Saturday, February 12, 2011

Summer's end meets winter's middle

During the summer I'm busy with trying to tame parts of my yard into vegetable and herb gardens. They are always usually partly wild and would turn on me in a twinkling if I left them to their own devices for too long. It was a challenge to find spots in our tree-lined lawn that gather enough sun during the day to support a garden. But I did find a few, and let me tell you, these spots prefer sprawling weeds over neat plots of specifically-intended plants.

Anyhoo, I digress. What I wanted to say, was that I turn the herbs I grow into salves and teas and whatnot. There is one particular weed which I don't mind, and I encourage its growth right next to a little rosebush where it decided to show itself. This weed is plantain. It is the best thing in the whole world for poison ivy. The only problem is, I haven't been able to make a plantain salve that works on poison ivy the same way a freshly picked and smooshed-up leaf rubbed on the rash works. So as summer waned, I decided to try making a tincture with plantain.

Making salve involves heating fresh or dried herbs gently in a carrier oil, thereby infusing the oil with whatever good things the herb possesses. Tincturing, on the other hand, involves a food processor, vodka, and a dark closet. The herb is chopped up into a pulpy glop, vodka is added, and the vodka-glop mix is left in a dark closet for a couple of weeks - shaken now and then - so that the herb can release all of its goodness into the alcohol. When done, the mixture is strained and pressed, the vodka tincture is saved, and the left-over herb mash is composted.

At the end of last summer, I made a tincture with plantain. I've been intending to make a lotion with it to see if the lotion will work to sooth poison ivy. But fall came, and then winter, and I was busy with other things, and all of the poison ivy in the area dropped its leaves and went to sleep.

The tincture has been sitting in my dark closet all this time, unused - until last night. Yesterday, a spot on the back of my thumb became suddenly itchy. The itchiness progressed as the day wore on, and in the evening, when I snuggled down with a book, the itchiness began to drive me nuts. I looked at my thumb and it was red, irritated, a little swollen, and had a little spot which looked suspiciously like maybe it was a spider bite.

I seriously needed something to soothe whatever was happening there, just below the knuckle, and it was just then that I remembered my plantain tincture. I dashed to the closet and undid the lid. The dark-green tincture smelled like summer, somehow. All herby and plant-like. I rubbed some on my thumb and the itchiness faded. The area was still sensitive, but the urge to itch disappeared. I put some more on before I went to bed, and again this morning.

The itch is gone as long as I don't accidentally wash the tincture off. If I do, more goes on again. I don't like spider bites, but I love my plantain tincture. I'm really glad I made it all those months ago and it was ready for me to use now, in the dead of winter with snow deep on all of the places where my wonderful plants are waiting for spring.


Adrienne said...

Great discovery. It's amazing all the medicinal uses for plants - and it's impressive people actually find their uses, especially considering all the processes you have to go through.

ICQB said...

Hi Adrienne!

I can't take credit for the discovery - I found it in my researches. But I always get poison ivy, so it's nice to have relief on hand : )

Anonymous said...

Food processor, vodka, and a dark closet, huh? Sounds more like a fat kid having a bad day than it does a recipe!

ICQB said...

Hi Anonymous!

Well, when you put it that way...