Plantain (Plantago major—not the banana-like fruit!) is one of my favourite herbs, but not for the reasons you might think. I like it because I see it everywhere, growing in alleys and public parks, and I just think it’s a fun thing to see something so useful thriving everywhere. It’s like the sparrow of herbs! It’s also sort of fun to point it out to people as most people just think of it as a nameless weed. Today we’re turning that backyard weed into a really neat Plantain Chamomile Ointment—it’s got a great vaseline-y/ointmenty consistency and is great for summer scrapes and bug bites.
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Plantain has a long history of use in wound healing. “P. major contains biologically active compounds such as polysaccharides, lipids, caffeic acid derivatives, flavonoids, iridoid glycosides and terpenoids. Alkaloids and some organic acids have also been detected. A range of biological activities has been found from plant extracts including wound healing activity, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, weak antibiotic, immuno modulating and antiulcerogenic activity.” (source)
P. major has been used to boost healing and stave off infection for centuries, and was “described by the Greek physician Dioscorides in ‘De materia medica’ in the first century” (source), while groblad, the Norweigan and Swedish name for the plant, translates as “healing leaves”. Traditional healing uses include mixing it with honey and applying it to the skin, or cooking it with butter and eating it. It even makes an appearance in Romeo & Juliet!
Scientific studies have also demonstrated the efficacy of P. major, finding wounds treated with plantain extract healed faster than wounds treated with a commercially available ointment. The study concluded “P. major extract showed good effects on wound healing processes rendering it a promising candidate for the treatment of wounds what also justified its traditional usage in wound treatment.” (source). Cool, eh? If you want to learn more I’d recommend The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activities of Plantago major L. A review and Evaluation of healing wound and genotoxicity potentials from extracts hydroalcoholic of Plantago major and Siparuna guianensis as some great continued reading!
The other herb we’re using is Matricaria recutita L., aka German Chamomile. Chamomile is another one of those used-for-centuries herbs that has some good scientific evidence demonstrating its efficacy. “In the pharmacological study in humans, ointment containing matricaria flower extract was more effective than 0.1% hydrocortisone (anti-inflammatory synthetic drug) in reduced chemically-induced toxic dermatitis”, and “In another clinical study, after 2 weeks of treatment of patients with medium-degree atopic eczema, effectiveness of creams containing matricaria flower extract was superior to that of 0.5% hydrocortisone cream with respect to the symptoms of pruritus [itching skin], erythema [redness due to irritation or injury] and desquamation [peeling skin].” (source). So, when it comes to soothing irritated skin and helping it heal, Matricaria recutita L. is pretty great, and has been shown to out perform hydrocortisone creams!
All of that is to say there’s some good evidence supporting the use of plantain as a healing ingredient, and chamomile as a skin soothing ingredient and healing support. I love it when awesome plant-based ingredients have scientific studies standing behind their awesomeness.
We’re thickening the herb infused oils with a blend of cera bellina and cetyl alcohol. Cera bellina is a modified beeswax that gives this salve its amazing ointment-y consistency. You could use beeswax or 2g of a c-wax (candellila, carnauba) instead, but you’ll lose that super cool soft-peaks ointment thing. Cetyl alcohol helps further thicken the ointment while also helping cut the greasiness that cera bellina can bring. A touch of mango butter rounds the whole thing out, for a bit of thickening power and faster absorption.
Once you’ve got the ingredients it comes together wonderfully easily; weigh, melt, stir, voila. Enjoy your Plantain Chamomile Ointment!
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Plantain Chamomile Ointment
3g | 0.1oz cera bellina (USA | Canada)
8g | 0.28oz plantain infused grapeseed oil
6g | 0.21oz chamomile infused olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada)
3g | 0.1oz mango butter (USA / Canada)
0.4g | 0.014oz cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
0.1g | 1 drop Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Weigh the cera bellina, infused oils, mango butter, cetyl alcohol, and vitamin E oil into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
Once everything has melted, remove the measuring cup from the heat and dry the outside of it off with a dish towel. Set the measuring cup on a towel or hot pad to insulate it from the counter and stir the mixture with a flexible silicone spatula to combine everything.
Set the hot pad aside to help the ointment cool faster, stirring occasionally (I sat it next to me while I worked on some writing, giving it a stir every couple minutes). Make sure you scrape down the sides of the measuring cup and re-incorporate those bits as they’ll set up faster than the main body of the ointment.
