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The summer we got engaged, my husband and I went camping at a medieval event. Medieval events through The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) and The Empire of Medieval Pursuits (EMP) was a hobby that contributed to us meeting, and most of the events are weekend-long and involved tent camping at the site.
Amongst watching the battles — Steven usually participates in the non-choreographed armored combat, but not this particular weekend — and the socializing and the engagement pictures, the mosquitoes found me.
They always find me.
Steven and my friend who was taking the engagement pictures marveled at the size of the bites as they easily became the size of fifty cent pieces, all over my legs where the buggers got under my skirt.
Not that a fabric barrier would have stopped them. The little vampires have bitten me through jeans on multiple occasions.
I also have this terrible habit of scratching and picking. Dozens of bites will still be visible in the form of scars a year after I’ve been bitten sometimes because I’ve messed with them too much.
Very little relieves the itch, especially for long enough that the itchiness has passed. Nothing over-the-counter actually helps the bites go away quicker.
Then I found plantain. Not the banana-like fruit; the weed. No, not weed, you stoners. (I’m from Washington, okay? There’s a lot around here.) A weed that grows everywhere, probably even in your yard. If I crushed and tore it in my hands and then rubbed it on a bit, it worked.
This was big, people. No scars from those bites. No insane itch despite over the counter anti-itch or anti-histamine ointments. No waking myself up scratching in the middle of the night. (Yes, this level of reaction to a mosquito bite is an allergic reaction.)
Unfortunately its inconvenient. Going out at 2am when the need to scratch is interrupting sleep or trying to hunt for the plant in the constant drizzle is just not going to happen.
Until this salve.
This salve harnesses the power of plantain by infusing it in oil. I also added lavender, which is one of the safest and most soothing essential oils.
Only a couple of weeks after making it, a mosquito bit me right on the spot where my chest, collar bone, and shoulder meet. I put the salve on, and the relief was almost instant. Within hours it went from the size of a quarter to just barely bigger than the head of a sewing pin. I think I only had to put it on one more time, something like twelve hours later. It never needed it again.
Twelve hours of relief, people, and only two applications total to fix something that usually bothers me for days.
That’s a big deal.
This salve is a bit of a process because the plantain has to be dried and then infused in oil. I did a “cold” process for this, so it took a few weeks.
Plantain will either have short, broad leaves or long, narrow leaves depending on the variety. Both work, but I have a lot of the narrow leafed variety near my home so I used that.
Making the Oil
Fresh herbs contain a lot of water, which can make an oil go rancid, so always at least wilt your herbs for a few hours before infusing. I hung my plantain bunch to dry for about a week.
Once they’ve been wilted or dried, chop or crumble the plant and put it in a jar that can be capped tightly. You’ll want the jar to be filled a third to a half way with the herb. Cover the herb with an oil such as olive, almond, jojoba, castor, or fractionated coconut. Any skin-friendly liquid oil will work. Put a lid on and stick the jar in a windowsill (solar method) or your pantry (cold infusion). Give it a shake every now and then. Most sources say 4-6 weeks is best for getting the most out of the herb and into the oil, but some say as little as 2 weeks is still long enough to be effective. I did 4 weeks with this one.
When you’re done, strain the oil out into a measuring cup or a clean jar. Press the herbs to get everything out. I put my spent plantain into my compost pile when I was done with it.
Making the Bug Bite Salve
Now you’ll set up a double boiler. If you don’t have an actual double boiler, this can be as simple as a heat-proof bowl or pan set in a pot of simmering water. If it won’t melt, shatter, or release toxins it will work.
Put the infused oil in with beeswax; I do about 2 Tbs of beeswax for every 1/4 cup of oil, which seems to work well. The nice thing about this stuff is that if you don’t like the consistency, just melt it back down and add either more oil for a softer salve or more beeswax for a firmer one.
As it warms and melts, don’t hurry it along. You don’t want to boil the oil. Once it’s all melted, remove from heat and add lavender essential oil. The strength depends who you’re using it on; about 12 drops per ounce is a 2% dilution, and lavender is a pretty safe one to use even for children. You can use less if you want though. I used about 5 drops per ounce. The smell is still quite obvious, and I’d feel safe using this on my kiddo’s skin.
Immediately pour the mixture into tins or glass containers. Essential oils shouldn’t be kept in plastic. Beeswax cools quickly so don’t delay this step.
Further, keep in mind that beeswax is difficult to clean. Either use dedicated containers or be prepared to use plenty of dish soap. I don’t have dedicated containers yet, so I just used lots of Dawn.
Give the salve some time to cool, and then close and label the containers. Depending on the carrier oil, salves can easily last a year or more. If it smells funky, toss it out.
Here’s some things that will help you make this salve:
There you have it! A perfect salve for soothing the itch and discomfort of bites and stings. Enjoy!