Saturday, 29 August 2015

Making plantain balm

I usually call this plantain ointment, but the husband thinks "balm" sounds more soothing. And as this is some very soothing stuff, we'll go with that.

Plantain ointment, oops! I mean balm is good medicine for the skin, especially for those of us who work with our hands. Gardening hands, dry wood stove feeding hands, dog-walking in the cold without gloves hands. I like it for hang nails, too. It's fantastic for rough feet and of course it is so good for haemorrhoids that I'm tempted to call it "Preparation P.". But that just sounds weird, so I won't.

Generally I only make a small amount of this at a time and eyeball the amounts, but since these are samples to send out for feedback, I had a more professional, assembly line set up going on today:

I am rarely this organized

Paper towels, by the way, are your friends when messing about with oil and beeswax.  Note the cheese grater in the background of the above pic. That is my dedicated beeswax grater. I don't even try to wash it, it would be nigh on impossible. I use the coarse side to grate the bars of beeswax. I am told that craft stores sell "beads" of beeswax - that sounds a lot easier! - but grating isn't too difficult really. Just go slow, always know where your knuckles are and no one gets hurt.

I also have a dedicated pot for making these balms. Second hand stores are also your friends when you're messing about with oil and beeswax. You want a good snug fit to your (in my case contrived) double boiler. Do not let that water boil, just barely hot is fine. Any escaping steam will add moisture to your balm and that messes it up.

In this case I used a cup of infused oil. When it got to just above body temperature, I added my wax a bit at a time, which as you can see here was in the tin pie plate near by. I use my finger to stir - that is not as alarming as it seems if you're careful. If it is too hot for your finger, it is too hot for the infused oil; you'll lose some of that herbal goodness.

I'm so glad I cleaned my stove before doing this. If I hadn't, there is no way I'd have let Paul take these pics.

I tested the consistency by dipping a butter knife in and letting it cool briefly. The whole process only took a few minutes. All told, I used almost but not quite an entire bar of beeswax.

Note the raised pinky of the left hand. Always the lady!
It's important to bring the whole double boiler to the counter when it's time to fill the containers, and fill each one over the pot. Again, it's a matter of moisture, if the bottom of your pot drips anywhere near your balms, you're in trouble. You have to work fairly quickly, as you can see the mixture is solidifying a bit on contact with the spoon.

No more than 10 minutes later, they're solidifying nicely. That's some more plantain oil in the foreground, for the next batch.

I took them out of the kitchen to cool away from cooking steam while I made supper, and let them sit for about an hour. Wiped the edges with paper towels, screwed on the lids, ready to go.

As you can see, it's a pretty simple operation, just a bit fiddly. Clean up, I won't lie, is the worst part. But if you wipe everything down with paper towels first and use super hot water, it's not so bad.

Now if anyone would like a sample, just let me know.


  1. Oh you KNOW I wanna try some! Email me about shipping!

  2. What "plantain" is this? The banana-looking one or the weed in my yard? If the weed, what part of the plant?

    1. It's the weed Tim. Use the leaves. First make the oil: shred clean *dry* leaves and fill a jar with them. Pour in enough oil of your choice to completely cover the leaves plus a half inch or so (I like olive oil), poke out the bubbles and seal it. Let it sit out of direct light for about 6 weeks. Strain.

    2. Clarification: By dry leaves I mean not in any way damp. Fresh leaves work best for this method.