Once the ointment has thickened up to an ointment-y consistency, transfer it to a jar or tin. I used these lovely little 25mL amber glass ones from Voyageur, but something else like a 30mL/1 ounce tin would also work (there will just be some more head room).
Wondering how to make your own herb infused oils? Learn how here! You can substitute another lightweight oil like sweet almond or sunflower seed for the grapeseed oil.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this salve is 100% oil based, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Kept reasonably cool and dry, it should last at least a year before any of the oils go rancid. If you notice it starts to smell like old nuts or crayons, that’s a sign that the oils have begun to oxidize; chuck it out and make a fresh batch if that happens.
- If your herbs are already infused in a different carrier oil, go ahead and use that—just keep in mind that heavier oils will make for a greasier salve, and it’s already pretty oily as written
- You can use shea butter or cupuacu butter instead of mango butter, but both will make for a greasier final product
- You can use beeswax instead of cera bellina, but it will drastically impact the consistency of the final product—it won’t be an ointment anymore, just a soft salve
- You can use more cera bellina if you don’t have cetyl alcohol, but this will result in a heavier final product
I made an ointment using this Healer (Plantain) earlier this year ! It is like Neosporin..I used plantain , Comfrey ,ground Ivy, Yarrow, Calendula,and rosemary leaf..and the most wonderful Cera Bellina! It turned out so good!! I don’t make any salve without Cera Bellina since you introduced it here in the “Bill’s Lavender Salve” Which I love ..and have made Rose And a Jasmine using That recipe ! Thanks Marie!
That sounds like a fantastic all-purpose salve! I’m so smitten with cera bellina these days—that consistency is da bomb!
Ha, I actually had all the ingredients at the ready. Just that everything was infused in olive oil. I added some chamomile, helichrysum and carrot seed essential oils (taking a cue from your scar salve). It now has a pretty green tinge to it because of the chamomile). Thanks for a timely recipe. (Hubby fell off his bike).
Oooh, lovely! I hope your husband heals up quickly 🙂
Used chamomile tea for bronchitis an bad cough ,cough was gone in 1 hr after 4 days of antibiotics
I’d guess the calming nature helped your throat relax and stop spasming while the antibiotics did their work on the root cause 🙂
Making this in a few minutes. I had to pick some plantains from my weed yard yesterday and quick dehydrate and infuse.
I love the Cera Bellina basic recipe. You can do anything with it, medical or fragrance wise.
I bought a product last month called Hilurlip from Lotion Crafter and made a lip ointment. I used your other recipe as a base and it’s a winner.
Thank you again, Marie!
Oooooh, adding Hilurlip to my Lotion Crafter dream list LOL. There’s so much there to drool over that it’s downright intimidating! Thanks for making with me, Cristie 🙂
I do love that site.
After approx a month of use, all day every day, disregarding balms and glosses for now, I’m seeing results. I kinda like my lips. They’re now like when lips get dry but not dry dry and plumper. Like when you first wake up in the morning when they’re smooth and juicy under the skin. My old lips could almost disappear.
Have a great and relaxing time in Manitoba. Love your stories of it, waaaay back in the old posts. Post more pics!
I just got some! I was in NYC so I had an order shipped to my agent. 6mL is really not a lot, haha. I made a quick lip gloss thing with it and we shall see how it goes over the next couple weeks. Any other recommendations? I have another USA trip coming up so I could place another order if I do it in the next day or so!
I knew from your newsletter that you got some! I just new you did from your first reply, above.
My lips are smoother and kinda younger looking. I think about it and lips get more action daily than any other muscle area! Talk talk talk kiss talk. Eat talk talk.
I stocked up on those hydrolized proteins you always suggest. And most of the extracts. I use your face cream recipe, then add extracts supposed to be good for skin. I will NOT grow old ungracefully!
I also bought something called Gladback. Add that to my face cream too. My skin hasn’t peeled off from all these additions yet. 😉
I love Lotion Crafter. Glad you were able to shop there! Hurry up and come back to my country!
Did you say agent? You writing another book, woman? Say yes.
