Plantain salve is surprisingly simple to make when you know a few key tips. This plantain salve recipe gives you all the guidance you need for an incredible first-aid salve.
The first time I followed a plantain salve recipe, I felt so proud of my first homemade herbal salve. But I didn’t know back then that my pale green salve could have been so much better.
You see, a great plantain salve should be very dark green. It should faintly smell of the herb, though that might be hidden by a safe dilution of essential oil. And it’ll be shelf-stable for at least a year, and usually more.
Since learning a few tricks and developing my own recipe, I now look at my finished salves and know they’re potent herbal remedies that are going to work.
So if you’re ready to make the best plantain salve recipe you’ve ever tried, I’ve got all the detailed steps you need!
How to Find and Identify the Herb Plantain for a Plantain Salve Recipe
Plantain is a very common plant with various species that grow all over the world. Here in North America, you’re most likely to find narrow-leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata) and broad-leaf plantain (Plantago major).
Both species grow in rosettes close to the ground. Narrow-leaf plantain has long, thin, deeply-veined leaves and sends up tall slender stalk and short seedhead. Broad-leaf plantain has wider leaves, shaped like spinach, and sends up a thicker, long seedhead with more seeds.
In my yard, broad-leaf plantain grows all over, but I sometimes find narrow-leaf.
Once you know how to spot plantain, you’ll probably see it everywhere. If you’d like more help identifying plantain, visit my article Your Guide to the Herb Plantain.
You can use narrow-leaf and broad-leaf plantain species interchangeably. They’ll both work equally well in this homemade plantain salve.
How Plantain Helps Your Skin
Plantain is a wonderful herb for many skin ailments. Bug bites and stings, rashes, and even skin infections can be eased by this humble plant! It offers many beneficial actions.
- Astringent: it helps tone and tighten the skin so wounds heal better.
- Anti-inflammatory: plantain calms redness and irritation so wounds and injuries are less painful and uncomfortable.
- Anti-microbial: it helps prevent the overgrowth of harmful microbes in skin injuries.
- Drawing: similar to its astringent action, plantain can help draw toxins (like insect venom) out of the skin.
- Vulnerary: plantain helps the skin to heal faster.
I like to reach for plantain anytime skin tissue is red, irritated, and maybe even swollen. It’s my go-to for painful cuts and scrapes, but I also love it for acne and red rashes that might even be a little weepy.
What Is an Herbal Salve?
No natural medicine cabinet or first-aid kit is complete without a good herbal salve. In fact, it’s one of the remedies I include in my book The Minimalist Natural Medicine Cabinet. You can use herbal salves on all sorts of skin and muscle injuries, similar to the way you’d use a conventional antibiotic ointment or sore muscle rub.
Herbal salves start with an herb-infused carrier oil that’s then thickened with a wax, like beeswax. Sometimes essential oils are added for extra healing properties, too. You can use herbal salves in place of over-the-counter antibiotic ointments.
A well-made herbal salve will last a year or two, depending on how well it’s stored and how careful you are about using clean fingers to apply it.
I always keep a small tin of herbal salve with me in my purse. Since salves are semi-solid, my travel salve won’t spill and make a mess while I’m out. And since I usually have children with me, I use that salve often!
The Best Plantain Salve Recipe: How to Make an Excellent Homemade Plantain Salve
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These detailed steps will give you all the guidance you need to make an amazing homemade plantain salve. You’ll end up with 4 ounces of salve, enough for one large tin or two travel-size tins.
Expect this project to take you at least 3 hours from start to finish, though most of that time is hands-off waiting time. Depending on how you choose to make your herbal oil, you might plan to start your salve one day and finish a day or two later.
At the bottom of this article, I have a printable recipe card for you that summarizes all of the steps. So after you’re comfortable with the details and photos I’ve shared below, you can just refer to the printed card to make your plantain salve.
What You’ll Need
Step 1: Choose the Best Plantain Leaves
Whenever you make an herbal product, you want to start with the best quality herbs available to you. Since plantain grows practically everywhere, this is very easy to do!
The best time to harvest plantain leaves is in the late spring and early summer. If you don’t get to it then, try later in the late summer and early fall. During these times, the leaves are fresh and deep green thanks to the mild weather and regular rain.
Only forage from unsprayed areas and away from roadsides. Look for leaves that are completely green, whole, and free from brown spots. You can pull them off the plant or snip them with scissors, leaving the root system in place so you don’t get your leaves dirty.
Once inside, check to be sure your leaves are clean. Rinse or brush off any dirt you might find. Then dry your leaves in a dehydrator or on drying screens until they’re no longer wilted or soft.
For best results, start making your herbal oil soon after your plantain is dry. But you can also store your dried plantain leaves away from sunlight and temperature changes, then use them within a year.
Step 2: Create a Potent Herbal Oil for Your Homemade Plantain Salve
Once you have your dried plantain leaf, it’s time to create your plantain oil! This is the foundation of your salve, so it’s important to make the best oil you possibly can.
