I love plantain.
Seriously… I’ve already used it so many times this year for one thing in particular.
As much as I hate to get stung by a bee, I hate it when my kids get stung even more. My oldest has been stung 3 times already, and my littlest just got stung for the first time as I was gathering plantain from our yard and taking the photos you see here! I’ll have you know I immediately put what I’d gathered to good use, plastering it all over his face where it looked like the nasty wasp got him. Poor little guy! My middle son, Isaiah, SOMEHOW, has escaped getting stung so far this year. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it stays that way, but if luck isn’t on his side and he does get stung… mama will be prepared with the goodness of plantain.
So let me tell you a bit about plantain and why it’s so great for bee stings, and then I’ll tell you about two different ways you can use it if you or your kid does get stung by a bee this summer.
Plantain For Bee Stings
Plantain is an astringent herb meaning it draws the tissues together. This action is a result of the tannins found in the leaves.
Dark chocolate and wine also contain tannins, and if you’ve ever tasted them you know that they’re bitter, they’ll cause your mouth to pucker, and you start to produce more saliva in your mouth. This is a result of the bitter tannins. The bitter stimulates digestion, which is why you secret more saliva. Have you ever wondered why people say to eat a piece of dark chocolate after a meal or why you should drink a small glass of red wine while you eat? It’s because they help with digestion.
This same principle holds true for plantain. Sure you could use it to make your own digestive aid, but that’s not what I’m here to teach you about today. I just want you to know the science behind why it acts as an astringent. Remember…. “astringent”. It means – drawing, pulling.
When your toddler steps on a bee and you put crushed plantain on it, those tannins do their thing and cause the skin and tissues to tighten up. This helps to keep swelling to a minimum as well as reducing pain.
This astringent like action can also be used for helping to stop bleeding, reduce swelling and inflammation from burns, and to pull things out of the skin like venom, poisons, and embedded objects (dirt, small gravel, splinters, etc.).
Identifying Plantain In The Wild
There are 250 different species of plantain that grow wild, not only in the US, but all over the world. Today I’m showing you what’s most common here in the US called Broadleaf Plantain. If you’re not from the US, Google plantain in your area. You’re sure to find it. There’s also another common variety of plantain here in the US called Buckthorn Plantain or Narrowleaf Plantain, and it can be used the same as the broadleaf version.
Plantain, for the most part, grows anywhere, but it prefers moist areas with full sun to partial shade and compacted soil. It also prefers warm areas so you should be able to find it as long as you don’t live in a very cold region of the world.
Today I’m going to show you Broadleaf Plantain in the photos and help give you some insights on how you can identify it. I’ve also included a video I shot on how to identify plantain and jewelweed if you’re into watching videos!
And for the video… enjoy! This is for using plantain for poison ivy, BTW!
How To Use Plantain For Bee Stings
Spitty Green Goo
The first and easiest way to use plantain for a bee sting (and this is how I usually do it) is to find it growing in your yard or close to where you are, break off a leaf or two, stuff it in your mouth, and chew it like a cow!
I’m so not joking. I really do chew it, and no, I don’t have photos for you. I’d be way too embarrassed! LOL!
Once it’s chewed up, spit it out and plaster your kid with your green goo. Sure you’ll look like a crazy hillbilly, but seeing your little one relax and start to calm down will make it worth it. Sure you’ll have green spit running down your mouth and you’ll be flossing green grass out of your teeth for a week, but hey… that’s the natural life!
In all seriousness, though, it’s not that bad. Just be sure to brush your teeth afterwards!
Leave the chewed plantain leaves on the sting for 20-30 minutes. It should help to reduce redness, itching, pain and stinging, as well as swelling. I’m tellin’ you… this herb is wonderful for bee stings.
I use it every single time, and I NEVER need an antihistamine such as Benedryl… and we have bee allergies in our family!
Alright, so if chewing and spitting out plantain leaves is just too much for you, that’s totally fine. You have another great option, but this one takes a little longer to make.
It’s called plantain vinegar.
All you need to do here is find some plantain leaves, chop or tear them up, fill a glass jar to the top with your fresh plantain, and then add in your apple cider vinegar… filling your jar up. Put your lid on and set it in a cool, dark cabinet for 2-3 weeks giving it a good shake every day or so. After your time is up, strain your liquid through a cloth that will catch your herbs making sure to squeeze the vinegar out of the plantain leaves once you’re finished. You can also use dried plantain for this if you can’t find fresh. See the steps in the photos below.
Next up, once you’re vinegar and herbs are separated, store your plantain vinegar in a glass jar in a dark spot along with some cotton balls and band-aids. When your child gets stung, soak a cotton ball in your plantain vinegar, put it on their sting and cover it with a bandaid so it will hold. Voila! Your little one will be good to go in no time.
Don’t forget to compost your plantain after you strain it from the vinegar… or eat it. Pickled plantain is pretty yummy if you like vinegar tasting things!
Also… plantain vinegar is great for acne. This doesn’t really apply to small children, but if you have a teenager or if you tend to get acne, you can soak a cotton ball in your plantain vinegar and rub it all over your face after washing it in the morning and before bed. The plantain vinegar will help tighten the tissues, toning your face and pulling the toxins out of your skin. Keep it up! In 2-3 weeks you’ll have nice clear skin!
Enjoy, and here’s to you doctoring your little’s summer boo-boos the natural way!
Do you have a plantain success story? Share it with me in the comments below!
It has come to my attention by a concerned reader that I’ve made a mistake in this post, therefore misinforming those of you who read it in a terrible way.
Apparently, I have led you to believe that a wasp is a bee when in fact it is not. It is similar to bees and ants as all three descend from a common ancestor called a “clade,” but is is in a completely different group of insects than bees… or so sayeth Wikipedia.
So, let me apologize for my insect ignorance. I am a mere layman with no beekeeping experience and very little knowledge of entomology. My goal for this post was to simply explain how plantain can help with pain and swelling when you get stung by an insect and to share my experience with you, and yes, I do feel that I have done that.
I hope this new information has enlightened those of you that did not know that “wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets” are, in fact, not “bees,” and I’m sure that information will serve you well in the future.
As always, I appreciate the concern of my readers, and I recognize my own shortcomings much of the time. I’ll be sure to add these little “Post Mistakes” to the end of posts when readers bring up their concerns to me… because I wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea on important issues like these above.