How to Use Plantain (Common Weed) to Soothe Bee Stings

How to Use Plantain (Common Weed) to Soothe Bee Stings

This is a topic that I’d been wanting to research more thoroughly… but not necessarily from personal experience. Unfortunately, fate decided otherwise, and I recently found myself dealing with a sting on my foot.

I didn’t actually see what stung me. I was walking across the yard in sandals, paying attention to where I stepped, when I noticed a small bumblebee on the clover in my path, so I skirted around and gave her a wide berth. In doing so, I apparently disrupted someone else and felt the telltale burst of pain that alerted me to the sting.

As the area started to swell and turn pink, I remembered that the plantain plant, a common weed, was supposed to help with stings. Luckily for me, the yard was abundant with broadleaf plantain.

How to Treat Bee Stings with Plantain Leaves

First, inspect the wound to check for a stinger. If there’s a stinger embedded in your skin, remove it prior to treating the sting for pain and swelling.

Next, pick a plantain leaf. You’ll be putting it in your mouth, so check it for bugs, residue, and anything else you don’t want to taste. If you have clean water on hand, you can rinse the leaf.

**Make sure the plantain isn’t growing in an area that’s been treated with pesticides or other chemicals.

Plantain poultice for bee sting

The next step is to chew the leaf to release the tannins, which are a naturally-occurring astringent found in plantain. You can also crush the leaf with your fingers, but chewing it is much more effective.

Plantain has a slightly bitter taste, but it’s mild and not too unpleasant. Chew the leaf for a few seconds to mash it up into a poultice, and then apply the paste onto the sting.

You’ll want to keep the poultice on the sting for about 20-30 minutes, so it’s best to use a bandage (or create a makeshift wrapping with whatever is on hand) to keep the crushed plantain in place.

I have very sensitive skin, and in the past, bee or wasp stings have resulted in blisters and, ultimately, a lasting scar. I was pleasantly shocked by how effective the plantain worked! My pain and discomfort faded within minutes. By the time I wiped away the plantain poultice, I could barely see the sting. No swelling, pain, or redness. It was a little itchy the following day, but it healed up quickly without any kind of skin reaction like I normally have.

Does Plantain Also Work on Bug Bites?

From my personal experience, not really. After having success with the sting, I applied the plantain poultice to a couple of fresh mosquito bites, but unfortunately, the plantain didn’t seem to help much at all. However, as I mentioned, my skin is more sensitive than most people’s, so you can try it for yourself and see if you have better luck.

Since crushed plantain does act as an astringent, it can (to some extent) help with lots of minor injuries to stop bleeding, reduce swelling and inflamation, treat burns, and pull venom or poison out the skin. It can even help with splinters and other small objects that get embedded under the skin.

Is the Plantain Weed Edible?

The leaves and seeds of the plantain are both edible. However, the leaves are not particularly enjoyable. Chewing them up for a quick sting poultice isn’t horribly unpleasant, but the leaves do have a slightly bitter taste and tend to get stuck in your teeth. I wouldn’t recommend them for salads or other meals.

The seeds, on the other hand, do have potential. Broadleaf plantain seed spikes are rather bland when eaten plain. But if you sauté them with some butter and olive oil and sprinkle a bit of salt to finish, the seeds adopt a slight nutty flavor for a healthy snack. The stems will maintain their bitterness, though, so the best way to eat them is to hold the seed shoot and use your teeth to strip off the seeds (imagine you’re eating mini corn on the cob).

Garden Tower Project

How to Identify Common Plantain Weeds

Once you know what you’re looking for, plantain is an easy plant to spot! Chances are, you’ve seen this weed everywhere.

There are over 200 species of plantain in just about every temperate ecosystem, even salt-tolerant varieties that have adapted to soils along the seaside. But the two most common types of plantain you’ll find in North America are the broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) and narrowleaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata).

Broadleaf Plantain Identification

The broadleaf plantain’s leaf has a wide, irregular oval shape with long, vertical veins traveling the full length from the base to the tip. The leaves grow outward in a compact rosette, making them easy to spot in a lawn.

Near the base, you’ll notice the leaf has a purple hue. The seed spikes start out green but darken to more of a purple-green as the seeds mature.

Broadleaf plantain leaf and seed identification

Narrowleaf Plantain Identification

Narrowleaf plantain also has easy-to-identify vertical veins, but the leaf is much narrower than the broadleaf plantain (no surprise, considering its name).

The seed spikes on the narrowleaf plantain are also different. This variation has a smaller, shorter cluster at the top of a long stem. It often has a little burst of small white flowers. There really aren’t enough seeds to make sauteéing and eating them worthwhile, so if you’re going to try eating plantain seeds, stick with the broadleaf variety rather than the narrowleaf.

When I was a kid, I saw these seed spikes everywhere! Empty lots, the outfield of the softball diamond, the field behind the playground at school… but I had no idea just how beneficial this weed was. You’ve probably seen them everywhere, too! After my firsthand experience using broadleaf plantain to treat an insect sting, I am welcoming this weed in my garden.

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Award-winning fantasy author, freelance writer, spiritual explorer, and sole founder of Green Witch Lunar Witch. She created her first website in 2016 and published her first novel two years later. Sara spends most of her time writing, creating, and daydreaming.