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Plantain to the Rescue


by Shoshanna Easling of Shoshanna Gardens.com

May 2002

Being home-schooled, we had many opportunities to do things most kids just dream about. Dad and Mom were big into gardening. We canned thousands of jars every year. We always had acres and acres of vegetables.

Dad said if we picked the extras we could sell them and the money was ours. Starting very young, I would bring bushels of tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, and sweet corn to the end of our driveway to sell. I would get up at dawn to pick my fortune. Working hard in the early dawn light, filling buckets to the top, great drops of sweat would roll down my face, but I knew I had a reward coming. Soon I would be down by the creek selling my vegetables and making money for an ice-cream sandwich. Best of all, I could go swimming when I had the opportunity.

One day when there were no customers in sight, I made a running jump and flew through the air. The creek was cold and clear, a perfect summer day. There was an old buggy rail with honeysuckle vines climbing up the sides. There was also a wood retaining wall about 15 feet tall from which I jumped into the deep pool. Everything was going great.

But when my 59 pounds hit the water, it splashed up water onto a large hornet nest that was hanging on the retaining wall. As I sunk beneath the water, I was completely clueless to the angry nation of hornets that were waiting for my head to rise above the water. When my last breath of air was gone and my head parted the waters, the hornets went straight for my face—not just anywhere, but my eyes. Just like that, I was stung three times. Two stings were about one inch above my right eye, and the other was right below the eye lid. AAAAAAaaaaaaaaah! The pain was excruciating. It was like a knife splitting through my perfect moment.

I went under water and swam as far and fast as I could to hopefully trick the angry hornets. It worked, thankfully. As I came out of the water, my face was already swelling. In less than 5 minutes I looked like I had been through 10 rounds with Rocky Balboa.

About that time mom came over the bridge. Hearing my scream and seeing my distress, she could guess what happened. She came flying out of the car. Before I could even get over to her, she was on the ground chewing PLANTAIN leaves—as many as she could fit into her mouth. She had green slime running down her chin like it was going out of style. Before I knew it, Dr. Deb (Mom) had plastered that green slime all over my face. I looked like I was getting a French facial. In a matter of minutes the swelling had begun to subside and the pain was only a memory.

The leaves in the Plantago genus contain tannin and thus are astringent, able to draw tissues together. In Old World traditions, plantain was used as a remedy for cuts, sores, burns, snake and insect bites, and inflammation. A tea brewed from the seeds, which have a high mucilage content, was a widespread folk remedy for diarrhea, dysentery, and bleeding from mucous membranes.

Handy astringent

To make a very handy summertime insect bite astringent (which will replace the messy, green slime spit) simply put 1/3 dried plantain to 2/3 apple cider vinegar in a clean glass jar. Cap and keep in a cool dark place for 3 weeks, shaking daily. At the end of 3 weeks, strain the old herb off and bottle the vinegar tincture in an empty plastic dish-detergent bottle. Label it, and apply on any bite as soon as possible. This works as good as the green slobber, although it lacks the visible dramatics.


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