Saturday, August 22, 2015

HERBAL STUDIES: PLANTAIN

Kids are always getting bit by something; mosquitos, black flies, deer flies, gnats, sand fleas… you name it and when they get bit they scratch, scratch, scratch and whine, whine, whine so as a parent you search for something to stop the itch and unfortunately everything you find is usually some commercial concoction that never really works anyway.  So what should you do? Reach for plantain.

Plantain is a child's best friend in the summer.  It not only stops the itch from biting bugs but it also ends the pain caused by stinging insects too.  My kids usually just grab a handful of plantain leaves, chew it up and slap it on the spot that needs attention but sometimes it is more convenient to have a plantain salve, like when out on a lake in a canoe or during travel when bringing fresh leaves along or finding it in the wild just isn't feasible.  So I had Aiyana make her first container of salve.

Here is a picture of plantain and you can read more about it HERE


To help identify plantain in the wild, here are a few helpful pictures

These seeds grow up from the center of the plantain plant

Plantain leaf

When you tear a plantain leaf you should see little vein strings as shown above



First, Aiyana went out and gathered a bunch of plantain leaves.



Washed and dried them.


Chopped them up.



Added them to the olive oil then heated.  The plantain sat in the warm oil for 2 hours.  This is the rush method.  I usually prefer keeping medicinal plants in a jar with oil for up to 6 weeks before straining but my daughter and I are on a mission, or I should say I am on a mission to teach as much as possible before the snow flies. LOL! So… we went with the rush method.  This oil sat for a week in the jar after  they were heated for 2 hrs.



She strained the oil out of the jar.


There are various ways you can extract the medicinal properties from a plant; we chose the solvent oil. You can tell the oil did its job by the color difference you see below.  Olive oil on left, plantains beneficial properties extracted into the olive oil on the right. 



 We poured the plantain oil into a double boiler, heated it up, added some beeswax to make the salve.



We think plantain oil stinks so we added lavender essential oil to to cut the smell.  Some people will add essential oils because of their beneficial properties but it is important to remember that eos are damaged by high heat, so to maintain their effectiveness you do not want to heat them above 80 degrees.  We used lavender eo in this recipe purely for the natural scent.


Here's the finished product after poured into tiny tins.


Couple notes on Plantain salve vs. Plantain leaves, we've found that the plant works much faster to relieve itching than the salve so if you have a choice, use the actual leaves from the plant.  The salve works but it takes a little more time.  We've also learned that it works really well on our dogs.  We have one dog that happens to be allergic to bug bites and certain types of material and when he develops hives the plantain salve brings about relief.

Herbal Roots does have an e-zine on plantain that is really good also.  The salve above is not listed but other crafts and ways of using the herbs are.

Recipe:

4 oz fresh plantain leaves
16 oz olive oil
.5 oz beeswax
24 drops lavender essential oil