Suzanne Lindgren

Ah, summer has arrived at last. I’m reveling in the warm temperatures, the sound of peepers at night and the first garden blooms. I’m looking forward to the glow of fireflies and the drama of evening thunderstorms.

When it comes to summer, what’s not to love?

Well, ticks, for one. This time of year I usually find at least on wood tick crawling on me every day. And at least a few times a year I don’t seem to find them fast enough. By then, they’ve bitten.

Then there are mosquitos, bees, hornets, wasps. And let’s not forget poison ivy. 

Call me a pessimist. Or just the mother of a two year old whose blood is preferred by nine of 10 mosquitos, and whose magnetic attraction to un-mowed patches of lawn leads, inevitably, to a rash.

There is a so-called weed, it’s probably in your yard right now, that can help with all of the above. It’s plantain — not the banana-like staple of tropical diets. Latin name plantago major, it’s a broad leaved, inconspicuous plant. If you’ve noticed it, it’s probably because of tall seedpod, which rises tall into the lawn.

The leaves, found somewhere in almost every yard or green space, can be used to relieve stings and take the itch out of bites and rashes. The quickest and cheapest way to use plantain is to make a poultice by chewing the leaf up and applying the chewed leaf to the sting. I know, I know, it sounds a little gross. But is it worse than a bee sting? You decide. 

I taught my nieces to do this and they used the method successfully on a friend’s wasp sting. No need to go crying for an adult.

There is another way that involves a little elbow grease, but no spit.

Plantain Anti-Itch Oil

Harvest your plantain. I try to get at least a couple cups worth, and then I have some to share. Rinse, then let wilt for at least a few hours and up to a day. Put the wilted leaves in a food processor or blender. 

If you have vodka, put in a tablespoon or two and give the mixture an initial blend. You don’t need much alcohol, in fact it’s not entirely necessary, but it will help the extraction process and will also preserve your end product.

Then, add olive oil at about a one-to-one ratio to the plantain (basically, enough to cover the plant well). Blend thoroughly. 

Put the mixture in a jar and put the jar in a cupboard. Light and heat make oil go rancid faster, so avoid the windowsill or other sunny spots. Let sit two weeks. (Unless you need it sooner. I cracked into mine after 36 hours and it worked.)

After two weeks, strain the plant matter out and bottle the remaining oil. Use as needed. A little goes a long way!

I welcome your response to this editorial column:


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