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Quick Herbal Bug Bite Salve

September 7th, 2010

Several years ago I read about the wonders of Broad Leaved Plantain, a “weed” that grows everywhere. It’s also known as: Bird’s Meat, Common Plantain, Great Plantain, Rat-tail Plantain, White Man’s Foot.

I have it growing all over the garden and I’m quite happy about it. It comes in very handy when I’m out working late and get bit by mosquitoes or if I get stung by a bee.

All you have to do for a quick salve is grab a leaf or two, chew them up and apply them to the bug bite. I often do this while I’m out working if I need to, but I prefer to make a poultice with some baking soda as it stays on better and I think it works better. (as with all wild plants, make sure you know exactly what you’re picking & using!)

What I usually do is take a few leaves, cut them finely, add a pinch or two of baking soda and a little water. Then I grind them to a wet paste in my mortar & pestle and apply to the bug bite. It instantly works to get rid of the itch or sting and keeps it coming back.

This salve is also very beneficial for using on cuts and scrapes, I often add some turmeric and comfrey when I’m using it for this purpose as turmeric helps with inflammation and pain and comfrey speeds healing.

Plantain has medicinal uses of all sorts: bites, cuts, scrapes, rashes, skin problems, intestinal pain & issues, worms, boils, bronchitis, coughs, colitis, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting, bed wetting and incontinence and many other things (for more info read this and this). I have yet to use it internally, but I use it often for bug bites, stings and cuts. I’m trying to make plantain oil for using medicinally. Since it’s an herb with no known side-effects I definitely want to try using it more often.

Have you ever used plantain? Do you use herbs/weeds for medicinal purposes?

16 Comments to “Quick Herbal Bug Bite Salve”
  1. Chandra on September 7, 2010 at 6:58 am

    I just became interested in healing with medicinal herbs earlier this year. My 8 year old was in charge of collecting, washing, drying, and chopping the plantain and then making the plantain infused oil for our bug bite salve. Luckily the stuff has a 1-2 year shelf life, because we made a ton. We have also made calendula and comfrey salve both of which I use all of the time. I have yet to move on to tinctures, but I every time I weed the garden I always dry the dandelion roots. That will probably be my first. My favorite no fail herbal remedy is bilberry tea, apparently the dried berries are best, I think the tea works better than the capsules, but it’s great for constipation, diahrrea and nausea. We are a family with IBS and this helps every time.

    I love the Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook by James A Duke. Lists many medicinal herbs and rates their efficacy, lets you know which herbs are as effective as over the counter medication (that’s how I found the bilberry). I carry a copy in my giant purse. The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook by James Green, gives very detailed instructions on the making of all types of medicines.

    Reply to Chandra's comment

  2. Rhonda on September 7, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I’ve recently become interested in medicinal herbs and foraging. I often find myself reaching to pull a weed and then thinking, “No, I better keep that, I may need it” I have a plantain growing by my back steps right now that looks like a botanical specimen! It’s actually quite pretty. It’s got nice big broad leaves. They usually don’t get this big since I mow them down in the lawn, but this one is like it had been planted on purpose. If you don’t mind, I’d like to plug a really good foraging youtube channel. It’s called Eat the Weeds and it’s done by this precious man named “Green Deane” Check him out. He’s really a treasure. :-) I learned from him about Lambs Quarters. Mmmmm

    Reply to Rhonda's comment

  3. Amy @ Homestead Revival on September 7, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Susy, this is a great post. I’ve read about plantain, but wasn’t sure what it looked like our how to make a salve. I’m very visual and just reading about it doesn’t do a lot for me, so thank you for the pictures! And since I’m the kind of gal who gets bit by everything – and I do mean everything! – I could really use this remedy. Am I right that it works on stinging nettle as well? I think I read that, but can’t remember.

    Reply to Amy @ Homestead Revival's comment

    • Susy on September 7, 2010 at 9:58 am

      Yes, I’ve read this works well on nettle stings and on poison ivy rashes.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Amy on September 7, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I thought I had read that there were some issues regarding comfrey……Therefore I have used it strictly as green manure for my compost pile……Do you know or have you heard if there are dangers in using comfrey……Thanks….

    Reply to Amy's comment

    • Susy on September 7, 2010 at 10:53 am

      Yes, some people recommend not using comfrey internally, at least not often and in large quantities. I’ve never used comfrey internally, but use it often externally, it really does wonders at speeding the healing of cuts, scrapes and other injuries.

