Yesterday the boys and I embarked on a bit of a herbology lesson by making our own plantain tincture. Plantain is a plant readily available in most areas, it is often found on less lush ground, covering it with it’s generous leaves, spikes pushing their way defiantly out of the clump. Like many ubiquitous plants (often called weeds) it has great healing properties and has the added benefit of being free!
Plantain is an astringent so helps with skin related problems such as bites, scratches or blemishes. A crushed leaf can help with a bite but the tincture is more concentrated and has the added benefit of apple cider vinegar which has it’s own beneficial properties (and can also be made at home). As an astringent (meaning something that draws together or tightens) it is a useful tea for loose bowels, avoid using the seed pods though unless you want to opposite affect! I initially saw this project here, and I thought it would be a great project for Huwyl to do almost independently. This is how we went about it.
First I showed Huwyl pictures of the plantain, he knew immediately where to find it and went dashing off only to return with a massive bunch of perfectly identified leaves! He washed them and we let them rest for a few minutes while he watched this video on Youtube, it gave an overview of the whole project but was short and to the point. I had already set up what he would need so he could get started right away.
A mezze luna isn’t a strictly necessary tool, you can use an ordinary knife to chop or even shred the leaf with your hands. The key thing is to break up the leaf so that the properties are released into the tincture. I do love this tool for working in the kitchen with children though, I wouldn’t give it to Neirin to use unless I was holding it too but Huwyl is more than capable of using it to cut up medicinal or cooking herbs. For Neirin I used a crinkle cutter than I picked up in a thrift store when Huwyl was about the same age, it gave him the chance to be safely involved and we thorough enjoyed working together while Huwyl worked independently.
I used a jam sized jar as I didn’t want the project to take too long, but honestly I think the boys would have happily chopped twice as much! Huwyl had to do a second run outside to get extra leaves and I’d estimate it took about 8-10 good sized leaves to fill the jar. We didn’t crush the leaves to really pack it down but we did fill it as much as we could before we added the apple cider vinegar.
The plantain leaves need to be covered with the vinegar to avoid mould and spoiling, this might be something you’ll need to top up over the time the tincture steeps. This tincture needs to sit in a dark cupboard for six weeks and be shaken twice a day , if it looks as though the liquid level is below the leaves then top it up and give it a good shake to blend with the tinctured vinegar.
If you are looking to do this project yourself here is a quick list of what you’ll need and how to do it:
Plantain leaves (collect big green leaves that look full of life!)
A clean jam jar with a lid that will close tightly
Apple cider vinegar. You will need a live vinegar such as Bragg’sin order to create a proper tincture, you will recognise a live vinegar as it has a sediment (called the ‘mother’ in the bottom) and it should be organic.
1. Chop or shred leaves (you could also bruise them with a rolling pin to release even more goodness)
2. Pack them into your clean jar, get as much in as you can without it spilling over the top.
3. Fill with vinegar.
4. Leave in a dark cupboard for 6 weeks, shake twice a day. I put a label on ours with the start date and the date it will be ready so that we don’t forget!
5. Decant by pouring into a sieve lined with cheesecloth, squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Put the liquid in a clean jar or bottle and keep in the fridge. You can use this tincture for cuts, scrapes, bites or blemishes, it can also be used as a skin toner but don’t use if you will be out in the sun or if you have very dry skin as vinegar and plantain are astringent.
While this project isn’t immediate gratification (no bad thing!) it does help to demonstrate to our children that good health isn’t something that comes out of a pharmacy or a pill box. We have access to so much goodness all around us, in hedgerows, on playgrounds or in your own garden. As well as being free this kind of herbalism is accessible to even young children, I can’t think of a better gift to give them!
If you are looking to continue sharing herbal knowledge with your children I’d highly recommend the wonderful game Wildcraft! It’s one of our favourites.