Sunday, August 28, 2011


I get so frustrated with uncooperative computers.  I wrote a blog about plantain, and it vanished into cyberspace, never to be seen again.  I was writing about another of my favorite backyard weeds...plantain.  I had two of my grandchildren overnight.  For breakfast, my granddaughter requested blueberry pancakes, and asked if we could eat in the backyard.  It was a wonderful plan.  I made breakfast, and got everything set up on the round table, we all sat down, cut pancakes, and my granddaughter screamed.  "They're stinging me!"

A mess of riled hornets were after her.  I grabbed the baby, took her hand and told her we were going to get right in the house.  Once safely in, I planted her on the counter and examined her legs.  I found two stings.  And she was still sobbing. 

I had just read an article earlier in the week.  It said that bee venom is acidic.  If stung by a bee, we should treat it with baking soda.  But wasps and hornets have a basic venom.  The best remedy is vinegar.  I pulled out a bottle of white balsamic vinegar (because, after all, what you need is where you are) and she asked,  "Is that going to hurt?"

I answered as honestly as I could..."Maybe a little, but it should stop the stinging."  I cupped my hand beneath the sting, poured a little vinegar in my hand and applied it to the sting.  She calmed down a lot as I repeated the procedure on the sting closer to her ankle.  I asked her to watch her baby brother for just a second while I ran back outside.  I pulled some plantain, brought it back in and showed it to her. 

"We're going to chew this up and put it on the stings.  Know why?  Because this plant can draw, and it will draw the venom out of the sting.  Then you will stop reacting."  She chewed some, I chewed some.  We applied the slimy green to the stings.  I put her and her brother in chairs at the indoor table, and bravely went back outside to rescue our blueberries from the wretched, mean-tempered wasps.

By the time we were done with breakfast, the swelling was gone.  Please note, my granddaughter is not allergic to stings.  If she were, my reaction would have been completely different - possibly including an ER visit.

Plantain does draw.  One can almost feel the drawing action when handling the leaves, when palpitating the deep, strong vein ridges.  The plant also has a similarly deep, straight tap root which draws nutrients from deep below.

We often use plantain to draw splinters from the skin.  We usually use the spit poultice technique - chew it up and wad it on.  Use a band-aid to hold it in place when such luxuries are available!  (Actually, we thought we invented this technique.  But once I took a group of teens who were interested in herbalism to hear local herbalist 7Song  talk about first aid.  He described the technique, then named it.)

Because it draws, I began using it for deep lung congestion.  I dose a few drops of tincture, and have had good success.  Kids have coughed up grossities and have been able to breathe.

Another time I considered plantain, because it could draw, was after my brother's car accident.  We form cheloids, and he had many small scars on his face from the windshield.  The scarring seemed to have damaged some pores, and small infections had no outlet.  I made a very simple, very basic plantain salve, which he applied to his face.  According to my mother, it worked beautifully.

One other thing I have noticed is that plantain makes a great bandage.  I think I learned this from Jeanne Rose.  If you cut yourself, apply a nice, smooth plantain leaf to the cut.  It stops the bleeding - possibly it is drawing the two sides of the wound together.  The wound heals the cut with minimal scarring.

If you don't poison your lawn, I can guarantee that you have plantain nearby.  It's easy to identify - actually hard to misidentify (Is misidentify a word?) and it is available.

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