Several summers ago, I was bitten by a brown recluse spider. I set about researching online. Most of the information I initially found pretty much told me that I was out of luck – that unless I had made it to the doctor almost immediately, I would just have to suffer the effects of the poison. And from the way my body was responding to the bite, I was guessing that I was going to lose a good-sized chunk of my thigh.
Then I happened upon this article: http://www.highway60.com/mark/BRS/linda_bite.htm. It is a pictorial story of a woman’s experience with a brown recluse bite. The pictures are scary-looking, but they also show clearly that things really turned around when this woman started using plantain poultices.
I started using a plantain poultice the day I found Linda’s story. Jonathan went out and found a bunch of plantain and chopped it in the Cuisinart (because neither of us wanted to chew on that much plantain!), and added a smidge of filtered water to make a paste. We then applied the paste to my bite and covered it with a wet washcloth (as hot as I could stand). I wrapped in all up in an ace bandage to hold it together. I don’t know if it was my fertile imagination, but it seemed that I could feel that plantain going to work! We could see a difference in my brown recluse bite within about 6 hours. We continued using the poultice several times a day until it was obviously not needed.
The next summer, our oldest son was bitten by a brown recluse. It was several days before he showed us his bite, but as soon as he did, we started using the plantain. Right away, the reaction started to go down and it worked toward healing.
A plantain poultice is made using plantain, which is, to my knowledge, the most common yard plant in North America next to dandelions. Yes, plantain is a kind of super-banana that grows in South America. I don’t know why a common yard plant in North America shares the name.
One type of plantain has a rounded leaf, similar in shape to a baby spinach leaf. The other has a longer, skinnier leaf. The main distinctive about plantain leaves is that their veins are parallel, rather than branching off in many directions.
While the two types of plantain seem to be equally effective, I find that I prefer to use the rounder variety. The skinny variety seems more “veiny” and is harder to chew.
Plantain seems to be effective in reducing reactions to any sting or insect bite. For smaller bites and stings, I get a couple leaves of plantain, chew them up into a mush, and put on the bite. If we’re at home, I’ll take the time to rinse them off, but if we’re without water, I don’t worry too much about it. I’d rather stave off a huge reaction to a bite or sting.
We have used plantain many times for bites, stings, and even for snake bites. The Blessings are trained to go find plantain and chew it up to stick on themselves. It has saved us many extended recoveries.