Most people think of those Mexican banana things when they hear the word plantain, but that is not what I am here to talk about today. I am talking about a wild weed called Plantain, found in abundance around footpaths, roadsides, waste ground, meadows, and lawns. Main variety is Plantago major, or Common Plantain. There are many other varieties of Plantain, including Broad and Narrow leaf, Ribwort, and Greater Plantain, but they all work about the same. Some will say one works better for certain things over another, but I say what works best is what you have on hand, or can find. If you can’t get your hands on Narrow leaf Plantain, but you have more than you could ask for in Broadleaf, I don’t see why you wouldn’t use it just because someone has claimed the narrow leaf is better for something ailing you.
Plantain is native to Europe and temperate regions of Asia, but some Native Americans called it “Englishman’s foot” because it seemed to spring up in the footsteps of white settlers. Plantain is a perennial growing to about 10” tall, with a basal rosette of broad, deeply veined leaves (of which run curved from stem to tip, rather than branching from a center vein) and dense clusters of tiny green flowers on spikes. Narrow leaf plantain of course has narrow leaves instead of broad leaves, but the rest of the plant looks generally the same.
It has a reputation for clearing poison from bites as well as infection, and can easily be chewed up and applied as a quick poultice on stings or bites in the field. It can also relieve irritation and pain caused by the sting of nettle. It’s antihistamine effect also works for hay fever and other allergies, and combines well with elderflower and mint in a tea.
Shakespeare even mentions Plantain twice as a healer of broken skin. It may not be as effective on bones like comfrey, even though it can be used for bruises and broken bones, but it is great at clearing heat and inflammation. Plantain also staunches blood flow and encourages the repair of damaged tissue.
Plantain closes the gapping wound with a seam of gold thread; for, just as gold will not admit of rust, so the plantain will not admit of rotting and gangrenous flesh.
-Abbe Kneipp, 1821-97
The same qualities that make Plantain useful for wounds also makes it helpful when dealing with teeth and gum infections. Place a wad of crushed plantain against the affected area. Backup with a plantain tea or mouthwash.
***If anyone has ever played Far Cry Primal, I am almost positive the green leaf you collect to tend to the woman’s wounds in the beginning is a variety of Plantain. I could be wrong, but the way they use the green leaf is the same way you would use Plantain in a situation like that.
It is the best herb for blood poisoning; reducing the swelling and completely healing a limb where poisoning has made amputation imminent.
–Dr. Christopher, 1976
CRUSHED LEAF used for insect bites/stings, allergic rashes, cuts and wounds, infected cuts, bleeding, mouth ulcers, boils and ulcers, burns, acne rosacea, and shingles.
TEA AND TINCTURE used for coughs, mild bronchitis, irritable bowel, hemorrhoids, and hay fever.
SUCCUS used like teas and tinctures, but also helps sore throats and stomach ulcers.
SEEDS used for constipation and irritable bowel.
Leaves can be picked and used as needed where they remain green all year. You can freeze the leaves if you live in an area with harsh winters, or gather the leaves during the summer and dry them, by spreading on a drying screen or hanging in a well ventilated area. Discard any that turn black.
Harvest seeds when they are ripe, picking the heads and spreading out to dry before stripping the seeds off .
Heaping tablespoon of crumbled dry or fresh leaf per mugful of boiling water. Steep 10 minutes, strain, and drink.
Dose: One mug, 3x’s a day.
Pick fresh plantain leaves and put them in a blender with enough vodka to cover them. Blend to a green mush, and pour in a jar. Put in a cool dark place for a few days, then strain and bottle.
Dose: 1/2 – 1 teaspoon 3x’s a day
Juice fresh plantain leaves and mix the juice with equal parts honey. Pour into sterilized bottles and store in a cool place.
Dose: 1 teaspoon as needed for coughs (ribwort is best for this); 1 teaspoon 3x’s a day for stomach ulcers. Use externally for dressing of ulcers and other sores.
Seeks and husks can be ground in a coffee grinder before use, or used whole.
Dose: 1 teaspoon sprinkled on food, 1-3x’s a day.
—Information gathered from Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal as well as The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants by Andrew Chevallier.
As you can see, once again, a plant considered a useless weed by most is actually very beneficial for a variety of reasons. Buckshorn Plantain (Plantago coronopus) is actually grown in Italy as a salad crop, so not only is it medicinal, it can also be included in an everyday diet. In today’s day and age where the world is going crazy, know that you don’t have to rely on man’s institutions to stay healthy. It just takes a little knowledge and know how. I’m not saying to avoid hospitals when things are dire, but an everyday health minded routine can be very beneficial. God gave us these plants for a reason.
Stay safe out there! Many blessings,
Emma Lee Joy
“Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”
-Genesis 1:29, ESV