Plantain, Plantago spp.
leaf, seeds, and root
iridoids, flavanoids, monoterpine alkaloids, glycosides, tannins, mucilage, oleanolic acids, plant acids
The leaf of the plant contains vitamin C, B, folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, and sulfur. The seeds of plantain are known to be a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E.
vulnerary (wound healing), anti-inflammatory, astringent, diuretic, demulcent, expectorant, antimicrobial, laxative (especially seeds)
No known contraindications or drug interactions
We can find the historical use of plantain in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Native American Medicine, African, and Asian medicine. This is a plant that is soothing, cooling, and drawing. Plantain has been used throughout history for bug bites, stings, and wounds. It can pull out infection, poison, and lower inflammation quickly. Plantain may also be used similar to comfrey to help heal bruises and broken bones. And like mullein, it is beneficial for hemorrhoids. But unlike mullein’s hairy leaf, plantain’s leaf can be used directly as a poultice. Plantain can also help stop bleeding and encourage damaged tissue to heal itself.
Because of it’s healing properties it is also fabulous for both external topical healing and internal use as well. When considering how to use plantain, think of mucous membranes that are sore, infected, damaged or inflamed. The healing qualities are beneficial for gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis, ulcers, and gum disease. Other uses are inflammation and bleeding in the urinary tract and congestion or sore throat in the respiratory tract. In the past it was used both internally and externally for tuberculosis and syphilis.
Jethro Kloss states in Back to Eden:
It will help clear the head of mucous and slows all manner of flowings, even excessive menstruation.
The seeds are high in mucilage and can be used like psyllium seeds as a fiber laxative. True psyllium comes from the species Plantago psyllium.
Plantain is also a nourishing green that can be used in salads or eaten cooked. I find the younger leaves of Plantago major rich and buttery but they can get bitter later in the season.
Usual Preparation and Dosage:
Traditionally, plantain was used as a spit poultice while walking. If one received a bite or wound they would find plantain, chew it and apply it to the wound. A poultice was also made by grinding the fresh leaf between two stones. Today it is used externally as a poultice, in oil, ointment, salve, or lotion.
In case you are not interested in making a spit poultice I will share a few more options with you.
Gather several fresh leaves of plantain, wash them and blot dry. Then proceed with one of the following:
- Grind in a mortar and pestle until broken up and moist.
- Place in a blender with a small amount of pure water and blend until you get a moist paste.
Powdered plantain leaf can also be made into a poultice as described below:
- Place 1 tablespoon powdered leaf in a dish and add warm water 1 teaspoon at a time until a paste forms.
- You may also add a small amount of honey.
The poultice can be applied directly to the wound and a gauze band-aid may be applied if desired.
For internal use, normal tincture dosage is 2-3 ml three times a day. For an infusion you can pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of herb, allow to steep 5-20 minutes and drink 3 times a day. German Commission E recommends 3-6 g of herb a day.
Plantain is not native to America but was brought over by settlers. The Native Americans gave it the nickname Englishman’s foot because of how it spread every place they traveled. While native to Europe and Asia you can now find plantain throughout the United states. It is considered a common weed because of how prolific it now is, however it truly is one of God’s most wonderful medicines. Plantain likes to grown in disturbed areas such as lawns, fields, and roadsides.
You can easily identify plantain by the veins in the leaf. Each leaf is green with 5-9 veins running from the base to tip. It grows in rosette form laying low to the ground with the flower stem growing up from the middle and producing a long seed head that becomes covered in tiny white, yellow, or dark flowers. Plantago major has a broader leaf, thus it’s nickname broad leaf plantain. Whereas Plantago lanceolata has a long narrow leaf and is often called narrow leaf plantain.
You can gather the leaves anytime but they are best starting in spring and continuing until before it flowers. After washing, Plantain can be air dried in 3-7 days. The seeds are difficult to gather but you can cut the flower low on the stem, wash and hang to dry. Once dry, scrape the seeds off with a butter knife.
Herbalpedia: Maureen Rogers 2006
Back to Eden: Jethro Kloss 1988
Medical Herbalism: David Hoffmann 2003