When most people accidentally scrape or cut themselves, they go straight for the store-bought bandaid. Not only are bandaids convenient, but we’ve been taught since we were little that putting a bandaid on our “boo-boo’s” will help them heal faster and protect the cut from outside forces.
Bandaids are also conveniently geared towards children, with many coming in bright colours or feature images of cartoon characters (I’m not gunna lie, even I like the cartoon bandages!).
However, bandaids aren’t really all that great at what they do. I mean, yes, they do protect the cut from immediate dangers like bacteria and the like, but the slogan “Heals cuts twice as fast,” isn’t really that believable. Even Johnson & Johnson Pacific Pty Ltd., can’t live up to their claims (1):
“With regards to the “heals two times faster” claim, we stand by our position that evidence does exist to support the claim.”
However, they don’t clarify what exactly this evidence relates to, namely whether that is comparing Band-Aids to other adhesive bandages or to using no bandage at all.
What if you could simply save money and grow your own natural antibacterial bandage instead? What would you do if you couldn’t get the medical supplies or help you needed for a very long time? How would you manage?
The answer might be in your backyard right now…
Homegrown Antibacterial Bandages
It is no doubt that these antibacterial bandages are much healthier than store-bought ones. Our ancestors used them to heal scrapes and wounds, and now we can too. The plant is called Wooly Lamb’s Ear, and it’s the next best thing when it comes to healing our wounds.
My favourite thing about these bandages is that they’re extremely soft. Plus, they double as a medicine and an edible (how cool is that?).
Wooly Lamb’s Ear (botanical name Stachys byzantina), has been used for centuries as a wound dressing on battlefields (2). It contains both antiseptic and antibacterial properties, and works as a wonderful anti-inflammatory (basically everything you need for a wound that needs a little extra TLC). Their extra soft texture makes them great blood absorbers, and helps blood clot more quickly. These facts alone make the plant a great alternative to store-bought bandages (especially since a lot of bandages are made in China!).
If you’re wanting to use the Lamb’s Ear on a wound, simply pluck some leaves from a plant, and layer on top of a wound with some surgical tape to keep it in place. Replace once a day, or as needed.
Medicinal Uses of Wooly Lamb’s Ear
Aside from helping our wounds heal faster, Wooly Lamb’s Ear can help treat:
• Pinkeye and Styes: heat a few bruised leaves in a pot of simmering water, and use the cooled infusion as an eyewash.
• Fevers, Diarrhea, Sore Mouth & Throat, Internal Bleeding, Weakness of Liver & Heart: drink a tea made from young dried Wooly Lamb’s Ear leaves.
• Bee Stings & Insect Bites: reduce the swelling by rubbing a paste of squished leaves so that the healing juices are released onto the bite or sting.
• Hemorrhoids: rub a paste of squished leaves onto the affected area so that the healing juices are released.
• Postpartum Recovery: rub a paste of squished leaves onto the affected area so that the healing juices are released.
Not only does the plant help with these ailments, but it can double as a menstrual pad, if you can find a leaf large enough! Being super soft and absorbent, the leaves are also great for use as a cotton ball or toilet paper.
The plant can also be consumed – the young, tender leaves can be eaten fresh in a salad, or gently steamed.
How To Grow Wooly Lamb’s Ear
If you can’t find the plant in your backyard, you can get some seeds and start growing it! If you can’t find any plants locally, buy some seeds and grow them yourself. It is easy, and much cheaper, too! It grows well in containers, and makes a beautiful landscaping border.
If you’re starting from seed, here’s how to grow it (3):
1. Fill a well-draining container (like a yogurt cup with holes poked in the bottom) with rich organic soil.
2. Wet the soil until it is soaked (please use filtered water for your plants so they grow better).
3. Plant 1-2 seeds per small container (thinning out the weakest seedling), or plant seeds six inches apart in a larger pot. Bury them 1/4” below the soil.
4. Keep the soil moist and the containers our of direct sunlight until the seedlings start germinating. As soon as you can see the seedlings popping out of the soil, put them somewhere where they can get at least 6 hours of sunlight daily (or under a grow light).
5. When the plants have at least three sets of leaves, you can transplant them to a semi-shady place in your yard. Space them 12” apart, and watch them readily multiply.
How To Identify Wooly Lamb’s Ear
If you’re looking for Lamb’s Ear in your backyard, here are some good tips in identifying it. Wooly lamb’s ear often gets confused with mullein (both have velvety, wooly leaves).
Lamb’s ear forms a low, uniform mat of blue-green leaves with white wooly hairs. The leaves are usually 2-6 inches long and in the shape of a tongue. Later in summer, the plant should sprout twelve to 18-inch tall flower spikes with small purplish flowers.
Mullein on the other hand form a rosette of wooly green leaves that may be 6-15 inches long. The second year they send up flower spikes that are 15 inches to 5 feet tall! The flowers are yellow, purple, white or red. Mullein also has some great medicinal uses too!
You will be able to tell near the end of summer what the plant is you’re looking at, based on the flowers, and the size of the plant. Mullein will always be much larger, where lamb’s ear will be smaller and have shorter flower stalks with small purple flowers.