It has been a while since I’ve posted anything on herbs. So at the close of the summer season I thought it would be appropriate to chat about a common weed (herb) that is often unrecognized, but oh so powerful. It’s called plantain.
Plantain leaf is considered a common and noxious weed by some and a miracle plant by others. I personally consider it a miracle plant. You can find plantain growing in lawns, driveways, parks, playgrounds, and even in the cracks of sidewalks.
What is plantain and how do you identify it?
Plantain leaf has a long history of being used as food plants and healing herbs in many diverse cultures around the world. The Native Americans used it to heal wounds, cure fever, and to draw out toxins from stings and bites, including snakebites.
There are two types of plantain. The plant with broad, oval leaves are called Plantago major and the narrow-leaved type P. lanceolata. You can identify this plant by the 5-9 parallel veins running the length of each leaf. (Most leaves have a central vein with smaller ones branching out from it.)
You can use either one for healing purposes, depending on what’s available, but most herbalists seem to prefer the broad leaf plantain with larger, but softer, edible leaves. I have both growing in my yard.
I have included a picture of this plant so you will know what to look for. If you don’t already have it growing in your yard somewhere, go out along the road or in the mountains and find some and replant them in your garden.
What are the benefits and uses of Plantain?
I use this herb all the time. During the summer while it is growing in my yard, I pick it, crush it and apply it to stings, and mosquito bites. I also dry it so I will have access to it during the winter months. It is one of the key ingredients in my healing salve, (which is very easy to make). You can find the tutorial here.
- Antiseptic properties
- Anti-inflammatory: Reduces pain caused by poison ivy and bite stings.
- Extracts of the plant have antibacterial activity
- Effective treatment to stop bleeding
- Encourages the repair of damaged tissue, promotes healing without scars
Because of its drawing properties, it will pull small foreign objects like stingers or slivers out of the skin. It is quite incredible.
- expectorant, and decongestant
- peptic ulcers
- irritable bowel syndrome
- respiratory congestion
- loss of voice and urinary tract bleeding
You can purchase plantain for internal use in fluid extract, tincture, decoction, infusion and dried powder form and the fresh and dried leaves can be consumed as a tea.
*Although plantain leaf is generally considered safe, it is always best to consult with your health-care practitioner before starting any new herbal product.
How to use plantain externally
You can make a poultice by bruising the plant, chopping finely or heating to make a thick paste.
You can make a poultice and apply it to wounds, skin inflammations, cuts, stings and swellings. It is the juice from the leaf that speeds up the healing process.
Pick a few leafs, crush it or chew it well and put it on the bite or wound. “Like magic” the pain, heat, and swelling — even allergic reactions — disappear, fast! You can dry plantain leaves and carry them in your first aid kit. Chew like you would fresh leaves and apply it.
I was with a youth group up in the mountains hiking when one of the boys went down into a ravine and came upon a bunch of bees, he was stung multiple times. Luckily, I knew what plantain looked like and had been taught what to do with it. Well, I looked down and there growing alongside the trail was PLANTAIN, all over the place.
My husband and I grabbed some plantain and we started mashing it between two rocks to make a poultice. The boy took his shirt off and we dabbed it all over him. He did not swell and did great. This was a teaching moment for the youth there. The plants that God created do have a purpose. I don’t think it was a coincidence that day for us to be right there where plantain was growing, and for someone there to know what to do with it.
A fomentation is similar to a poultice, however you use a concentrated tea of the herb instead of the plant itself. To apply a fomentation you soak a clean cotton cloth in the concentrated tea and apply it to the wound and wrap with cellophane.
how to use plantain internally
You can make an herbal tea by placing one teaspoon of dried herb to one cup water. Pour boiling water over the herb, cover tightly and steep for 20 minutes and strain. I love this single serve tea maker! We use it all the time, in fact, we each have our own.
This is a good resource for dried plantain. This is what I use for teas and to make salve.
Tinctures are herbal concentrate most often prepared in an alcohol, glycerin or vinegar base. You can make them, but it is much easier just to buy them.
I absolutely love, love, love this reference book on herbs. This author explains all the basic on herbs, herbal preparations and uses in a clear, easy to follow way.
If you would like more details of ALL the benefits of this plant, I will refer you to Dr. Christopher’s website that is chuck full of herbal information.
Are there any potential Side Effects of Plantain?
Plantain is considered a very safe herb to use, therefore you can use it both externally and internally.
Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should avoid using plantain until research confirms that the herb is not harmful in any way.
So there you have it, an herbal remedy that is probably growing right under your feet. Go take a look around your yard or at the park and see if you can find any.
Alternative Remedy Handbook
For a quick, go-to reference of other tried and tested herbal remedies, I have compiled a booklet with lots of great resources and information. It’s kinda nice to know that you can alleviate everyday complaints without always turning to your medicine chest, or to your doctor. I have it for sale here on my site.
Let me know if you have any questions.