What do you recommend for wasp stings? My three-year-old got a sting on his neck last week and was very distressed. I want to have a remedy on hand for future emergencies.
Wasp stings are very stressful at any age, especially because the wasp will keep on stinging if it is able, unlike the bee which can only sting the once. I will assume that your son is not allergic to bees or wasps, since you haven’t mentioned anaphylaxis in your question — as this is an entirely different situation needing medical attention.
There are a couple of natural remedies that you might like to have on hand in the incidence that your son is stung again. The first is a homeopathic remedy, to be taken internally, called Apis mellifica.
Apis is generally recommended where the issue is a bite or sting, but can also be prescribed to help with other conditions where the symptoms include swelling, itching, stinging, and burning — such as sunburn and hives.
The second remedy is a good all-purpose balm based on a simple herb that any people pull as a weed. Plantain (you can use either Plantago majora or Plantago lanceolata) is considered to be one of the most commonly found herbs world wide. If you are in a situation where you have nothing on hand, plantain can be chewed and used as a ‘spit poultice’ on a wound, rash, sting, or burn.
It is important that you first identify plantain correctly if you are to make your own balm. Both types of plantain I have mentioned have long ribs running lengthwise on the leaves from base to tip — Plantago majora is a broadleaf, whereas Plantago lanceolata has a long lance-like leaf.
This is easily confirmed simply by typing in one or both botanical names into an image search online, or you can check at your local library if you prefer paper over digital resources.
In Irish, plantain is known as Slàn-lus, or ‘healing plant’, due to its long history in treating wounds, bruises, and bites. Native Americans called plantain White Man’s Footsteps since it appeared to grow wherever the English went; the New Zealand Maori people referred to it as Englishman’s’ Foot for similar reasons.
Throughout the world, plantain has long been used to treat bites from insects, snakes, scorpions and spiders, as well as being used as a remedy for worms, haemorrhoids, sores, painful feet, menstrual flow regulation, jaundice, gout, inflammation, ulcers, ringworm, shingles, kidney disorders, lymph node swelling, eye health, gum health, bladder complaints, diarrhoea, headaches, coughs, ’flu, fever, earache, sunburn, rashes, cuts, blisters, dandruff, acne, strains and sprains.
Scientific studies have proven that plantain is indeed a very versatile medicinal plant. It has anti-inflammatory effects, helps to staunch bleeding, and contains allantoin, which promotes skin cell repair.
You can make your own balm by infusing the freshly gathered herb in oil, and then using this as a base for your preparation. Pick the plantain on a dry day, brush off any loose dirt or insects, chop it coarsely and fill a clean, dry glass jar with the chopped leaves.
Pour oil (olive is good) over the herb until the plantain is completely covered then screw the lid on. Label the jar — plant name, date, and type of oil you have used. Infuse at room temperature for four to six weeks. Once the oil has been infused with the plantain, strain it thoroughly using a muslin cloth or clean tea towel.
Most balms call for a combination of beeswax and infused oil (around 80% oil to 20% wax), but some also contain nourishing butters such as cocoa or shea butter. You can also add pure essential oils for additional healing benefits — lavender, manuka, or tea tree — but this is not necessary, the balm will be very effective either way.
Stir any essential oils (around 20-40 drops per 50ml) in gently to the melted balm base, then pour into a clean, sterile jar and seal tightly when cooled. If you don’t fancy making your own balm, or you simply don’t have the time or space, then you can usually find plantain balm or cream at your local health store.
NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a subsitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.