Plantain is considered a weed by many, but it has amazing healing potential for cuts and scrapes and also has the ability to draw the venom right back out after you’ve been stung, which in turn helps to reduce redness and swelling too. Chances are that if you don’t spray for weeds in your lawn, it’s already growing there. If, by chance, you DON’T have plantain growing in your yard, just clear out a bare spot in your lawn, and it will surely be growing there in no time!
There are around 200 varieties of plantain worldwide with about 30 of those varieties growing in the US. Some are considered broadleaf plantain, while other varieties are narrowleaf plantain. The photos included here are broadleaf plantain growing in my lawn. The telltale way to identify plantain is that it has prominent veins that run parallel up and down the length of the leaves.
Ok, so how exactly do you use this plant to help you? You simply pick a leaf off the plant, chew it up and place it on the sting. If you’re too scared to chew it up or think it’s gross, you can also use a meat tenderizer, or I even used my fingernails to “mince” it up the first time because I was too scared to taste it. (Oh how things have changed!) The point is that you want the juice of the plantain to be exposed vs just putting a whole leaf over the sting, which won’t do much. The sooner you can get it on there after you’ve been stung, the better. If you have a band-aid or some other way to hold it on the sting, it will make it easier, especially if you’re using it on your little one that won’t sit still.
The plantain will get right to work drawing out the heat and venom. I had to see this to believe it the first time. We were at a friend’s house when my daughter got stung on her leg. By the time she got into the house to tell me, the spot on her leg was 2-3 inches in diameter, red, and hot to the touch. I had remembered reading about plantain so immediately asked my friend if they spray their lawn for weeds. She said they didn’t, so I headed outside, plucked a leaf of plantain out of their lawn, minced it up with my fingernails and placed it on her leg. We used a band-aid to hold it on. I asked to check on it a half hour later, and low and behold, only a tiny red spot remained, and she said it was not bothering her!!
That was it. I was sold. We have used plantain for many stings since then. My kids even know what to look for now and use it all on their own – even for mosquito bites! I am ALL about cheap or free remedies for health and healing, and this is one where the price and convenience can’t be beat.
Of note, if the redness, heat, and sting isn’t gone within a half hour, you should discard the original leaf and chew up a new one to re-apply. Or if the leaf becomes warm before that time, you can discard and re-apply a new one sooner.
Another option if you don’t have access to fresh plantain is plantain salve. Sometimes the salve is also just plain more convenient for stings in tricky situations – like a sting on the scalp of a toddler who isn’t going to sit still so that you can hold the plantain leaves on the sting for a half hour. And I know I’m an herbal educator, but in full disclosure, homeopathy is great for stings too. We’ve used Ledum before, but sometimes Apis is the more appropriate remedy. Homeopathy can be used in conjunction with the plantain leaf or salve too.
Of course, if you become concerned about an allergic or toxic reaction to the sting and think you may need medical attention, don’t delay!!