Mar 222008

The other day I was planting berry bushes in the riverbank. It was cold, and my hands were numb and covered in dirt and sand, so when the palm of my right hand started to itch I just scratched absentmindedly at it and went back to work. It kept on itching , so I looked down at it and notice a few white raised bumps. Hmmm, that’s weird, and went back to planting the nearest blackberry bush. Five minutes later when I stood up from planting I tried to wipe the dirt off my hand and noticed I couldn’t close it and that the upper right quadrant of my hand was very very swollen. After I washed my hand off in the river, I was able to sit there and watch it continue to swell, moving from one section of my hand to my whole hand and then to my wrist. I stuck my hand back in the cold river and wished for some fresh Plantain. Seeing as there was none around and moving seemed like it might worsen the condition, I asked Loba to run up to the cabin on the mesa and get my Plantain tincture. In the meantime I asked Rhiannon to harvest a handful of the fresh aromatic sprigs of Mugwort popping up nearby. I chewed up a wad of the bitter herb, spit the plant matter back on the original site of swelling and swallowed the juice. I continued to do this over and over, replacing the herb each time it grew hot. Within five minutes the swelling ceased to spread. It didn’t hurt, but the skin was alarmingly tight.

Loba came back in about another five minutes, and I doused the site with the Plantain tincture as well as swallowing about two dropperfuls right away. I took another dropperful a few minutes later and the swelling began to recede the tiniest bit. At this point, I decided sitting on the cold ground and shivering was probably not helpful and crossed the river and got myself back up to the cabin. At the cabin, I continued to keep the site soaked with Plantain tincture and took 1/2 a dropperful every half hour or so. As the swelling continued to go down, I also took two drops of Osha for good measure. My hand begin to throb and hurt as the blood was able to move around again, but resolved in a few hours. The situation was completely better by mid-day the next day.

This is similar to what happened to Loba a few weeks ago when she accidentally squished a poor sleepy bee into her inner arm and it stung her. We dabbed some Larrea oil on it and went back to supper. This helped initially, and the pain resolved for several hours. However, Loba woke up in the middle of the night in severe pain and by morning her whole upper arm was red, hot and tremendously swollen. In addition, she was beginning to break out in angry red hives on her face, which was certainly not a good sign. I got the Plantain tincture out and instructed her to take two dropperfuls internally right away and to soak a cloth in the tincture and keep it on the stung area. The pain and swelling lessened in about an hour, and with repeated doses and applications the reaction was mostly resolved in twenty four hours and completely gone in forty eight hours.

In both cases, the reaction could have become severe enough to be a real problem or potentially dangerous. I’m definitely grateful that I tinctured so much fresh Plantain this past Summer. And here’s the original Kiss Your Plantain story I wrote about last spring and in the comments you can read yet another great story by jim mcdonald.

As soon as the Plantain babies come up, I’m going to kiss one.

  9 Responses to “Kiss Your Plantain, Again”

  1. That sounds like a wonderful plant. I think I remember plantain from the herbs I learned during college, but I don’t know if it’s the same one as you mean. Do you have a picture? Do different varieties work the same way?

  2. Plantain is probably one of the most common plants in North America and yes, there are different species, there’s at least three in this area, a fuzzy narrow leafed one, the broad leafed one, and a smooth narrow leaf one. As far as I know, they all work similarly, I have used oil and tincture of the latter two, the fuzzy one is too little. The broad leafed (Plantago major) is most common I think and here’s a picture
    and here’s the fuzzy (Plantago patagonica)

    There’s probably some plantain in your back yard right now. Or at least growing out of the cracks on the nearest sidewalk 🙂

  3. glad your hand is alright. any idea what got you?

    i’ve used the fuzzy plantain as a tincture and it works great. I once froze a bunch of it fresh to use for poultices, but never needed it while i had it…but i think if you get a good bunch of is mashed up it would work just fine. It was so abundant in spring in arizona, it was easy to get a lot. But only in spring. then it disappeared.
    here in colorado the p, lanceolota is most common, but we still see broad leaved in the yards. I need to tincture more up this spring, and maybe do more oil. i can’t remember if i have oil or not.

  4. No idea, I never saw anything while working. Seems very much like an venomous insect type thing, though I’ve never reacted to anything, even scorpions, that way before. When Loba finished up the planting for me she was smart, and wore leather gloves LOL

    I want to look for more of the fuzzy kind this spring, I’ve only seen a few plants here, they get easily hidden underneath all the other green stuff…. We mostly have the broadleaf kind along the river, and then there’s the narrowleaf kind in the village and along roadsides.

    The world would be a sadder place without plantain.

  5. Thanks, Darcy, for the Latin name to Google. Plantago lanceolata sure looks like what we’ve got out here.

    Now, do you have a good link/description on “tincture making for dummies”? ^.^

  6. Amanda, fill a pint jar with chopped plantain leaves, then fill to top with alcohol (I like everclear 95% grain alcohol for most fresh plant tinctures, but vodka will work too), cover with airtight lid. Let sit for six weeks, then strain, reserving the liquid. Store in an airtight container in a dark, cool place. It’s that simple.

  7. Thanks! Now to go pick me some plantain…

  8. I have a question. can one keep plantain in alcohol longer than 6 weeks? should I add to the one I have or should I start another batch as the one I made was from fresh and I only have dried plantain( I could still find some fresh I guess). Can I use a herb I have for 3 years to make tincture?

    • Do you mean for tincture? It’s definitely best to used fresh plantain for tincture… I would reserve the dried for poultices, teas and fomentations myself.

      It depends on the herb, but I would be unlikely to use 3 year old plantain, especially when it’s such a common and easy to find plant in most places.

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