Plantain Salve

Plantain Salve

I’ve been very impressed with how well common plantain (Plantago major andPlantago lanceolata) works to stop itching. I’ve had plenty of practice, because the mosquitoes around our house have been vicious this year as usual, and I’ve had a couple bouts of poison ivy and some stings by unknown insects. However, chewing the leaves and rubbing the juice on the itchy spot leaves little fragments of green leaf  everywhere. I decided to make a simple infusion and salve that I could carry around and that would be less messy. The result was an effective anti-itch potion, and I’m sharing the recipe here.


Begin by taking a nice walk outside to an area that you know has not been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, or other noxious chemicals. Pick a bowl full of plantain leaves (both P. major and P. lanceolata work well). Choose newer leaves, because these have a higher content of the compounds of interest. These include iridoid glycosides, which are defense compounds against herbivores[1],[2]. Mucilage polysaccharides in the plant give it its soothing, emollient properties[3].

P.-major plantain-in-coconut-oil-225x300 dehydrated-225x300 in-dehydrator-225x300

If the leaves are dirty, gently rinse them. Skip that step if leaves are clean (picking them after a rain might help). Then dry them at low temperature (<120 °F). I used a low-temp dehydrator for this:

When they’re dry, put them in a pot and cover them with a good-quality oil. I used organic coconut oil and apricot-kernel oil. Heat over a double-boiler at low temperature (don’t let the oil temperature exceed 140 °F) for a few hours. I did this and then left the oil–leaf mixture to sit overnight. Let the oil cool, and then strain out the leaves using a fine mesh filter or cheesecloth. Pour the oil into a jar, and store it in the fridge. Apply it to bites for rapid relief!









Here’s an inflamed sting I had recently, and application of salve to take away the itch:

Another method for making the salve is to infuse the dried leaves in oil by placing them in a glass jar and leaving it in a sunny place for a couple of weeks.

[1] Viljoen A, Mncwangi N, and Vermaak I, 2012. Anti-inflammatory iridoids of botanical origin. Current Medicinal Chemistry 19: 2104–2127.

[2] European Medicines Agency, 2012. Assessment report onPlantago lanceolata L., folium. Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products report EMA/HMPC/437859/2010.

[3] Renata, D-P, 2013. Medicinal plants used in treatment of inflammatory skin

diseases. Postępy Dermatologii i Alergologii 3: 170–177.

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