat of a limited amount of nature experience at that time, I knew better. I knew better, but it all happened so quickly. That little bee, resentful of my presence, and rightfully so, who had been trying to tell me for quite some time to get on the other side of the tree or that we have to share, let me have it. She stung me right between my thumb and forefinger in the webbing and it hurt enough to stop me in my tracks. After a little bit of yelling, I remembered my training and dropped down and grabbed the first plantain leaf I could find. I gave it a quick dusting on my jeans leg and popped it in my mouth and begin chewing and chewing and chewing. I got it into a nice slimy mash and pasted the whole gob right on the sting.
We decided that we should probably conclude our foraging adventures at this time so I grabbed a few more leaves and stuck them in my jacket pocket and got in the backseat of the car to tend to my wounds. After about 10 minutes of driving, I chewed up another leaf and swapped out the first mass for a fresh one. The relief kicked in about five minutes after that one was applied. I let out an audible sigh as the hot throbbing stinger spot began to chill out. Even though I had been told this would work and had heard many stories about the power of plantain, as so often happens when we actually experience something that we say we believe, I was all in awe saying respectfully, “hey y'all,
this really work
s!!” And there was absolutely no swelling the next day or pain at all. I learned my lesson. Centering human-ness is not the way to interact in this eco-system. #Gratitude
(NOTE: This is not a substitute for an epi-pen if you are allergic to bee stings!)
Spit poultice remnants
(Pro tip: only try this on your own close family, others may not take to kindly to a chewed up ball of green mush slapped upside their head! Show them how to make their own.)
Plantain also works marvelously on mosquito bites. My grandson has the "good fortune" to be allergic to mosquito bites in that way where they swell into gigantic welts. The first time I witnessed this he had gotten a bite between his eyebrows and his forehead swelled up so much that he didn’t even look like himself. He seriously looked somewhere between Klingon and Cro-Magnon. It’s surprise me so much that I thought I would possibly have to take him to the emergency room or something. I had never seen a reaction like that. The next time he visited and we were outside, I saw that he had a few reddish mosquito bites while playing. I immediately chewed up some plantain and smooged it on the bite. It was very helpful in keeping that crazy swelling down and alleviating the itch. (You can also rub the leaves vigorously between your hands or fingers or pound them with a rock or something to release the juices and make a mush.)
I have also used plantain salve on minor skin irritations such as diaper rash, scrapes and abrasions, chapped lips and dry skin. In addition to being soothing and healing to the tissues, this herb also has drawing properties which means it can help with the removal of splinters, stingers, glass and other embeds. It is probably more convenient to keep some plantain salve on hand instead of having to go on a seek and chew mission every time you need its help. Plantain combines well with dried comfrey leaf and calendula as a first aid salve. Tea tree oil is a great add in for added
antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.
Here is a simple recipe for plantain infused oil and how to make it into a salve:
1 cup dried* plantain leaf
(*Dried plantain leaf can be ordered online or purchased at a store that carries bulk herbs. If you harvest your own, make sure it is from a place where no pesticides have been used and that there is not a lot of vehicle exhaust or other pollutants. The leaves should be dried on a screen or laid out on a paper bag or newspaper in a warm, airy place until crunchy. This can also be done in a food dehydrator on the herb setting of 95 degrees. You can make infused oils with fresh plant material but there are a few more considerations because any water in your oil can cause mold or rancidity.)
1 cup organic olive oil (Or other suitable oil such as coconut, grape seed, avocado, sunflower, etc)
1 oz beeswax (pellets or shavings)
Optional add ins: 20 drops essential lavender, or tea tree oil
There are many methods of infusing oil with herbs. Some people prefer to use a double boiler on the stove, some use the oven, some use sunlight, some sit it in a paper bag in a dark place for about six weeks. Experiment! I admit, as much as I am about that small footprint life, I usually use my electric crockpot (set on warm, not low. Warm.)
Combine the herb and oil in a crock pot set to warm and let infuse approximately three days. You will need to make sure that your crock pot doesn't get so hot as to fry or burn the herbs.
After the oil has been infused with plantain, strain through a cheese cloth. The oil can be used as is and massaged into dry irritated skin, or applied to a sting or scrape. If you want to make it in to a salve, transfer the infused oil back to the crockpot, add the beeswax and warm it until the beeswax is melted. Add any essential oils last. This will make about one cup of salve. Pour it into smaller containers (4oz mason jars are nice), label and date it, and store away from excessive heat and light. I have had good luck with salves lasting two or more years, but if it starts to smell funny or grow "stuff" then toss it.
Let me know how yours turns out. I would love to hear about your uses for plantain salve! Making our own wellness supports and first aid items is empowering! And its all natural without the chemicals. Plus it smells good and works great!
~Thank you for reading~