In the Weeds: Plantain (nope, the other one)

The difference between a weed and a flower is judgment. Or maybe just attention. Who – other than the gardeners who spend hours uprooting them – really thinks about weeds? Weeds are tenacious growers, always looking for new ways to survive where they’re not wanted. Although most are unassuming, they always carry rich histories and often have potent properties. Learning about these overlooked plants can teach us about spontaneity, endurance, and healing. Every two weeks, I’ll find out everything I can about a local (to wherever I am at the time) weed that’s in season so that we can become better acquainted with one of our quiet but powerful neighbors.

We all know that plantains are the world’s best starch, but did you know that plantain (Plantago spp.) is just as wonderful?

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Plantain has been in North America since Europeans invaded in the 15th century. Now, thanks to its invasive and stubborn nature, it lives almost everywhere where humans do. Plantain’s tiny seeds – over 20,000 growing on each plant – hitched a ride across the continent on European’s boots, leading members of Algonquian nations to call it “White Mans Foot” or “English Man’s Foot.” Perhaps this – or the shape of the leaf – is what gave rise to the scientific name, Plantago.

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Easy, Wheezy! Decongestant Salve

Even though it’s officially spring, both the weather and my lungs are holding on tight to winter. It’s all kinds of rainy and cold outside, and I can’t quite shake the stuffy nose I picked up last week.

Easy, Wheezy! Decongestant Salve - MamootDIY.com

I whipped up a little homemade VapoRub (Viva Peru!) to get me through the next few days of this cold, and – BONUS – to help me take on the spring allergies I know are coming as soon as everything starts blooming.

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Sore Muscle Salve

Last February — fed up with the stress and meanness of law school — I started playing capoeira as a way to work out all my negative energy.

Now, seven months later, I’m hooked and am helping my group plan for our annual batizado. We’re flying in mestres and profesors from all over, hiring samba teachers, and trying to convince our friends and family to come watch the event. Everyone in my small but mighty little group is doing our part to raise money so, naturally, I decided to whip up something crafty and sell it at the event.

Chilly Pepper Salve - Mamoot

I’ve been wanting to play with cayenne pepper for a long time, but hadn’t gotten around to it between making wintery salves for runny noses and summery bug sprays. But now I’ve got dozens of capoeristas to appeal to and it seems like the perfect time to tackle the pain-relieving powers of cayenne.

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Soothing and Healing Eczema Balm

Once upon a time, I was a very little girl with eczema. My mom took me to the doctor, who told her that she shouldn’t let me sleep with socks on. I now realize that the no sock rule was instituted because socks would make me too hot and I would sweat all the moisture out of my tiny, eczema-covered, raisin-y body. However at the time I was sure that sleeping with socks on would cause my toes to grow together and I’d be stuck with two flippers for feet.

I think I was about 9 when I finally realized that my fear of webbed toes was entirely unfounded.

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All this is to say: I’ve had eczema since I was a wee lass. It miraculously cleared up when I was about 17 and I had 7 glorious, eczema-free years before it came back with a vengeance when I moved to New York.

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Lavender Salve

Happy exam season, students of the parts of the world that still operate school according to an agrarian calendar! You know you what need? A little something to help you breathe. This salve does just that. It’s got lavender in it, which is nice and calming. And since it’s a salve, just the act of rubbing it into your skin can is like a tiny massage.

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Blank Slate Beeswax Salve

The math of making salves is easy. If you can boil water and measure ingredients, you can make a salve. The science and art comes in infusing herbs and spices that will make the salve worthwhile. Before we get there, though, let’s dive into the math.

Beeswax + Liquid or Soft Oil Salve

  • Almond
  • Avocado
  • Castor
  • Coconut
  • Jojoba
  • Olive

Basic Proportions

Beeswax Liquid Oil
By Part 1/7 6/7
By Percentage 15% 85%

Calculated Amounts

Beeswax (oz) Oil (oz) Beeswax (g) Oil (g)
.5 oz (14 g)  .075 oz  .425 oz  2 g  12 g
1 oz (28 g)  .15 oz  .85 oz  4 g  24 g
2 oz (56 g)  .3 oz  1.7 oz  8 g  48 g
4 oz (112 g)  .6 oz  3.4 oz  16 g  96 g
5 oz (140 g)  .75 oz  4.25 oz  20 g  120 g
10 oz (280 g)  1.5 oz  8.5 oz  40 g  240 g
16 oz (454 g)  2.4 oz  13.6 oz  68 g  386 g

None of these amounts work for you or using more than one oil? Use the spreadsheet to do the calculation for you.

In the spreadsheet blow, make your own copy in google drive (“File” > “Make a copy” > “OK”). Enter how much salve (in grams) you want to make in the pink box and the spreadsheet will auto-calculate ingredient amounts for you.