Friday 31 August 2012

Ribwort Plantain is Your Friend - Get Your Balls Rolling!

It's the last day of summer, a blue moon and I'm off in an hour or so for the last of the plant medicine 'surgeries' I've been holding at Bungay library community garden every Friday for the past few months. Between 1 and 3pm anyone can come and talk about plants as medicine, share knowledge and tips and visit the plant medicine bed.

These Friday sessions have formed part of Sustainable Bungay's Plants for Life project, which I've been curating this year.

As well as the central bed of the library garden showcasing a variety of medicine plants, the project also includes a monthly talk, walk or workshop on some aspect of plants as medicine. Authors, medical herbalists and biodynamic growers have given readings, shown us how to make great green teas, tinctures and oils and passed on invaluable tips for growing herbs. I have taken several groups on walks around Bungay exploring the medicinal value of the plants we call weeds.

Over the past month I've received so many requests from people asking which plants will help with insect bites and stings that I'd like to share some tips about a fabulous plant - it's common, handsome and grows everywhere. You probably step on it all the time.

When it grows unimpeded by human feet and its flowers shimmer in the light and breeze, you wonder why you never noticed it before. And it is truly a medicine chest.

And although summer is coming to a close, bites and stings will still be a possibility for some time yet, especially for those working on the land or in the garden, so...

Ribwort Plantain is your friend.

Bites and stings of bees, wasps, ants, nettles, mosquitoes, horseflies and fleas are alleviated by rolling a ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) leaf in your hand into a juicy ball, and applying it to the bite/sting.

The leaves of this friendly, common, handsome plant have been giving me a hand all summer and I've been recommending it to everyone.

It really works, often immediately, and is utterly safe. And usually not too far away.

I was stung on the neck by a wasp in a local shop and after making a very unmasculine shriek, I went home, rolled a plantain leaf and applied it to my neck. The pain disappeared immediately and there was no swelling.

So get those balls rolling! And love those plantains!

Note: This piece is adapted from a post I wrote earlier this week, itself an extract from a forthcoming, more extensive post about the plantains. UPDATE October 2013: More of my posts about and including plantain and its marvels can be found here.

Pics: ribwort plantain flowering; ribwort leaves; ribwort flower close-up; rolled ribwort plantain ball (all by Mark Watson)


  1. You can also entertain children on country walks with a variation of conkers played with plantains - on second thoughts Mark may not count that as "loving one's plantains"!