      Personally I’d use it internally if needed, I’d rather use an herbal or homeopathic remedies than a drug prescribed to me by a Dr. I don’t always regard the herbal “warnings” fully since I believe they’re often made to scare people away from using them and towards using allopathic medicine. My jar of seaweed that I sprinkle on my food occasionally has a warning on it.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Amy on September 7, 2010 at 1:20 pm

        Thank you Susy…….I was thinking it was Carla Emery who said not to take it internally….. I agree about pharmaceutical remedies……I was just curious about putting it on an open wound…..and will give your wound recipes a try……We “unfortunately” this last week had the opportunity to employ your cayenne pepper/oregano tea……It worked wonders on my 9 year old :)…..I have used the plantain on bites and always thought there should be a better way for it to take effect than just rubbing the scrunched leaves on the bite…..The baking soda/water/plantain paste……perfect……

        to Amy's comment

  5. elisa rathje on September 7, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    i have a dear friend who is an herbalist, who introduced to this exact method of using plantain! she used to say that it is grown where it is needed…you find a lot of it around playgrounds! i too have a beautiful specimen growing in my garden. great post on how to make a salve from it.

    Reply to elisa rathje's comment

  6. Mike on September 7, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    We always chop the young greens up for our salads in the spring but I had no idea they could also be used for bug bites…I will have to try this.

    Reply to Mike's comment

  7. nic@nipitinthebud on September 7, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    great post Susy. I swear by herbal brews for all sorts of healing but haven’t really dabbled with applications. Would have leapt at the chance to try this last week when G was stung on the face by a wasp. Poor love, he suffered for a couple of days – less so with the soreness on his face as the feeling of being poisoned and flu-like.

    Reply to nic@nipitinthebud's comment

  8. Anne on September 7, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Wow, we have tons of that growing around our house! I get bit by everything. This is definitely something I want to try! I guess I’ll have to stop yanking it all up.

    Reply to Anne's comment

  9. Making Essential Oils | Chiot's Run on September 8, 2010 at 4:47 am

    […] with using plantain as a quick treatment for bug bites and other wounds, I’m also trying to make some plantain essential oil so I can make […]

    Reply to Making Essential Oils | Chiot’s Run's comment

  10. Kat on September 8, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    In Russian, it’s called “podorozh’nik,” which means something like…”grows along the road.” When I was very young (in Tajikistan), I remember being told to apply the plantain leaves to cuts, but have forgotten about it until you reminded me! The salve sounds great! I’ll be sure to whip some up.

    It’s my first time commenting, but I absolutely love your blog! This is my first year canning, and I’m taking some ideas from here. Thank you.

    Reply to Kat's comment

  11. 6512 and growing on September 9, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    I’ve used plantain leaves directly on a yellow jacket sting, it helped soothe the pain almost immediately. My bee keeper friend also had success with fresh plantain when he got stung in the face by his honeybees.
    I also make a salve from comfrey and calendula for healing skin irritations.
    Happy growing!

    Reply to 6512 and growing's comment

  12. Janet Smith on September 16, 2012 at 1:52 am

    I make a lotion/ salve with 20-30 plantain leaves and 1/2 to 3/4 C Coconut oil. I stew it…for several hours in a double boiler. Keeping the oil hot but DO NOT directly heat it. After several hours the leaves will be brittle and the oil will be a nice bright green. (smells good too) I fish out the spent cooked leaves and add some 1-2 T beeswax. Use less and the cream will be more of a butter or ..use more and it firm up more. And coconut oil hardens on it’s own in cooler temps and become liquid if it’s warm out.

    When the beeswax is melted, pour into small jars or tins. I use this special Green cream on everything but rashes, wounds (especially road rash types), bruises, bug bites, acne, shingles, diaper rash, poison Ivy..the list is endless.. I had adult acne(roseasa) with read inflamed patches of skin which never got better and blisters/pimples which formed daily for over 5 years and nothing helped it. In 24 hours, I could see the improvement. I have made it and given it to many people of all ages with acne and all have seen improvements with regular use. I use it on my face morning and night and my face is now clear.


    Reply to Janet Smith's comment

    • Janet Smith on September 16, 2012 at 1:58 am

      “I use this special Green cream on everything but rashes, wounds….”
      Should have read…” I use this special Green cream on everything including rashes, wounds” Sorry I missed wrote that!


      Reply to Janet Smith's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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