Thursday, November 10, 2011

A brief interlude with the uses of Plantain...

Well, yes, I’ve been “bad” and have not written much beyond my introduction.  Things at my house often seem to get, um, beyond the normal.   What follows is a good example of this.

Things that happened since I’ve attempted this project include preparing for the MMNP Preserving the Harvest Day (will write that one up soon!  Really!), getting ready for an event HM 10th did at Wayside Inn called Battle of Red Horse Tavern – that one even included some sewing.  I’ll be writing that one up as well.  More typically, this is what goes on:  Saturday night after the MMNP program I get home, change my clothes and notice a funny black spot on my calf.  It itches and burns.  It’s obviously an insect bite but it doesn’t look like a tick bite, which, unfortunately, I’m overly familiar with.  Plus, there’s no tick.  I put some salve on it and a bandage on it.  Overnight it gets larger with a spreading irregular red patch below it. I have a digital microscope to check out the bite with.  I can see two brown fang marks amidst some infection.  I also have a day-long odd feeling headache and really stiff shoulders, which is odd since I didn’t sleep in a bad position or do anything out of the ordinary to make me feel that sore.  It’s a funny kind of stiffness as well.  I have a hunch (I was standing right by an old woodpile at MMNP) and check it out – hunch verified.  I have a brown recluse spider bite.  The headache, sore shoulders and bite appearance match the symptoms described and images on several medical websites. Good thing I was wearing my thick wool socks!   I don't think too much venom got through the wool. 

So, I get some plantain, which I had talked about to so many people the day before.  I often found myself explaining how plantain, Plantago lanceolata or Plantago major, is not related to the plantain banana-thing you find in the grocery store.  It's a plant that grows pretty close to the ground in compacted soil.  Brought with the English settlers to North America.  Now I get to use plantain in one of the ways it was actually used in the 18th Century, as a poultice for drawing out infection or venom.  I smashed it up and applied it to the bite, holding it on my 21st Century Band-Aid.  It worked, and drew most of the poison out but not all.  It reduced the itch and completely got rid of the red area spreading from the venom.  I didn’t end up with any necrosis, but the infection wouldn’t go away, either, even with Bacitracin.    By Friday I was at the doctor’s office where the doc put more Bacitracin on the bite and wanted me to take systemic antibiotics for a bit the size of a pencil eraser that was clearing up.  Um, no.

In the midst of all this I’m making my younger daughter a Boudicca costume for Halloween out of some unusable-for-18th -Century wool someone gave me, having an almost-fight on the new 18th Century Life list about women riding horses (more on that one, too), getting ready for the Battle of Red Horse Tavern on the 29 Oct, and making a craft for the local homeschool group Halloween party (ghosts made from circles of white cloth, cotton balls and string.  Very popular.). By this time, snow’s in the forecast so I’m busy making a new kerchief for extra warmth and adding some length to a wool flannel gown I made a wee bit too short in April for Battle Road.   Also, I have to exercise the horse five to six days a week and homeschool the girls.  The horse is highly amused with the 18th Century kit when she’s seen it, but that’s another story.  Of course, the next thing that happens is the snow storm, no electricity, now this week, several trips to the dentist for a lost filling.  I live in Mendon and the dentist is in Sudbury.   That’s been a fun 4+ hours of driving.

And the spider bite?  It’s much better, especially after I put a paste of green clay and Echinacea purpurea tincture on it to draw out the last of the venom and dry up the infection (Echinacea would be the Native American remedy for venomous bites).  It’s almost gone and barely hurts now.  Most brown recluse bites take four to six weeks to heal, so I’m very pleased with two and a half weeks to three weeks of healing.  It also looks like I’ll have minimal scarring.  I’m hoping it’s back to normal family chaos next week so maybe I can squeeze in a blog post about 18th Century or reenacting type things!


Deb aka Mrs. Cook

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