Working on it! I just need some sort of brilliant idea and a clone 😛
I Love that you Love Plantain. Both the narrow leaf, and broad leaf grow in our lawn, (and all over really.) If the kids get stung by a bee, before I even console them, I’m hunting for it to chew up quick, then spit on my child. They freak out because I just spat on them, and they’re all sad, wondering how I could ever do such a thing when they’re so low, but it works wonders. Within minutes the swellings gone, and so is the pain. Great on mosquito bites and hives. I want this ointment for when the snow’s on the ground.
My yard, too! Though I think most of mine is covered in varying amounts of dog pee, so I don’t see myself chewing it up anytime soon LOL! I will have to keep that trick in mind for our upcoming trip to Manitoba—the mozzies are brutal out there.
First of all, I love your site and beginner’s course and have shared them with friends and members of various beekeeping groups since beeswax is a frequent ingredient in your formulas.
I have a question about making infusions. Can I use 100% chamomile flower tea in bags to make an infused oil?
Thanks so much for reading, JoAnne! Assuming those tea bags are just plain ol’ chamomile (and it seems they are), that’s the same thing as using dried chamomile from any other source, just with no added need to strain the oil after the infusion 🙂 Happy making!
Thought so. Thanks for your prompt reply!
I am also a devoted plantain user. I wear contact lenses, which make my eyes really sensitive and easily irritated; plantain infusion is wonderful for strained and irritated eyes. Plants that are not showy are often really powerful.
I must tell you your blog is really inspiring!
Have you ever tried soapnut to wash hair? I simply pour a decoction over my hair and scalp, but there must be a way to make it more ”shampoo” like.
Shortly after writing this blog I went to Manitoba and felt positively stalked by plantain—it’s everywhere in Riding Mountain National Park! I haven’t worked with soapnut at all, actually; I’m experimenting with syndet shampoos currently 🙂
Hello I am allergic to grapeseed what else might I use to infuse the herb.
Here’s a guide to help you choose something you already have 🙂
Amazon says the plaintain leaf you link to is unavailable and they don’t know when or if it will be available again. Do you have an alternate brand you recommend?
Have you tried your local health food store? You can often get dried plantain from the bins in the bulk section 🙂
This is my first time using cera bellina and my mind is blown! I have a million herbs (I’m an herbalist) and this base recipe for an ointment is exactly what I needed. Thank you!
Can cera bellina wax be used to make scalp balm to have the effects of a hair grease?
You can certainly try it, but I suspect you will have to do quite a bit of experimenting to get exactly what you’re looking for 🙂 Happy making!
This question is actually about the encyclopedia page for Grapeseed oil, but that page does not have a comment section. I was surprised to see that its shelf life per the encyclopedia is 2 years, when most other websites list it at 3 months. I was wondering if this has to do with it being refined or not? When I have used it in soap, I have gotten DOS and yellowing all over the soap.
2 years is what New Directions Aromatics states, and it is in line with my experience. I’ve never had grapeseed oil expire within 3 months, both on its own and in products 🙂
Hi! I’ve been making this for a few years now, and I follow the recipe exactly – But I usually get more of a balm/salve than an ointment. I usually don’t stir it while it’s cooling, could that be the problem? I always just dump it directly into jars while warm!
Yup, that’s it 🙂
Hi Marie 🙂
This ointment looks amazing, and I’m so eager to try it…but with a bit of a twist. I’m making an ointment/balm for a newborn who has yet to make an appearance. Diaper area ointment, to be specific. I’ve already infused a mixture of grapeseed and sunflower oil with dried calendula, chamomile, lavender and marshmallow root. I don’t have cera bellina, but I do have Candelilla wax, beeswax and cetyl alcohol. So I have 2 questions. Do you know if Cetyl alcohol is a safe ingredient for a newborn’s skin? And question 2…if I want to keep the soft ointment consistency, should I use 2 grams of Candelilla wax with the cetyl alcohol? I’m getting myself a little confused. LOL Thanks so much for any insights you have.
Hi Lisa! Cetyl should be fine for baby skin—I don’t have any worries about it. You can always read ingredient lists for commercially available baby products and see what they’re using. Cerave’s baby lotion contains both cetearyl and cetyl alcohols, for example.
Candellila and cetyl are both thin, silky thickeners—neither make for ointment-y products on their own. Beeswax would be the better choice instead of the cera bellina; try a 1:1 swap.