Plantain can be found in large swaths alongside paths, in meadows and vacant lots. It is considered by some an annoying, if not invasive, weed. As for me and many others, it is a treasure of great value.
Plantain leaves are an edible green, good raw in salads or lightly sauteed. For culinary use, gather leaves in the early spring when they are young and tender. Older leaves are too tough and stringy to be palatable. For medicinal uses, the leaves are best harvested in the spring and early summer, before the flowers reach full bloom. In a pinch, though, plantain leaf can be harvested anytime you find it growing. The seeds are easiest to harvest in late summer or fall, when they have dried and can be easily stripped from the stalk. You can also pick the stalks earlier in the summer, dry them yourself, and then remove the seeds.
Plantain contains iridoid glycosides (2.5%), aucubin, apigenin, baicalein, catapol, asperuloside, flavonoids, mucilage (2%), tannins (6.5%), phenolic acids, saponins and flavonoids
According to Herbrally:
“Scientific Research: In parts of the world where herbal medicine is often prescribed by mainstream doctors, plantain is widely recognized as an effective remedy. In Russia, it is commercially cultivated for medicinal use and frequently prescribed by physicians . The German Commission E has authorized its internal use for coughs and bronchitis, as well as external use for inflammatory skin ailments . Plantain is considered anti-inflammatory in both internal and external uses; tests have shown that this may be due to plantain’s iridoid glycoside content, which seems to suppress prostaglandin formation . One particular iridoid glycoside, aucubin, is easily metabolized into aucubigenin, a compound with potent antibacterial properties . In vitro testing has found plantain leaf to be effective against a range of bacteria, including Salmonella typhi, Salmonella paratyphi, Shigella dysenteriae and Staphylococcus aureus .”
Plantain leaf is a go-to herb for just about any kind of rash, irritation, bite, sting, or wound. It soothes, cools, disinfects, staunches bleeding, speeds tissue healing, and extracts toxins and foreign matter. Plantain infused oil and liniment are excellent additions to first-aid kits and travel packs.
“A unique trait that sets plantain leaf apart from most other tissue-healing plants is its intense drawing ability. Plantain can help bring a blister or pimple to a head, pull a stinger out of a bee sting, or extract a deeply-imbedded splinter. It is an unparalleled herb for treating poisonous or infected bites and stings, and, when no other treatment is available, can even be used against blood poisoning. (If you are unsure about your ailment PLEASE seek medical attention!) Plantain would also be one of the first recommendations as an internal and external remedy for those suffering from acne and other inflammatory skin conditions. Irritated, inflammatory skin conditions are energetically hot-natured; a cooling and soothing herb like plantain is often much more appropriate than harsh antibacterials and exfoliants or hyper-concentrated, potentially irritating essential oils.”
I prescribe plantain poultice to my clients suffering from acne. Alongside my Detox Tea, this helps to cool, soothe and remedy the symptoms of acne all while supporting the liver’s work to clean the body’s systems.
“Plantain is an excellent herb for internal tissues as well as external skin. In cases of upper respiratory infection and irritated cough, plantain leaf’s expectorant properties help the body expel mucus, while its anti-inflammatory and vulnerary actions calm irritated tissues. In tonsillitis, gargling with and drinking plantain tea can help fight bacteria and draw out puss. Plantain has a mild diuretic effect, and its aucubin content boosts the kidneys’ uric acid production . These properties, along with its cooling, soothing, antiseptic effects, make it a good ingredient in blends for cystitis and urinary tract infections. Plantain leaf also makes an effective treatment for a wide range of digestive complaints. In Russia, doctors prescribe it for stomach ache, low digestive acidity, and for stomach ulcers with low or normal acidity . Plantain can also combat inflammation and prevent infection in cases of diverticulitis and other inflammatory digestive disorders. The seed of the plant is also used for gut health. Psyllium seed, the primary ingredient in Metamucil, is a form of plantain seed, usually sourced from the Plantago ovata or Plantago psyllium species. While psyllium-containing products are generally marketed as bulk laxatives, many find that the soothing, gel-forming soluble fiber of plantain seed can also calm chronic diarrhea.”
As well as being useful for acute complaints, plantain’s harmlessness (barring contraindication or allergy) makes it an excellent herb for tonic use. Plantain purifies the blood, supports the liver and gallbladder, promotes bladder, urinary tract, and digestive health, and offers an array of easily-absorbed vitamins and minerals. For those with a tendency towards ailments of any of these systems, taking plantain regularly can eliminate or lessen the re-occurrence of acute illness.
“For external use, fresh plantain leaf can be juiced or mashed into a poultice, and fresh or dried leaf can be infused in oil, macerated in rubbing alcohol to create a liniment, or brewed like a strong tea for use as a wash or compress. The fresh leaf works very well as a “spit poultice” made by chewing the fresh leaf and applying it to the affected area. This is a trick that kids often love to try out on their mosquito bites and small scrapes (this also creates opportunity to teach kids the importance of conclusively identifying a plant before using it). Chewing a poultice may seem unhygienic to some, but the enzymes in saliva actually convert the aucubin contained in the plant to the more-potent antimicrobial compound aucubigenin . If the spit-poultice is not for you, though, it will also work perfectly well to mash the leaf with a mortar and pestle.”
Tea: 1.5 quarts of infusion taken throughout the day (infuse 1 heaping T of leaves per cup of water, and steep at least 15 minutes and up to 10 hours).
Salve: Use externally as needed.
Tincture: 1-2 ml of tincture 6 times per day, at 1:4 strength
Chronic Symptoms: acute dosage for several days, then decrease to 1 ml of tincture or 1 cup of infusion, 3 times per day.
Plantain is generally considered a safe, edible plant. However, people who take blood thinners or are prone to excessive blood clotting should avoid plantain. Plantain may effect the absorption of medications through the gut, notably lithium and the heart medicine digoxin. It is safest to avoid plantain while taking these medicines, and to take it several hours away from any other prescription drugs. Plantain may increase the potassium-loss associated with prescription diuretics. Because plantain is sometimes used to slightly elevate stomach acid levels and increase secretion of digestive juices, it is best avoided in cases of serious acid reflux. If you are pregnant or nursing, it is best to consult a qualified practitioner before using plantain. As with any plant or substance, allergic reactions are possible.