You’ve probably got plantain growing somewhere near you, and you might even have this herb growing in your backyard, but it’s possible that you’ve always considered it to be just another weed.
Weeds are simply plants growing where we don’t want them to, and many of these weeds – like plantain – have some really useful benefits.
This particular “weed” is one of the most abundant medicinal crops in the world. Native to Europe and parts of Asia, plantain has spread around the world. Introduced to America by the Puritan settlers, the plant became known as “White Man’s Footprint” by the indigenous population.
Other common names for plantain include; Common Plantain, Great Plantain, Greater Plantain, Broadleaf Plantain, Waybread, Ripple Grass, Plantago Asiatica, Waybroad, Snakeweed, Cuckoo’s Bread, Englishman’s Foot, Che Qian Zi (China), Breitwegerich (German).
Plantain thrives in hard compacted soils, and can easily survive tramplings by people and by heavy animals out in pastures.
If you don’t have an existing source of plantain, you can sow seed outdoors in mid spring, or start seed indoors and transplant the young plants out in late spring. To prevent plantain spreading to the parts of your yard where you don’t want it to grow, make sure that you remove the flower stalks once they have set seed and before the seed dries and disperses.
You can also buy dried plantain leaf, and dried and powdered plantain root online.
All parts of plantain – leaves, seeds, roots and flowers – can be harvested and used either as an edible herb or as a medicinal herb.
Plantain is a broad-leaved herb that sends up flower spikes in the spring. It’s a perennial which means that it grows year after year, and like most plants considered to be weeds, it grows happily without help from humans, which makes it a no maintenance plant once you’ve established a new planting.
Long valued as a traditional medicinal herb and known as a “cure all”, numerous plantain remedies have been listed in many herbals through the centuries, and in the early Anglo Saxon Lacnunga, plantain is recorded as being one of the nine sacred herbs.
In past times, plantain was valued as a wound treatment, as an antidote to venom, as a remedy for diarrhea, as a painkiller, and for many other uses.
Native Americans carried powdered plantain roots in case they were bitten by snakes, and modern science has found that plantain does indeed have this anti-venom property.
- 1 Medicinal Properties of Plantain
- 2 Use Plantain to Treat Burns
- 3 Treat A Mouth Ulcer With Plantain
- 4 Relieve Boils and Acne With Plantain
- 5 Use Plantain to Ease Sunburn Pain
- 6 Soothe Hemorrhoids With Plantain
- 7 Treat Insect Bites and Stings With Plantain
- 8 Use Plantain on Eczema And Psoriasis
- 9 Plantain Can Help to Treat Constipation
- 10 Relieve Indigestion With Plantain
- 11 Use Plantain To Heal Cuts
- 12 Plantain Can Soothe Irritated Eyes
Medicinal Properties of Plantain
Chemical analysis of plantain reveals the presence of a glycoside called Aucubin. Aucubin is known to act as an anesthetic, antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-toxic, anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, anti-tumor, anti-cancer, anti-carcinogenic, a diuretic, an expectorant, a hypotensive, an organoleptic and as a sedative.
Other active constituents of plantain include Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), Apigenin, Baicalein, Benzoic acid, Chlorogenic acid, Citric acid, Ferulic acid, Oleanolic acid, Salicylic acid, and Ursolic acid.
In herbal medicine plantain is used as an:
- Antibacterial – kills bacteria or prevents bacterial growth
- Antidote – combats toxins
- Astringent – stops bleeding and contracts tissues
- Anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation
- Antiseptic – kills of prevents microbial growth
- Antitussive – relieves coughing
- Cardiac – strengthens the heart
- Demulcent – soothes and protects mucous membranes
- Diuretic – removes excess water
- Expectorant – loosens mucus and aids its expulsion
- Hemostatic – stops bleeding (external)
- Laxative – relieves constipation
- Ophthalmic – relieves eye conditions
- Poultice – draws infection from a wound
- Refrigerant – cools the body and reduces fever by inducing sweating
- Vermifuge – kill parasitic worms
Currently plantain has been studied by researchers and has been found effective for asthma, emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, high blood pressure, rheumatism and blood sugar control.
Use Plantain to Treat Burns
You can use plantain to help superficial burns heal more quickly. More serious burns should always be treated by your doctor.
Plantain will prevent infection, reduce inflammation and ease the discomfort of the burn.
Mild burns, though not serious can be very sore and painful and they can take an age to heal. Use a plantain poultice on the burn for the first few hours and then regularly apply a plantain salve. You can use plantain leaves as a dressing over the salve too.
To make a poultice, you just need to take some plantain leaves, wash them, and then grind them into a paste. You can use a pestle and mortar if you have one, or you can give the leaves a quick blast in your kitchen blender.
Take the mushy leaves and apply a thick layer over the burn. Wrap with gauze to keep it in place.
See below for an easy to make plantain salve recipe.
Treat A Mouth Ulcer With Plantain
Lukewarm, plantain tea (see below) used as a mouthwash will quickly heal mouth ulcers. You can also chew fresh plantain leaf to release the juices and then maneuver the chewed leaves to the part of your mouth affected by the ulcer.
