Herbal First Aid for Stings

It’s probably growing in your yard already and you’ve been striving to rid the lawn of it.

Plantago major

Stop it! That plantain is awesome! It is one of my three top choices for herbal first aid, along with yarrow and comfrey.

You’re working in your garden. You disturb a yellow jacket nest because you didn’t know it was there. Next thing you know, is you are dancing madly around your yard turning the air blue with words you may not have realized you knew.

Just this morning you were cursing the seed stalks of plantain as you mowed the lawn — they just refuse to stay down. That’s why you want to get rid of it. But! You remember this article. You pluck a few leaves and chew them to a paste before sticking them on the site of the sting. Immediately, the extreme pain is moderated. (I know this because it happened to me.) The pain has been reduced to throbbing so you go looking for a bandage. When you come back outside you throw away the old wad of green goo and replace it with a fresh one held in place with your little bandage.

Somehow, the pain is gone. When you check the site at the end of the day, there may well be no sign of the sting.

Now, if you are allergic to bee stings, you should still probably do what you would otherwise do, but if you are somewhere far from medical help, you might be glad you know about this little plant.

Plantain is famous for “drawing out.” It can be used as first aid not only for stings, but for splinters, boils, shingles and spider bites. Anything that needs to be drawn out.

When I heard it could be used to treat an abscessed tooth, a part of me said, “Yeah, right!” Then, some months later, I got a terrible pain in my lower jaw and when I probed the area with my tongue I found an odd blister-like bubble thing between my jaw and my cheek. The pain seemed centered there. Since I had no money for a dentist, I trotted out to the yard in prime plantain season. I picked a few leaves, chewed them up, and packed the wad into the area between jaw and cheek.

Somehow, the extreme pain receded. After a few moments, I dislodged the wad with my tongue to see how the bubble was doing and discovered a disgusting mass of … something indescribable. With bile rising I raced for a tissue to spit in (No. I didn’t look. You heard me say “disgusting” didn’t you?). I rinsed my mouth out before probing with my tongue again.

Now there was a concavity that seemed clean and was pain-free. Hmmm.

I don’t know that it was an abscess. I do know that the plantain took care of it — another thing to keep in mind when you are far from dental assistance.

In the spring I’ve included it in salads.

To my mind, and in my experience, this is a rather miraculous herb. Low to the ground, flying under the radar, ready to help any human in the neighborhood.

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