Should You Use Fresh or Dry Plantain for a Salve?
But first, you might wonder why I don’t recommend using fresh plantain leaf to make the oil since many recipes online skip the drying step.
With a few exceptions (like St. John’s Wort), I never recommend using fresh plant material to make an herb-infused oil. Fresh herbs contain a lot of water, and that increases the chances your oil or salve will mold. Also, fresh herbs take up more volume, so you end up with less herbal material in your oil, a weaker finished herbal oil, and a less potent salve. No good.
Freshly dried plant material eliminates the spoilage risk and allows you to create a really concentrated herb-infused oil. That leaves you with a shelf-stable, powerful salve.
Which totally beats a barely green salve that might mold in a month or two.
How to Make a Potent Plantain Oil for the Plantain Salve Recipe
To make the herbal oil for your plantain salve, you’ll need
- 1 ounce freshly dried plantain leaf (about 1 cup crushed or cut and sifted leaf)
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil*
*You can use another carrier oil, but I like to pair grapeseed with plantain since it’s light, quickly absorbed, and also a bit astringent. Those qualities really compliment plantain’s actions! But other oils like coconut, olive, or almond will work very well, too.
Next, follow these steps to make your herbal oil:
- For best results, coarsely powder the plantain leaf in a coffee grinder. This creates more surface area on the plantain so more of its constituents can transfer to the oil. If you didn’t weigh your dried plantain on a kitchen scale, you should end up with around 1/2 cup of coarsely powdered herb.
- Add the coarsely powdered plantain leaf to a glass jar so it’s no more than halfway full, then add the oil. Stir to fully combine the herb and oil. Place a lid or cloth over the jar so nothing falls into it.
- Fill a small saucepan* halfway with water and place a folded washcloth or canning ring at the bottom. Place the jar on top so it’s not directly in contact with the pan bottom. Place the pan over low heat so the water steams and barely simmers, but doesn’t boil. Warming the herb and oil mixture while it infuses creates a more concentrated herbal oil.
- Allow the oil to warm and infuse for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days (turning the burner off at night). Add more water to the pan as needed.
*You can also do this in a small crockpot set on low and with the lid removed. You won’t need a canning ring or cloth at the bottom of the crock and can leave it on overnight. Add more water as needed.
- Once you’ve finished infusing the oil, remove the jar from the hot water and allow it to cool. Line a metal mesh sieve with a lint-free natural fiber cloth, like a few layers of cheesecloth, and place it over a glass measuring cup. Strain the oil through the cloth-lined sieve and squeeze out as much oil as you can.
You should now have a deep green herbal oil that’s full of plantain’s healing properties.
If you want to make your oil even more potent and so dark green it’s almost black, you can use an intermediary solvent before adding your carrier oil. I explain exactly how to do that in my article on how to make herbal oils. This extra step has totally transformed my oils and salves!
Step 3: Thicken to the Right Consistency
Once you’ve made your herbal oil, it’s time to thicken it so it becomes a plantain salve. The easiest way to do that is to melt in some beeswax pellets.
- For a softer salve that’s more like an ointment, add 2 tablespoons of beeswax pellets to the herbal oil in your measuring cup.
- For a firmer salve that’s more like a soft lip balm, add 3 tablespoons of beeswax pellets.
Next, you’ll need to add some gentle heat so the beeswax melts into the oil.
- Place a cloth or canning ring at the bottom of a small saucepan, just like you did when infusing the herbs into the oil. Fill the pan halfway with water. Very carefully place your measuring up in the pan, making sure to not get any water in the oil and wax mixture.
- Set the pan over low-medium heat so the water simmers but doesn’t boil. Stir the oil mixture until the wax has completely melted into the oil, being very careful to not splash any water into the oil. This usually takes around 10 minutes.
You can test the consistency of your salve by placing a small drop on a spoon and allowing it to cool completely. Rub the salve into your skin and see if you like the consistency. If it’s too soft, you can add more wax.
Carefully remove the measuring cup from the water and allow it to cool for around 5 minutes.
Step 4: Add Essential Oils for an Extra Boost
At this point, you could pour the melted salve into a container and get excellent results. But to give my plantain salve an extra boost, I like to add tea tree essential oil before pouring the salve into storage tins.
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is a perfect complement to plantain because it offers many of the same benefits, plus extra antimicrobial action. It’s a versatile essential oil for many first-aid needs, which is exactly what we’re going for with this salve.
It’s important to add the essential oil at a safe dilution, though. Adding too much can leave you with an irritating salve that actually does more harm to damaged skin. For this plantain salve recipe, use the following guidelines.
- You can use up to 120 drops in this recipe for a 5% dilution. This is safe for older kids (think 8-10 years old and up) and adults when applied over a small area for a short amount of time, which is what you do with a salve.
- A 3% dilution (72 drops) works well for kids 4 years old and up, as well as those with sensitive skin.
