Later, my daughter complained of itching from a nasty bug bite. I told her to go get some plantain, chew it up, and put it on the bite. She did so - complained it tasted bad, but commented that it really worked! Later she was babysitting for a friend, and their young children had several annoying mozzie bites. She told the kids about plantain, helped them identify and apply some leaves. Those children were so delighted that they've been pointing out the plant to their mother on their walks to school ever since.
A couple of weeks after I had read about plantain, I was working in my garden when I inadvertently leaned the handle of a tool against a paper wasp nest on a wall. A wasp flew out and attacked me with repeated stings on my forearm before I managed to get rid of it. Boy, did it HURT! Most painful stings I can ever remember.
My allergy is such that a sting on my hand would normally result in a huge amount of swelling to my hand, arm, shoulder, neck and chest. It renders the limb basically unusable for a time. I can control it with anti-histamines, but even with them there will be some swelling, and quite a lot of pain for several days. I usually have to take anti-histamines for 7-10 days after the sting, otherwise as soon as I stop I swell up.
On this occasion, on my way back to the house I did a quick walk around the garden and gathered a good handful of broad-leafed plantain leaves. Fortunately, it grows around here like a, well, weed. Reaching the kitchen, I rinsed the leaves, then chewed them up well (chewing releases the properties, and something about the action of saliva seems to make it particularly potent, though if you can't stand chewing them, you can grind them up with a mortar and pestle). I globbed the chewed up leaves onto the stings, and held them there for about 10 mins before rinsing my arm. Personally, I didn't think they tasted bad at all - just a little bit grassy.
The first noticeable thing was that the horrendous pain completely disappeared very, very quickly - within a minute or two.
I took anti-histamines anyway, as a precaution (having my right arm out of action for a week was NOT appealing!). I took another on Day 2, but a couple of days after that I realised I'd completely forgotten to keep taking them, and there was no swelling whatsoever! A couple of hours after the sting happened, there was limited localised puffiness and redness, but by the morning, the puffiness was gone. The redness lasted a few days, but it was not at all sore.
I was totally WOWED by the results!
Not long after that, a friend mentioned on Facebook that she had had a bumblebee fall into her boot and sting her on the foot, and now, 3 days later, her foot was continuing to swell more and more and hurt a lot. She was taking antihistamines, but to no apparent effect. I told her about Plantain, and suggested that even though a couple of days had gone past, it might still help with the pain and itching. She applied some, and then commented that the pain and itching had gone, and the swelling was going down. She was thrilled!
Broad-leafed plantain is a very common lawn weed in New Zealand. It grows everywhere in our paddocks too, and I notice it's particularly prolific in the damper spots - lower lying, or closer to some shade or water. It's easy to identify - the leaves grow out in a rosette shape close to the ground, and have a distinctive stem to tip ribbed effect. The dully-colored flower spikes grow on stems that stand up above the plant.
Another plantain is common here too - narrow leafed plantain. This also has healing properties, but the broad-leafed one is reputed to be most effective for stings.
In late February, I was weeding an area where there was quite a lot of broad-leafed plantain growing. Rather than waste it, I brought quite a lot inside, washed it and chopped it up, then filled a jar with it, and then poured olive oil in until the jar was full. It's been infusing ever since - I shake it up every now and then. Soon I will strain out the leaves, and mix the infused oil with beeswax to make a useful ointment for bites and skin irritation. The fresh plant is the most effective, but an ointment is also handy. I've already dipped my finger in the oil several times to apply it to bites on the kids arms or legs.
All the plantains have many incredible healing properties. Here's an amazing video that everyone should watch - it tells you simply and effectively how to use plantain to treat bites, stings, stinging nettle, skin ulcers and infections, as an antiseptic, to draw out pus and infection, to treat coughs, colds, allergies (such as hayfever), for digestive disorders, as a source of Vitamin B1 and more!