Here in the Great Lakes Region, once summer hits, there is no shortage of those pesky little buggers called mosquitoes! Enter DIY Plantain Herbal Salve! With summer days also come bee stings, stubbed tootsies, scraped knees and various other small injuries to the little people I care most about, so I make up a decent amount of this salve at the beginning of June and keep it in my tote bag always.
The first time I heard about plantain, I was at a homeschool camp where I got stung by a wasp. A speaker and vendor who was present promptly grabbed me and marched me out into the grass, plucked some wide green leaves and told me to chew on them quickly until they were like mush. She told me to spit them out into her hand, she pressed the leaves over top of the swelling sting, placed gauze and tape over it to hold the compress and told me to change it out every 2-3 hours as necessary. I was amazed at how quickly the pain subsided, when I took the compress off 3 hours later, most of the swelling and redness had gone too! From that moment on, I began studying herbs and now use herbs regularly for just about anything nutritional or medicinal you can think of.
**I am not a certified herbalist (though I have been SLOWLY working on it!), so any information I provide on this website concerning herb use is from my own personal experience– you must research and possibly even consult with your health care giver to see if herb use would be right for you and your family, especially if you have conditions that you are currently being treated for. Herbs can and do interfere with prescription medicines– please use extreme caution in the use of herbals in conjunction with pharmaceuticals! One of the reasons using herbs became so appealing to me back then was because it seemed to make sense to use what God had made in its whole, pure form, instead of pharmaceuticals as much as possible, which were lacking some of the beneficial properties of herbals. That’s not to say that pharmaceuticals should never be used, we know that they can be very helpful in certain circumstances, but if we are able to to go the natural route, this can only be a good thing in our eyes. Herbs must be used with knowledge and wisdom though– I STRONGLY encourage you to learn everything you can about herb safety, especially in regards to children, proper dosing and herbal properties BEFORE implementing a family herbal care regimen… PLEASE do not just start administering herbals to yourself and your children before knowing what you’re ingesting- herbs can be dangerous if not used properly!**
Plantain herb grows in most yards across America…if it does not grow in your region, you can easily obtain it in dried form from an herbal supplier. I personally like to order from Mountain Rose Herbs, and the Bulk Herb Store, for most of my supplies. Use caution when ordering online from places like amazon.com, depending on the seller, you could end up with an herb that hasn’t been processed or stored properly if the seller does not hold to product integrity.
Making a salve is REALLY easy. Basically, you start out by infusing an oil of your choice with herbs. You can do this with either fresh or dry herbs. The key to extracting the properties of the herb is to use low heat or no heat at all. Boiling and simmering are usually only done with the roots and seeds of an herb, otherwise you risk destroying the healing properties you are trying to extract. As the herb infuses into the oil, so does most of the healing properties of the herb. Once the oil is infused completely, you strain out the herb pieces, and add melted beeswax to solidify the oil (after it completely cools) and this results in what we call a ‘salve’. Salves are very convenient because they can be stored in tins and glass jars to be taken with you anywhere, applied quickly for effect, and are generally much safer than petroleum jelly based first aide salves. I also make a salve with comfrey specifically for bruises and bones, na-night calming salve for my babies to help them sleep, a soothing lip balm and a citrus mood lifter for a pick me up when the crankies seem to be setting in to keep in my first aide pack.
This particular salve is great for stings, bites and cuts. (Comfrey leaf is only added if you do NOT intend on using it for cuts, if you do want to be able to use it for cuts and scrapes, then do NOT add comfrey!) It reduces pain, inflammation and redness, plus it fights bacteria. Plantain is the base herb, but I also include the following herbs as well in dried form: comfrey, calendula, and yarrow. Lavender essential oil is also added at the end to promote further healing.
Here’s how I make the Plantain Boo-Boo & Bug Bite Salve (Or the Bones & Bruises Salve) for my family:
1 cup of choice of oil– we use coconut and almond
4 tblsp. fresh chopped plantain leaf (Make sure to gather your plantain from a spot in the yard that hasn’t been affected by any chemicals or waste, and wash well before chopping)
1 tblsp. dried comfrey herb (***Do not use comfrey on open wounds or cuts, only add it if you want to make the Bones & Bruises Salve– omit this herb if you want to be able to use this salve on cuts as well***)
1 tblsp. dried calendula herb
1 tblsp. dried yarrow herb
3 tblsp. beeswax pastilles
1o drops of lavender essential oil
1. Infuse your oil. – Warm the oil on LOW heat, add your herbs of choice, and keep warm for about 30 minutes… we’re not even going to bring this to a simmer… just keep it warm, occasionally stirring, this is enough to extract the properties we want for our salve. Your oil should begin to take on the colors of the herbs you are infusing…
2. Strain the oil through some cheesecloth and squeeze the remaining oil out of the herbs by twisting the cheesecloth tightly around the herbs and ‘pressing’ out the remaining oil. *Sometimes I use silicone tongs to help squeeze the herbs if the cheesecloth is to hot to handle. Discard the herbs, rinse off your cheesecloth and hang to dry for later use.
3. Return the infused oil to LOW heat in a sauce pan and add the beeswax pastilles, stir until thoroughly melted, remove from heat and add the lavender essential oil drops, stirring to incorporate.
4. Pour salve into desired container(s) (tip–using lip balm containers are great for on-the-go kits and easy application!) and allow to completely cool. The oil will solidify and your herbal salve is complete!
5. To use, apply topically to any boo-boo or bug bite as needed.
**Remember that with any herbal remedies, it is important to be on the lookout for adverse reactions. If you notice a rash, or redness, after application, chances are that you or your little one could be allergic to a particular herb. For example, my husband had a reaction to red raspberry leaf years ago, so we never include that herb in any preparations for him. Other adverse reactions include: trouble breathing (usually when an herb is taken internally), severe headache or nausea, itchy throat and ears… if you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, stop use immediately and call your doctor for further instruction.**