I promised some friends I would write up the ointment I make, so they can make it too. So here is the post. 🙂
Why should I care about this “Weed”?
Plantago Major (Broadleaf Plantain) & Plantago Lanceolate (Narrowleaf Plantain) are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic.
Narrowleaf Plantain (Plantago lanceolate)
(a.k.a. English plantain, narrowleaf plantain, ribwort plantain, ribleaf and lamb’s tongue.)
Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major)
(a.k.a. white man’s foot, or greater plantain)
What is it used for?
— As poultice or salve/ointment: sunburns, stings, insect bites, snakebites, poison ivy breakouts, rashes, burns, blisters, bruises, nettle burns, skin rashes, cuts, scrapes… Pretty much anything to do with skin ailments.
— Heated and applied topically: to soothe swollen joints, sore muscles, sprains, and sore feet.
— As Tea: cough, diarrhea, dysentery, and hematuria. Leaves have bronchodilation properties and can be used for bronchitis and throat colds.
— Laxative, reduce blood pressure, reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Studies have shown that plantain has anti-inflammatory effects, and it is also rich in tannin (which helps draw tissues together to stop bleeding) and allantoin (a compound that promotes healing of injured skin cells). Further studies have indicated that plantain may also reduce blood pressure, and that the seeds of the plant may reduce blood cholesterol levels. Plantain seeds were also widely used as a natural laxative, given their high source of fibre.
So next time you’re in your garden, and tempted to go nuts with the weed killer…don’t touch this stuff.
Get picking, instead. It’s the best insect bite soother there is, and a damned good cough remedy.
And it grows everywhere. Free.
So how do you make salve from this stuff?
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
(Actually, a squeeze of lemon is good with this stuff, as it preserves the salve longer.)
What do you need?
- Plantain (broad or narrow, or both)
- Sunflower Oil (depends on the size of the jar you’re filling.)
- Beeswax Pellets (5g per 100ml infused oil)
- Vaseline/Lanolin (10g per 100ml infused oil)
- Essential Oil (10 drops per 100ml infused oil) — I use pure Lavender oil.
- Tubs to fill the final mix into.
- A sterilized stirrer (Glass is good)
- A Water Bath (Glass bowl, or dedicated tool, up to you.)P.S. You can never pick too much of it. Whatever you don’t need for the infused oil, just dry it and you have tea.
First, you need plenty of narrowleaf (or broadleaf – same properties) plantain.
Oz and Rainstorm take their “Helper” jobs very seriously…
…as well as Quality Control.
But…anyway. Quality Control eventually allowed me to take my hoard to the kitchen.
— PLEASE NOTE —
Make sure the surfaces you work on are as clean as possible.
You are making OINTMENT that should be free from any contaminants.
Fill a glass with the leaves, and pour oil into it. (I use sunflower oil) Right to the top with leaves, and oil.
Screw it closed, stick it in a cool place out of sunlight (NOT in the fridge!) and leave it for 2-3 weeks, shaking it every now and then.
Once the plantain infused your oil, strain the oil into a measuring container. (Because you need to know how much you have, to add the right amount of beeswax / Lanolin or Vaseline.) You can discard the leaves.
I use Vaseline to have a softer salve. With just beeswax it can get pretty hard, which makes it difficult to remove from the tub when you need it – and you’ll use a lot more. Vaseline just makes it more pliable.
In my case, I ended up with just over 300ml infused oil, which means I need 5g Beeswax and 10g Vaseline per 100ml. Ergo, in my case, 15g Beeswax and 30g Vaseline. You also need 10 drops essential oil per 100ml. You don’t have to put this in, but if you want to keep it for more than 2 months, without it going off, I’d recommend putting the essential oil in, or a little alcohol, or some lemon juice, for preservation. (You’d need to look up quantities for the latter, I really don’t know.)
So, you have measured your beeswax, and your Vaseline. Now you need to melt them in a waterbath. I actually have a little “water bath pot”, you can get them quite cheap and they can be quite handy. You don’t have to use one, a glass bowl in hot water will do the trick, but this one lets me pour the mixture easily into containers, and it’s easy to clean, so I picked it up.
I melted the wax and the Vaseline first, then added the oil. Alas, the oil was cool, so the mix instantly set. No biggie, just let it all melt together. It just looks a little icky until it melts again.
Once it’s nicely liquid, stir it a little. (I turn the heat down WAY before it’s completely melted.) Add the essential oil just before you pour it. In my case, 30 drops of Lavender Oil. (You can use others, but make sure it works with what you want the salve to do, and that it’s also a preservative oil.)
When that’s done, pour it into your sterilized containers, and let it cool down. (I used 2x 200ml Nivea Creme containers, but you could use anything, just make sure you sterilize (I boiled mine for 5 minutes) it first.)
You can pour a little on a plate first, and keep the melted mixture in the waterbath. Let the tester set, to see if you have the consistency you want. If it’s too hard, add more Vaseline. If it’s too soft, add more beeswax.
And that’s it!
I use it on myself, my cats, my horses and anything that has a boo-boo. 🙂
For you Brits abroad: This is Nature’s Savlon.
So quit whining that you can’t get any Savlon where you are, and make this stuff instead.
You can thank me later.
A few tips:
Throw out badly damaged leaves.
Make some for your friends, too.
Anything you don’t need for infusion, chop and dry it for tea!
And one more thing before you run off to pick your garden or the horse’s fields empty:
It is easy to pull this common weed from the garden without even realizing that it is probably more nutritious than most of the leafy greens we tend to eat. Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads and sandwiches; however, as they age they become stringy and rather tough, sometimes to the point where they cannot be eaten without cooking them. In cooking the leaves, this improves palatability, whereby making it possible to remove some of the tough fibres. Also, chopping the leaves into finer pieces render it easier to eat.
Many people believe that the taste resembles that of Swiss chard. Further to this, the seeds can also be dried and ground into a meal or flour for its use in making bread or pancakes – an excellent way to save money on groceries and fuel your body with quality nutrients. Plantain is rich in magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
UPDATE: If you want it to have some fly repellent properties, add Citronella oil instead of the Lavender. I also put it up as a mix of Plantain and Rosemary oil, and use Citronella, Cedarwood and Eucalyptus Oil in the mix. It’s not a be-all and end-all, but I can smear it on the horses faces and “soft bits” 2-3 times a day and keep at least a few beasties off for a while. You have to adjust the amount of oil you use though, and get the consistency right.
Don’t use lots of it, 10 drops or so each.
There, more than you ever wanted to know, but aren’t you glad I told you?
Next year, you can ditch all those expensive “anti itch” salves when you’re being bitten to shreds by insects — use this instead. It WORKS.
And if you stumble into some nettles… look around. There is usually some Plantain nearby. Pick some, chew the leaves, and smear it on the sting. No need to steep it in oil, just slap it straight on.
I use it on the horses, too. Particularly mane and tail. I don’t know if it would work for summer excema / sweet itch (never had a horse who had it) but it’s worth a shot, right?
Hope you liked it! 🙂