This is part 4 of the Toxic Free DIY Mini Series. So far we’ve learned how to make a sugar scrub, herbal shampoo, and lotion bars. Bet you didn’t know that right in your own backyard you may have one of the most soothing plants known to man…and it probably gets mowed away with the grass.
Lucky for you, it is not to late to save it. Time to let this magical weed grow and grow until you have enough to add to your medicine chest. What is this amazing gift, you ask? Why, its the plantain!
Plantain grows close to the ground and is characterized by a ribbed appearance. The species defines the size of the leaves. This is of the buckhorn variety.
Born of the plantago species, there are over 250 varieties in the United States, most commonly the broadleaf and the buckhorn. The crushed fresh leaves can be applied directly to small cuts, sores, bee and wasp stings, eczema, insect bites and sunburn. According to the Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, plantain has healing properties because of the high allantoin content. Allantoin is often found in over the counter moisturizers and salves such as this one.
Plantain is as good a treatment for the pain of a bee sting as it is for diaper rash. I often use it on shaving burn/cuts and it does quite well in this regard.
If you are in an area that does not have plantain or you are timid this first time, it can be bought dried from a reputable source. I do, however, recommend seeking it fresh.
The first step in making the salve is infusing an oil. I stuff a mason jar (see above) with the leaf and oil, making sure to cover the leaves completely. Do this to make sure it does not mold (trust me). Leave the jar in a dark corner for at least a month or gently warm on a stove for at least four hours. I often double infuse the oil, changing the leaves at the end of the month. When finished infusing, strain the oil through cheesecloth or something similar.
Note: I prefer the cold process but this does take patience.
Now is the time to start!
How will you make this oil into a salve? In short you will:
Step 1: Slowly melt oils with beeswax, swirling pan over heat source.
Step 2: Let mixture cool until hardened.
Step 3: Scoop your salve into sterilized containers.
See how easy that was? I was intimidated for years but it is incredibly easy.
Now that you have a basic recipe, you can add other herbs (like calendula and lavender if this is for a babies’ bottom), carrier oils and essential oils if you wish. Keep the beeswax on the low end for a soft, spreadable salve and on the high end of 2 TBSP for something just short of chapstick. I prefer the middle ground of 1 1/2 TBSP.
In a small pan, melt oils with beeswax, slowly swirling pan over heat source. You want to melt the beeswax with as little heat as possible so as not to disturb the volatile structure of the olive oil.
Pour directly into containers, or if easier, let cool and scoop into sterilized containers.
Spread liberally on diaper rash, eczema, bug bites, dry skin, bee stings or small cuts. Be soothed.
I am currently using salve from last summer but give it a sniff or pitch it if you are worried. Longevity relates to the freshness of the oil, storage conditions and bacteria introduction. Use fresh oil, keep it cool and use clean hands!
Sheila is an educator, writer and devoted real foodie. She began Love & Wild Honey to devote a creative space to write and converse about the philosophy and culture behind the food we eat in a way that is made practical as well as beautiful.
*Medical disclaimer: I am not a licensed medical professional. What I do is purely for research and/or personal/family use. I cannot be held responsible for improper use. Always seek advice from a medical professional if you have doubts. These claims have not been approved by the FDA (No kidding?!).