Monday, 28 July 2014

DIY Salve with Plantain

For many reasons, I feel like I come alive in the summer. One part of the season that I do not enjoy, and I know I'm not alone in this regard, is bug bites. Not only do I dislike the itch and sting, but it is compounded by the fact that my daughters hate them and often refuse to go outside because of them. There are many products on the store shelves for bug bites, but in my quest to make my own and avoid unnecessary packaging and potentially harmful ingredients, this summer I have made my own skin salve, with the key ingredient being plantain. I also fits in nicely with my one little word for the year, make.
Plantain is a very hardy plant and grows almost anywhere, especially in lawns along concrete path and driveways. Most people think it as a weed and pull it up, but it is edible and can be used as a topical application for skin irritations like bug bites, stings, rashes and cuts. I have some growing in my raised garden beds and as long as it doesn't take over, I leave it.

Sometimes when I'm watering my garden in the morning I get mosquito bites, so I just grab a leaf of the plantain, crumple it (some people suggest chewing it) to release the moisture inside and directly apply to the itchy spot. Within 5-10 minutes the itch and sting is gone. 

I like to have salve with me when I go out with my daughters, and I want to have some when the growing season is over, so I made some plantain salve. I'm happy to report that it works as well as directly applying the leaf. 

I apologize for the approximations in my recipe below. I just played around different recipes  until I had the consistency I liked. Because I use coconut oil that can be very soft to liquid in warm temperatures, I added a little more beeswax to help keep the salve in more solid form during warm summer weather.

Ingredients and Materials:
  • approximately 1 to 1 1/2 cups dry plantain leaves, chopped 
  • approximately 1 1/2 cups oil (I like coconut oil for skin care)
  • approximately 1-2 tablespoons beeswax 
  • essential oil of choice (I like tea tree oil for it's curing properties)
  • glass jar (I use mason jars)
  • fine strainer or cheese cloth
  • containers for the completed salve
  • double boiler or pot and stainless steel bowl or crock pot


  • Harvest the plantain leaves. If you must wash them, make sure they are dry so that the salve will last longer. Chop them into small pieces.

  • Place oil on the plantain leaves in a glass jar. Completely mix together.

  • Place the jar in a pot or crock pot with enough water to come almost to the top of the oil. Gently heat the mixture on very low heat for about 12 hours. I wasn't home long enough to do this in one go so I split the heating over two days. 
I added a cloth under my mason jar in the crock pot
so the glass wouldn't have direct heat on it.

  • Strain the plantain leaves from the oil and allow the oil to cool completely. 

  • Using a double boiler or pot of water and stainless steel bowl, melt the beeswax and add the plantain oil. Thoroughly mix. Add a few drops of essential oil of choice. 

  • Pour into small glass jars or stainless steel jars. Leave it to cool completely and store for future use. 
The salve is cooled and ready for use, which I have already
done with the salve in the mason jar. You can see how
hard my mixture is (had to use my finger to scape it) but
if you like it softer just use less beeswax. 


  1. You are so impressive! :D I have plantain and may need to do this. I also have mugwort which is good for poison oak. My boys came home from a nature awareness camp yesterday having made mugwort salve. Pretty darn cool!

    1. Nature awareness camp! How awesome is that.

  2. How very cool! I had no idea you could do this. Wonder if this can grow in the upper midwest?

    1. I'm pretty sure plantain grows all over North America, but I could be wrong. Here is is mistaken for a weed and people don't even give it a second look. Check in sandy areas, in playgrounds or near driveways, where is is often seen growing with wild abandon.