When I think of plantains I crave starchy, banana-like fruit fried to a golden brown perfection. I like mine sweet or savory, baked or fried--pretty much any style. But, in my herbal studies, I've discovered that the word plantain ALSO refers to one of the most common plants in the world, and it doesn’t grow cooking bananas.
Plantain fruit is a staple foodstuff in the tropics, with its leaves used as plates and its skins turned to ash to make soap, it is an essential crop to the survival of many humans on more than a few continents. Plantain the herb is a first aid used even in prehistoric days, stopping blood flow and helping to heal wounds internally and topically. I honestly had no idea that something I have seen dozens of times sprouting out of a lawn or a crack in the sidewalk was an herb that probably helped the human race along through nasty cuts and scrapes, just like the plantain fruit helps to feed people year round.
Plantain fruit skins are used for what is becoming the number-one beauty staple to all skin junkies: African Black Soap.
This soap is made from a base of shea butter mixed with coconut or palm oil and the ashes of the plantain skins, cocoa pods, shea bark, and other organic material, depending on the region. The ash from the burnt plant matter creates the basic element needed for soap-making, where lye is commonly used. African Black Soap has literally changed my whole game, and every time I lull in its use I pay dearly with pimples.
Shea Moisture is a DARLING brand in my eyes, with sustainable ingredients and community support for the producers of the raw materials, the company is all that and then some.
Shea Moisture makes a full range of products infused with African black soap, not just soap bars. The ash of the plantain has a calming effect on many irritable skin conditions, namely acne, eczema, and psoriasis. (I am blessed with two of these.) With this knowledge, Shea Moisture makes body butters, toners, lotions, and even a facial moisturizer infused with not only the goodness of plantain-made African black soap, but other soothing ingredients long used to heal irritation, like aloe, neem, tamarind, tea tree, oats, and willow bark, which come together to not only hydrate, but to stop problems before they start.
Out of all the goodies I tried (and there are even more I didn’t!) The problem skin moisturizer was out of this world, as was the body lotion. The body wash made a great luxurious bubble bath, and the medicated cleansing bar was a rad incarnation of the traditional African black soap formula.
Plantain the herb is also a very important skin care ingredient. Its antibacterial and pain-relieving properties have been used in a large portion of the world for literally millenia.
That is some serious plant history, people. French brands that are interested in using the most cutting-edge science to synergize the world’s plant remedies, such as Phyto and Sisley, are also really important to skin care; their research uplifts the entire industry as methods improve.
Sisley is a top-tier luxury brand, but also a high performance brand. The Tropical Resins line was created to tackle acneic skin, and both of the goodies I got to try (among the most expensive things I've ever put on my mug) were impressive.
Lotion with Tropical Resins tightens pores and uses myrrh, benzoin, plantain herb extract, hydrogenated castor oil, frankincense, and burdock to contribute to a quite instant improvement on my pissed-off PMS face.
The Creamy Mask with Tropical Resins uses almost all of the same botanicals, plus zinc, sulfur, clay, and rosemary to pull impurities to the surface. I used it a few times and it caused some long-lingering cysts to finally do their worst-and dry up shortly after. It has many common ingredients, with a spot treatment from India that I use regularly, plus the addition of wrinkle-fighting frankincense and other sebum regulating resins.
Plantain-derived skin care is a must if you have any condition that makes you red, itchy, purulent, or inflamed. Hives, pimples, scales, eruptions, and cystic zits all take a hint and calm down quick when this stuff is used, as it has been since before we could read and write.
- Do you pray at the altar of African black soap?
- Have you ever used or eaten plantain the herb?
Photos by Darnell Scott