Nature’s cure for insect bites, grazes and cuts

Is there a cream or ointment that can be used for small injuries, such as insect bites, grazes or cuts? 

I would ideally like to have something natural in the medicine cabinet to help with these small ailments.

This is one area where I prefer to make my own balms, which is much easier than most people think. I make an all-purpose skin healing balm using a plant most people weed out from their lawns and gardens.

Plantain (either Plantago majora or Plantago lanceolata) is one of the most common herbs in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. In Irish plantain is known as Slán-lus, or ‘healing plant’, due to its long history in treating wounds, bruises, and bites.

First of all, you will need to identify plantain correctly – there are plenty of images on the internet, particularly on reputable herbal information sites, or you could check out a herb information book from the library to be on the safe side. One of the distinguishing features of plantain is the long ribs running from base to tip on the leaves.

Making a balm or salve is simply a case of 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 4-6 weeks. Once the oil has been infused, strain it thoroughly using a muslin cloth or clean tea towel.

You can experiment with various quantities of waxes and butters to find the consistency that you prefer (cocoa butter, shea butter, beeswax, soy wax, coconut oil). A basic recipe calls for equal parts of infused oil, butter, and wax all melted together in a double boiler or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. If you want to add essential oils, use a few drops of oils such as Roman or German chamomile or lavender, once the mixture has cooled slightly, stir in gently, and pour into a clean, sterile jar and seal tightly.

Native Americans found many uses for the plantain weed after it was brought over to North America by the English, calling it “White Man’s Footsteps” since it appeared to grow wherever the English went. They used it to treat wounds, boils, bruises, rheumatic pain, haemorrhage, snake bites, diarrhea, and chewed the root for toothache. Interestingly, the New Zealand Maori people referred to plantain as “Englishman’s Foot” for the same reason. In China, plantain is also used to help with childbirth, including to turn a breech baby.

Scientific studies have shown 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. The seeds have been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as being an effective laxative.

I am interested in the Paleo Diet, but am concerned about the amount of butter and fats.

In a nutshell, fats are important to our health. Saturated fats contain palmitic acid, myristic acid, stearic acid, and vaccenic acid – which have been shown to help reduce cholesterol, triglycerides, and protect heart health.

Paleo isn’t just about fats and meats though – it is about getting plenty of wholefoods, and balancing your plate with fibre-rich vegetables and greens as well. I suspect that many of the health benefits people experience when switching to this way of eating are as much a result of ditching processed foods along with eating ‘real’ food.

Since toxins and hormone residues are often found in the fat portion of animal milks and meats, it makes sense to choose organic and free range if you can. Healthy saturated fats have been shown to draw out the fat-soluble nutrients in leafy greens, herbs, spices, and vegetables – whether you stir fry in butter or add virgin, unrefined coconut oil to a green smoothie.


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