Today we’re talking one of my favorite herbal remedies for any kind of skin irritation: Plantain. Or Plantago Major, scientifically. It’s not the banana-ish kind of tropical fruit at the grocery store; (which was what I thought at first.) Plantain an herb that has been used for centuries to soothe and heal skin irritations, burns, cuts, rashes, anything that hurts on your skin. I heard about it a few years ago from a dear friend who is into herbal remedies and am so glad she told me about it! Plantain is not hard to find. You should be able to get it for free because most likely; you have it growing in your back yard. If not, it’s probably growing on the side of the road, or in your friend’s back yard. It’s known as a weed in most circles, yet it has such strong healing properties it should be a well known herbal super star! There are actually several different kinds of plantain plants: one with broad leaves that kind of look like spinach and one with longer pointy skinny leaves, as well as a rough edged one. We’ll focus on the broad-leaved and skinny-leaved variety here. The leaves are tough, with smooth edges and have kind of stringy veins running down through them. The flower of the skinny leaved variety is on a long stem with a fuzzy oval-shaped middle that gets tiny white flowers ringed around the middle. The broad-leaved variety has long- stemmed seedpods that grow out of the center of the leaves. The broad-leaved kind seems to grow more in shady areas and the skinny leaved kind seems to grow more in the sun, from what I’ve observed.
Above is the broad-leaved variety, below; the narrow- leafed.
Look familiar? I make plantain oil out of the leaves, but if you had beeswax you could also make a salve or if you know how, even a lotion. Maybe I’ll try that sometime, but for now, the oil works great. Here’s how you make Plantain Oil: Find some plantain and pick the leaves. You can usually find them from spring to late fall. By wintertime they are mostly dead, but they come back again next spring. A handful of leaves will make a whole jar of oil. This would make a great gift for your crunchy mama friends- a little goes a long way too! 🙂 Wash and dry the leaves- you want them completely dry. It is a good idea to set them out in the sun for a day or two, or stick them in the dehydrator or on your kitchen windowsill to get some of the moisture out because if there is a lot of moisture on the leaves, they will mold. Once your leaves are dry, put them in a pint size jar or a recycled salsa jar you have hiding in your cupboard and fill the jar with olive oil, pushing the leaves down so that they are completely covered in the oil. Make sure they’re completely covered- you don’t want to go to get out your plantain oil and find that it’s moldy. That happened to me the first time I made it and I was SO disappointed! Put the lid on, label it so you know what it is a month from now and stick it in a cupboard to steep for at least 3 weeks. I usually just leave a batch in the cupboard and forget about it- the last batch I made steeped for over a year and is fine. The olive oil preserves the leaves. You can take a bit out and put it in a smaller bottle and remove the leaves when it’s done steeping. When you need the oil for an owie, just take a small amount (like a few drops) and rub it on the affected area a few times a day. It is safe to use on babies, kids, grown ups, even animals. We once had a kitten that had gotten attacked by something and had a huge bite mark on her neck. Between using peroxide to disinfect it and putting plantain oil on it, the wound healed up very nicely. Plantain oil is my go-to remedy for when anyone in my family (or anyone that I know that isn’t weirded out by natural remedies) gets hurt. It stops the swelling and itching of bug bites and nettle stings, soothes burns (including sunburn!) and helps heal scrapes and cuts, acne, rashes, hemorrhoids, chapping of lips or hands. If pretty much anything is wrong with your skin, most likely plantain oil can help it. It works great for diaper rash too! Olivia had these open sores on her bottom (ouch!) and I tried Burt’s Bees diaper cream and powder and they helped them not get worse, but didn’t make them better. Then I used plantain oil and within a few days the sores were all healed up. I haven’t ever had an instance where anyone reacted to it negatively, but of course I am not a doctor and these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA so don’t sue me if plantain oil doesn’t work for you. 😉 So, if you want to try it out, go plantain hunting! Its really fun to show your kids what it looks like, then have them hunt around the yard for it. Chances are, if you live anywhere that has grass and weeds, you’ll find some. Have you ever used plantain oil? I’d love to hear about it! 🙂