This pretty little flower is frequently found growing in Texas flowerbeds. This stuff laughs at the heat and drought of summer and just blooms more. But lantana has an old history in my family. The story I tell most is from around 1920 – 22.
A man had gone hunting for supper with his son and had shot a possum. The boy went to go pick it up, but unfortunately it wasn’t dead yet. It swung around and chewed all the way from his hand to his shoulder. Deep bites, with chunks of ripped and missing flesh – horrible wounds. My uncle Grant said they had ridden up long after dark, but he and mama could still remember the blood still dripping off the side of the horse.
Now, one thing about possum bites is that they go septic fast. Uncle Grant ran in the house hollering for my grandmother, and she yelled for Rene to go get a double handful of lantana and throw it in a pot of boiling water, then pull it off the fire. Grandma and great grandma washed the wounds with the lantana water, coated the whole arm in honey, then wrapped in clean white linen.
I knew this man when he was 80 years old and he still had full use of his arm. It was a horrible attack, but it never got infected and he and his family swore that we saved his life.
Of course many people know about honey’s medicinal use. It has been used since ancient Egypt as wound dressing, and is still being used today in medical grade honey for wounds that will not heal. Antibacterial, antimicrobial, it’s the only food that will never go bad. But what did the lantana do?
Lantana is an external only medicine. It contains a numbing agent to take the itch and sting out of any bites and stings. Also with healing properties, it helps heal burns, scrapes, cuts, bites. And when you make a tincture out of the leaves, it repels mosquitoes especially well.
Next time you get a mosquito bite, grab a fresh lantana leaf, wad it up between your fingers, and crush it into the bite so you leave a little green stain. It will take away the itch and the welt.