Using Plantain to Make an Herbal ‘Sting Stick’ for Insect Bites

It’s not quite summer yet in North Idaho, but the mosquitoes haven’t gotten the memo. 

Thanks to a very rainy spring, they are out in force right now and are HUGE! We have positively prehistoric-sized mosquitoes this year and they all seem to have babies to feed.

My herbal apprenticeship spent this week out in the woods, learning about identifying conifers, digging up and processing arrowleaf balsamroot… and feeding the mosquitos. 

I’m amazed at how the little buggers got through thick denim jeans and multiple layers of fabric. No joke — if I have 1 mosquito bite, I have 100 of them… And I’m not one of those people who gets a little spot that goes away in a day or two, all my bites turned into huge, angry red welts and they’ll likely stick around all week. Es no bueno.

Fortunately for my itchy self, I developed a recipe for an effective bug bite remedy a couple summers ago. This Sting Stick has been a life saver. Make it before you need it — it’s an excellent helper to keep handy in your herbal first aid kit to deal with all kinds of stinging insect bites, including mosquito and fly bites, bee/wasp stings and even splinters. In a pinch, I’ve even used it to help dry up a blister and bring a pimple to a head. (Not that I EVER get pimples mind you 🤣😂 )


Like many new herbalists, plantain was one of the very first herbs I learn to identify and use. I learned early on that a spit poultice made from the fresh leaves is a miracle worker on a wasp sting sustained on a hike. Plantain is an excellent all-purpose drawing herb, meaning it will work to draw out the venom or stinger from an insect bite/sting or foreign objects such as splinters in short order. And since plantain is energetically cooling, it also works to relieve “hot” conditions such as itchy bites, stings or rashes. It also has antihistamine properties that will help take down the itchy swelling.

Plantain likes to grow in disturbed soil such as roadsides and places that have seen foot traffic such as dirt roads and my garden walkways. The fun part about “weeding” plantain that’s growing in less than ideal places out of my garden is I actually want to keep these weeds. Place the leaves on a screen or baking rack for airflow and let them dry out completely before transferring them to a glass jar for longterm storage. It’s best to keep the leaves intact until you’re ready to use them for the longest shelf life, since smaller pieces means more surface area exposed to oxidation.

Plantain is a veritable Swiss army knife of medicinal herbs. Seriously, just look at this list of actions and their associated uses:

If you have it growing around you, it’s not a bad idea to dry and store plantain for the off season. You can even juice it and freeze the juice in ice cubes to thaw out when needed for use internally or as a topical compress. In my humble opinion, it’s THE herb to always have on hand!

Self heal

My Sting Stick also harnesses the healing power of another common weed: self-heal (Prunella vulgaris). It’s one of those lesser-known herbs that not too many people recognize by name, but once they see it, they realize it’s been growing nearby all along.

Like plantain, self heal has a long history of traditional use as a drawing herb to pull out foreign objects from the skin and prevent infection. Indigenous people of the Great Lakes region of Canada and the United States known as Anishinaabe call self heal ingijibinaa, which means “the great drawer-outer.”

And as its common names suggest (woundwort, heal all, all heal), self heal is also a great all-purpose vulnerary for mending minor wounds and reducing swelling.

Bentonite clay is a great addition to any therapeutic preparation designed to draw out and absorb toxins and impurities. Bentonite is actually the commercial name for the mineral montmorillonite, which was discovered near Fort Benton, Montana, hence its common name. Bentonite is composed primarily of silica, sodium, magnesium, calcium and small amounts of aluminum, potassium and other trace elements. Studies suggest it helps to speed up healing following an allergic reaction, such as contact dermatitis or insect bites.

The Sting Stick formula is rounded out by a good dose of clove essential oil. Thanks to high levels of the terpene eugenol, clove is an effective analgesic — meaning it will numb away pain and itching. It also has antihistamine actions, which will help to bring down the allergic swelling of the bite.

Are you ready to make your own herbal Sting Stick? This recipe relies on a couple of herb-infused oils, so hop over to Making Herbal Oil Infusions and Alcohol Intermediary Herb-Infused Oils for a refresher on that if you need one. ♥

P.S. If you have a particularly bad case of bites, a friend in my apprenticeship class who is learning homeopathy also recommends taking Arsenicum Album 200c for itching and Apis Mellifica 200c for swelling.

P.P.S. You can avoid that annoying “sinkhole” from forming in the middle of the stick by filling the tube *not quite* full, and allowing that to set for 10-15 seconds or so before topping up. Wait a bit longer for larger tubes. You may need to return your mixture to your heat source while you wait, so it doesn’t solidify too much to pour. 

The more you know 🌈

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Herbal Sting Stick



34 g tallowplantain infused

14 g jojoba oilself-heal infused

10 g cera bellina or beeswax pastilles

12 g bentonite clay

25 drops clove essential oil


  1. Using double boiler, heat tallow and cera bellina or beeswax until completely melted and liquid.
  2. Add remaining ingredients in the order listed, and stir until combined and smooth.
  3. Pour into your storage jar, deodorant tube or chapstick tubes. If using a twist tube, you can prevent a “sinkhole” from forming by filling the tube about 4/5s  full, and allowing it to set for 10-15 seconds before topping up. Wait a bit longer for larger tubes. You may need to return your mixture to your heat source while you wait, so it doesn’t solidify too much to pour.
  4. Allow to cool completely before capping. You don’t want condensation introducing water into your formula ♥


I recommend glass containers for storing homemade lotions and potions. Glass doesn’t leach chemicals and it’s easier to clean/sterilize after the product is used up and you’re ready to refill.

If you do choose to use a plastic container, be aware that essential oils tend to react with plastic, so even if you can get it “clean,” your container will likely not be reusable.


I’m committed to only recommending products and companies that I’m passionate about, that I personally use and trust. The content on this site may contain affiliate links. If you decide to purchase items through these links, I receive a small commission at no cost to you. These commissions help cover our operating costs to keep Redheaded Herbalist running. Thank you for your support! ♥

The content on is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Claims made on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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