Plantain (Plantago major) is by far one of the herbs I use the most. It grows everywhere and you can usually find it year round. It never really disappears during the winter but the plant goes almost “dormant” …very little growth in cold weather. As the weather warms up, it really takes off. You will find this plant growing everywhere…on your farm…in your lawn….unless you use chemicals to control the weeds. Yes, Plantain is considered a weed but I have found that many of the best medicinal herbs fall into that same classification! It is so amazing to me that our Father has given us all of these “weeds” with such awesome healing power! And they are literally right under our feet…if we only took the time to learn about the gifts He has given!
There are many forms of Plantain – about 200! The two that grow at my farm are Plantago Major, also commonly called Common Plantain, Greater Plantain, Ribwort or Waybread. And Lanceolata or Fingerling, a variety with long narrow leaves. It is said to have come to North America with the settlers. The Indian’s called it White Man’s Foot because it seemed to grow wherever the settlers traveled.
Here is a picture from my Medicinal Herb Course of plantain growing in my yard.
The next two are close-ups of the leaves…notice the “ribs”? Hence the nickname ribwort!
This is the front…
And this is the back…
This picture shows Plantain Lanceolata or fingerling plantain. Notice the seed heads on top?
Now that you’ve seen it I’ll bet you are saying, “I have that in my yard!” Most people do!
You can use both the leaves and the seeds of plantain (and occasionally the root!). It can also be eaten raw, dried, used in teas, decoctions, a wound wash or tincture. It would be a wonderful addition in a formula for wound care! I also use it in salves.
It is an excellent vulnerary (used for healing wounds) for both the skin and the mucosal tract. I use it internally for upper respiratory issues (sinus and throat). You can put it in your homemade cough syrup to soothe a dry cough and is especially soothing if the throat is sore and/or inflamed. It is also a good relaxing expectorant.
Plantain has very soothing properties and has been found to be effective in treating other internal problems such as gastritis, peptic ulcers, acid reflux and even Irritable Bowel Syndrome!
Fresh leaves relieve insect bites and stings. It helps to neutralize the poison of venomous insects – wasps, bees, spiders etc. If we get stung while outside, we grab some plantain and chew it well and then put it on the bite…it reduces swelling, stops the reaction and relieves the pain. My boys have been trained to do this since they were very little. You can also use a leaf poultice to speed wound healing. Jeremy was once bitten by spiders while tearing down an old building. Unfortunately he didn’t quit what he was doing to look for plantain. By the time I saw it, the area was hot, swollen, and red with long red streaks coming from it. I used a poultice of Plantain followed by my Healing Salve.…we saw improvement in a matter of hours.
Plantain also contains baicalin which makes it an excellent herb to add to anti-bacterial formulas used to treat infections such as staph and strep.
Plantain, used as a poultice, helps to stop bleeding and encourages healing. It has proteolytic enzymes, which are active in the fresh leaf (and fresh or dried root). These enzymes reduce inflammation and help reverse allergic symptoms! They also aid in the digestion of food.
Plantain is very high in vitamins A and C and is also a rich source of calcium.
The seeds are related to psyllium seeds and can be used the same way…can anybody say Metamucil? You can powder the seeds and put the powder in juice or you can actually make a tea from the seeds….personally, I prefer the powder.
Of course, I don’t recommend any of these things if you are harvesting Plantain from a lawn or an area that has been chemically treated. When using herbs for medicine it is imperative that they be organic and chemical free!
You should be able to find Plantain growing now. Harvest some this fall for those unexpected emergencies in the middle of the night or when the snow flies. Plan on reaping a larger harvest next spring! This year, Elijah and I picked and dried gallons of Plantain because we use it so often. If you can’t find it growing locally, you can always find it at my favorite herb shop – Mountain Rose Herbs. You can click on their banner on the right or you can find Plantain here.
So, take a walk around your lawn, your homestead or farm or perhaps a friend’s place and look down for some of the wonderful gifts given to you from the hand of your heavenly Father! Then take the time…stop…and give thanks!
Let me know if you find plantain on your place,