The next plant that was brought in for the children was plantain, a plant I recently recognized as one with medicinal qualities-I say-recently recognized because it is everywhere and generally designated as a pesky “weed” (not unlike dandelion-but that’s another story). It can be identified by slender flower stalks with a column of nearly indistinguishable flowers, almost more prominent than the leaves-unless you know what to look for. The Kids Herb Book shows the broad leaf variety but in my experience the narrow leaf is more common-at least where I live, and not quite as bitter.
Plantain can stop the itch of a mosquito bite or poison oak, stop the sting from a bee-within minutes of its application- and can help extract a splinter-all situations children can easily suffer from. Magically, when you chew a bit of it and then apply the masticated substance to the affected area it sticks to your skin-really! And that is why it is called a “fairy bandage”-a nickname that was probably the impetus that encouraged the children to actually be willing to chew a bit of it and stick it on an “owie”. Now they know how to treat themselves since we keep a plant in the school garden (50 will probably pop up next spring but that would be fine with me!), and they have also learned what a poultice is-I think that’s the thing about plant medicine-it’s not all that complicated, generally speaking, and very accessible-in addition to being something young children can easily identify with, I mean how can you not love a fairy bandage?