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Plantain: Natural First Aid from the Wild

Plantain: Natural First Aid from the Wild

Plantain: Natural First Aid from the Wild

Living off-grid in the wilderness is something that I have embraced and loved for the past 4 ½ years. Growing up, I dreamed of living in the “Prairie Days,” and still do (enter Little House on the Prairie books) and though life was very difficult, it was simple. Wake up with the sun, go to bed with the sun. Shop in your own pantry, garden, or root cellar. Barter or trade goods with neighbours and friends, help your friend deliver their baby, forage for food, build each other’s barn with friends and more. For those living in the country, trips to larger centres took many days, so those trips were few and far between. My desire for this simple life has me and my family living out a modern pioneer lifestyle, and when you are off grid, it becomes the norm that you work towards. It’s not just for the lifestyle, but to be able to take care of ourselves and neighbours in a survival situation and more. In fact, I think I was born in the wrong era! It seems in today’s day and age, we have so much convenience around us, that many of us rely on the system, doctors or what you can buy at the stores far too much. We forget how our ancestors used to survive, and I happen to believe that convenience has been pushed on us for a reason.

In an effort to become completely sustainable, I grew a love for natural remedies many years ago long before we lived off-grid. During my college days, I developed a terrible case of eczema. It was so debilitating, that there were times that I could not bend my fingers. I sought to find answers with dermatologists and doctors, who all prescribed steroid creams, and none of them worked. I lived with eczema for 16 years and finally decided that enough was enough. Thus, began my own educational journey of natural remedies, healthy eating, and for 10 years I am eczema free.

It didn’t take me long to realize that nearly all of what we need for ailments can be found in nature. I poured through books, went on herb walks to find, and identify what was available in our backyard, the woods, lakes, and meadows in our area. One of the first herbs that I found and learned to use was plantain. I had read somewhere that, “If the industry knew how valuable plantain was, they would try to patent it and sell it for hundreds of dollars by the ounce.” I am not talking about the banana looking plant, I am referring to the “weed” that grows in abundance in your yard, on roadsides, in your garden; a general nuisance to most, but GOLD to those who know its uses!

Types of Plantain

There are two types of plantain. Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major) and Narrow Leaf Plantain (Plantago lanceolata). Both are a perennial with rosette style leaves and stringy when pulled apart. Both equally effective, and once you have identified plantain, you will never forget. I remember teaching 2 of my 6 children to identify and use plantain at the early age of 2, and they are quick to find it when it’s needed for themselves or others. In fact, all of my children have a knowledge of herbal remedies and use them because I have made a point of educating them throughout our homeschool years.

Topical Uses of Plantain

So, what makes plantain so good? Over the last 10 years, I have used it in multiple applications and today I want to talk about the topical benefits that I have primarily used plantain for:

  • Eczema/psoriasis
  • Diaper Rash
  • Burns (sun, steam, water, fire)
  • Bee/wasp stings
  • Bug/spider/ichy mosquito bites
  • Cuts, scrapes, bruises
  • Poison ivy/oak
  • As an antidote for stinging nettle stings
  • Drawing out an infection
  • Inflammation/swelling
  • Lip balm 

 

Fresh Herb Application

There are two ways to use this herb. You can use the fresh leaf by masticating the leaves in your mouth by chewing, rolling with a rolling pin, pounding with a mortar/pestle, crushing the leaves between two rocks, rubbing between two sticks; whatever you need to do to get the juices of the herb extracted from the leaves. Your leaves will look wilted and somewhat wet, almost like a paste; that is what you want. Make sure to use herbs that you know have not been sprayed with chemicals and do not grow in high traffic or heavily populated areas. If in doubt, wash the leaves thoroughly before use.

For all the applications above, you will need to create what is called a poultice. A poultice in this case is a mass of plant material applied to the affected area of the body and is kept in place with a cloth, saran wrap, tensor bandage or held in place with your hands. My preferred method for a long term poultice is to use a beeswax wrap like our Abeego or Solo Beeswax Wraps, because they are reusable, non-toxic, environmentally friendly, multipurpose and will keep the herb moist for several hours. I always keep a handful of large wraps in my first aid kit. Place the plantain on the affected area, cover with a beeswax wrap, and then wrap the area (if possible) with a tensor/compression bandage. Depending on the severity of the ailment, change out the poultice every 2-3 hours, or leave overnight and redress in the morning. If you have a bee sting, itchy mosquito bite, small burn, etc., simply rubbing the plantain paste over the affected area will do the job.

A Few Experiences

Herbs are only as good as the person who uses them and experiences them. Having head knowledge is just knowledge, but experience is true wisdom that can be passed onto others. So, use your herbs!

I was working in the garden one day, hands in the dirt, and that evening, I noticed some redness on my finger. There was a small abrasion and thinking not much of it (it’ll go away I thought), I went to bed. The next morning, my finger was swollen, and I could not bend it. All around the abrasion was fiery red, and innately I knew there is an infection of some sort. Off to pick some plantain, and within minutes I had created a poultice, wrapped my finger, and within 24 hours, the infection was gone.

On another occasion, I was clearing brush, and didn’t see a broken-down wasp nest. It was super that the angry wasp saw me and proceeded to sting me around my eye several times. Mashed plantain to the rescue and the pain subsided within several minutes.

While out on an herb walk, my young son ran through stinging nettle. His arms welted pretty badly; he of course was in pain. I mashed up plantain, made a poultice, covered with a beeswax wrap and tensor, and within an hour, the bandage was off, and he was playing, no pain or welts to be had.

The first campfire of the season brings out hot dog sticks and one would think that they would remember from the last time not to run their hand up the shaft of a stick that has been in the fire for any length of time. Not that day. I grabbed the stick near the top and branded myself with a 6” burn across my palm. While I held my hand in the icy creek water, I asked one of the kids to get me some plantain. Within minutes they returned with a handful. I chewed it in my mouth and held it to the burn for several minutes. By the time my supper was cooked, the pain of the burn was gone.

I have many, many more stories, but this post would turn into a book! Next week, I will go over the recipe and method for creating your own herbal salve, because fresh plantain isn’t always at our fingertips, so stay tuned!

May God bless you and your families,
Good2GoCo Family

*The information on this blog is for general informational purposes only.  No information on the Good2GoCo blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified provider with any questions you may have regarding medical conditions and treatment.*