Recently I was doing some research on plantain for an article I was writing for Resist Zine #47. I was mostly just trying to confirm things I already knew about plantain, which did indeed turn out to be factual. In the process though, I learned a lot of other things about plantain. Among them, that plantain can be used to treat plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of a ligament in the foot). As someone I love very much is dealing with symptoms of this, I decided that I would try making the suggested remedy. It seemed to me that the best method of application was a salve, so as soon as it warmed up enough that the plantain was actually growing in the yard, I picked enough to fill a pint jar.
To make a salve, you first need to make plantain infused oil. It seems everybody has their own method of making it but they’re all pretty similar. I read a few recipes and prepared mine as follows. I picked fresh plantain from the yard, then washed it in a colander. I cut the leaves into pieces about ½ – 1 inch square, then laid them out on paper to dry for a day. Once the leaves were somewhat dried, not dried out but drier than fresh, I packed them into a pint jar. I didn’t pack the leaves super tight in the jar, but tight enough that it was actually full. Then I poured in organic extra virgin olive oil until the leaves were covered. Using a chopstick, I agitated the leaves until air bubbles quit coming to the surface. I made sure the leaves were covered with oil, then capped it and wrote the date on the lid. (Actually, my girlfriend wrote it and you can see that the lid was already used for salsa once before)
Usually I wouldn’t post about a project until I finished it, but I’m pretty excited about this project, so I’m sharing what I’ve got done now. Part of the excitement is just how good it looks in the jar. I didn’t actually take a LOT of pictures of this process, but I figure once you know what plantain looks like, you can probably figure out how to pick, wash, chop and dry it. I’ll probably post an update later with pictures of the finished oil, and the salve making process. In the meantime, this is how to finish making your plantain oil.
Let the oil and leaf mixture sit for 6 weeks. Some recipes tell you to shake it every day, some don’t say anything about shaking it. I may shake it once in a while, but I don’t think it’s going to make or break the oil. After six weeks, strain the oil through cheesecloth to remove the leaves, and you have plantain oil.
To make a salve, gently heat the oil and add 1 tablespoon of beeswax to every ounce of oil. Pour into containers and allow to cool. Along with plantar fasciitis, this can also be used for chapped lips, bites and stings, diaper rash, canker sores and tooth aches.
The original article I wrote about plantain’s many uses is in Resist Zine #47, available here: http://www.resistinstrumentworks.com/buy-books–plans.html
UPDATE: (12/2/2014) Making Salve from the Infused Oil
Well I finally got around to making some salve from the plantain oil we made months ago.
I put a piece of cheese cloth over a wide mouth jar, holding it there with the lid ring, then poured the oil and leaves into it. Once most of the oil had drained through, I twisted the leaves into a ball in the cloth and wrung out the rest of the oil. I meant to do this a long time ago, but I couldn’t find my cheesecloth and since I already had two packages of it, I didn’t want to buy more. I never found it and finally bought more.
I heated the oil up on the stove in a camp cup. (I probably should have done this in a double boiler, but I didn’t bother for such small quantities) I did it 2 ounces at a time just because I’ve never done this before and wanted to make sure it turned out okay. While that was warming I shredded up some beeswax with a cheese grater. I figured it would be easier to measure that way. Then I just packed the shreds into a tablespoon. I broke it back up while putting it in the oil so it would melt faster. I constantly stirred the oil until the wax melted and then poured it into a baby food jar. I’d actually picked up some clearance baby food for that express purpose. It didn’t hurt that I’d just had a tooth pulled and couldn’t eat solid foods yet. When that one was done I made up another small batch.
Later in the day, when the salve had hardened I went to use some of it. It was pretty hard. It took a bit of work to get it out of the jar. Body heat started to thin it right away, but it was tricky to get a good amount out for a larger area. I think it’s probably the perfect consistency for a salve you’d use on your lips since body heat softens it just enough to get some on your finger for a small area. Or if you had it in a lip balm applicator it would probably work just as well that way. I think for future batches of salve meant for larger areas I’ll probably use a little less than a full tablespoon of beeswax.