- If you want to use this salve on younger children (ages 1-4) or anyone with very sensitive skin, you can reduce the tea tree oil by half, using 36 drops for a 1.5% dilution.
Once you add your essential oil to the melted salve, thoroughly stir them together so the essential oil is evenly diluted. You don’t want to end up with little pockets of concentrated essential oil.
If you plan to use the salve on infants under 12 months, I recommend leaving out the tea tree essential oil completely or using 12 drops (.5% dilution) of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Babies have extremely sensitive skin and immature detoxification pathways, so it’s very important to be cautious when using essential oils on or around them.
My resource The Essential Oils Quick Reference Guide gives you at-a-glance guidance on safely using and diluting essential oils. I use the Master Dilution Chart any time I’m creating a skincare product!
Step 5: Final Touches & Storage for Your Homemade Plantain Salve
Once you’ve melted the beeswax into your herbal oil and added tea tree essential oil, it’s time to pour out the herbal salve into your storage containers and add the finishing touches.
The salve might start to cool and harden in the glass measuring cup as you pour it out. That’s okay! You can either scrape it out and add it to your container while it’s semi-solid, or place the measuring cup back in warm water to melt the salve again.
Allow your salve to cool and harden in the container for at least an hour before adding the lid. Label the bottom of the container with the name of the salve, the ingredients you used, and the date you made it. Labeling the bottom of the container makes sure you always know what’s inside, even if the lid gets lost.
So for this plantain salve, you might write:
“Plantain Salve: Plantain-infused grapeseed oil, beeswax, tea tree essential oil (3% dilution). Made month/year.”
Store your salve away from direct heat and light sources. Always use a clean finger to apply the salve so it doesn’t get contaminated with dirt and harmful microbes.
What Is Plantain Salve Good For?
As I previously mentioned, you can use your plantain salve on almost any skin injury or irritation. It will soothe and help heal things like
- Itchy rashes
- Kitchen burns (apply the following day after the burn doesn’t feel hot)
- Dry skin
- Surface bruises
- Insect bites
You can apply the salve as often as you need to get relief. You can also apply an adhesive bandage over the salve so it doesn’t get wiped off, just like you would with any other antibiotic ointment.
I’m always amazed at how well this salve works when I apply a thick layer over a painful cut, then cover it with a bandage at night. It always feels and looks so much better in the morning!
Printable Recipe Card: The Best Plantain Salve Recipe
- 1 ounce coarsely powdered plantain leaf (Plantago major, P. lanceolate), approximately 1/2 cup (see Notes)
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or other fixed carrier oil)
- 2-3 tablespoons beeswax pellets
- Tea tree essential oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- Clean coffee grinder
- Small glass jar with lid
- Small-medium saucepan
- Metal mesh sieve
- Lint-free cotton cloth
- 4-ounce jar or tin with lid, or two 2-ounce containers
- Place the plantain leaf powder in a small glass jar and pour the oil over top. Stir to thoroughly combine the oil and herb. Cover the jar with a lid
- Place a folded washcloth, small kitchen towel, or canning ring at the bottom of a small-medium saucepan. Fill the pan halfway with water and place the jar in the pan so it's resting on the washcloth or canning ring. Set the pan over low heat so the water steams and barely simmers, but doesn't boil.
- Allow the plantain to infuse into the oil for at least 3 hours, but up to 3 days (turn off the burner at night). Add more water to the pan as needed while the oil infuses.
- Remove the jar from the pan and allow it to cool slightly. Strain the oil into a glass measuring up through a metal sieve lined with a lint-free cotton cloth. Squeeze out as much oil as possible.
- Add beeswax to the oil in the measuring cup, using more wax for a firmer salve. Place the measuring cup back in the saucepan of water and set over low-medium heat. Stir the oil and wax while it warms until the wax completely melts. Be careful to not splash any water into the oil mixture.
- Remove the melted salve from the pan and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add tea tree essential oil (see Notes) and stir to thoroughly combine.
- Immediately pour the salve into one 4-ounce container or two 2-ounce containers. Allow to cool for an hour before capping, labeling, and storing.
To coarsely powder your plantain leaf, grind it in a clean coffee grinder.
Use the following essential oil dilution guidelines for your salve:
- For a 5% dilution, use 120 drops. This is a good all-purpose salve dilution for anyone ages 12 and up.
- For a 3% dilution, use 72 drops. This also makes a good all-purpose salve, but is better for children ages 4 and up.
- For a milder 1.5% dilution that's suitable for children ages 1-3 or those with very sensitive skin, use 36 drops.
- For infants, eliminate the tea tree oil or use 12 drops (.5% dilution) lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia) instead.
With these step-by-step instructions and helpful tips, you can now say goodbye to pale green homemade plantain salves of the past.
Instead, it’s time to say hello to gorgeous, deep salves that are practically bursting with plantain’s healing goodness. That’s the power of the best plantain salve recipe!