Bleeding gums are another condition that will benefit from a plantain tea mouthwash. The hemostatic and astringent properties stop bleeding, while the anti-inflammatory actions reduce swelling, and the antimicrobial constituents combat bacteria.
You could also use plantain tea as a regular mouthwash substitute to kill the germs causing bad breath.
Powdered plantain root is a traditional remedy for toothache. Take a pinch of the powder and rub it into the gums and over the affected tooth or teeth.
Relieve Boils and Acne With Plantain
Plantain is a master at pulling impurities and infection out of skin. It also soothes, reduces inflammation and kills bacteria.
Use a plantain poultice as a face mask for deep cleansing and use cooled plantain tea as a facial toner morning and night.
Use Plantain to Ease Sunburn Pain
Plantain can be used to soothe and heal sunburn in two ways. You can use fresh leaves as a bandage over the sunburn or you can spray the sunburned skin with plantain tea (see below).
To use fresh leaves, pick them from the plant and quickly soften the leaves with a dash of hot water to make them flexible. Apply the leaves to the skin and make sure to replace with more fresh leaves if needed, before the first leaves have dried out. Dried leaves can stick to the skin and will be painful to remove in the case of tender, sunburned skin.
To use plantain tea, pour full strength tea into a clean spray bottle and mist the affected skin.
Soothe Hemorrhoids With Plantain
Plantain’s astringent qualities help to shrink hemorrhoids, its hemostatic action stops bleeding, while its anti-inflammatory, cooling, and analgesic properties, bring soothing, pain relief.
Apply a plantain poultice to external hemorrhoids, leave on for as long as it is practical, and remove before the poultice dries.
Use cotton balls soaked in lukewarm plantain tea to swab the hemorrhoids in between poultice treatments. You can also drink several cups of plantain tea a day to help with internal hemorrhoids and to add to your treatment of external ones.
Treat Insect Bites and Stings With Plantain
Plantain is an excellent remedy for bites and stings. If you’re at home, you can quickly apply a plantain poultice to draw the toxin out and prevent the itchy, red swellings from developing.
If you’re out and about and get stung, and you spy some plantain nearby, another way to make a rough and ready poultice is to chew the leaves, and then once they are nice and pulpy, smooth the paste onto the bite.
It’s a good idea to carry a small pot of plantain salve and a small spray bottle of plantain tea with you in the first aid kit that you keep in your purse or backpack.
Plantain tea can also be sprayed or swabbed onto nettle rash, and the rashes caused by poison ivy or poison oak.
Use Plantain on Eczema And Psoriasis
Plantain poultices can bring profound relief to the itchiness and swelling associated with these skin conditions as well as protecting the skin from infection.
In fact, plantain is considered to be one of the best itch-relieving herbs.
In addition to using a poultice, you can also use plantain tea to swab over problem areas, and plantain salve to moisturize and heal.
Plantain Can Help to Treat Constipation
Eating plantain leaves and drinking plantain tea will both help to provide relief from constipation. Plantain has laxative properties, and its leaves when eaten also contain plenty of fiber to get things moving again.
The seeds of plantain can be soaked to make a laxative similar to psyllium. Use one or two teaspoons of the seeds soaked in two cups of filtered water.
Relieve Indigestion With Plantain
Drinking a cup of plantain tea will bring relief from indigestion and digestive complaints. A few drops of plantain tincture in a glass of water will also ease symptoms.
Use Plantain To Heal Cuts
As well as having the ability to stop bleeding, relieve pain, prevent infection and calm inflammation, plantain also contains epidermal growth factor, which enables it to speed the healing of minor wounds and bruises.
You can use fresh plantain leaves, washed and softened in hot water as a wound dressing, or you can swab the injury with a cotton ball soaked in plantain tea.
If you make the salve (recipe below) you can use a thick layer to keep infection out, ease discomfort and inflammation, and speed up healing.
Plantain can also remove splinters that are too deep to grasp with tweezers. Make a poultice and apply to the area over and surrounding the splinter. The plantain will prevent infection and reduce inflammation which makes a splinter easier to grasp and it will also draw it closer to the skin’s surface.
Plantain Can Soothe Irritated Eyes
Use cooled plantain tea as an eyewash for red, irritated or tired eyes. Cotton pads soaked in the tea can also be placed over closed eyes to soothe irritation.
- Use Plantain Leaves as A Cooked Vegetable Or As Salad Leaves
If you grow plantain in your garden or gather some from meadowland or pasture then you can eat the herb and benefit from its vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Plantain that grows along roadsides shouldn’t be used for any purpose, and especially not for eating, as it will have been affected by exhaust fumes from traffic.
Young, tender leaves are best used in salads and sandwiches, or you can use them in place of spinach in green smoothie and juice recipes, while older leaves which are tougher, benefit from cooking, as you would cook Swiss chard or kale.
The flower shoots, when young, can be harvested and pan fried in a little olive oil. When cooked this way they resemble the flavor of asparagus.
Plantain is a rich source of iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
Scientists have found that plantain can aid weight loss. Women taking 3 grams of the seeds with water 30 minutes before eating a meal, lost more weight than those not using the herb. The mucilage in plantain acts as an appetite suppressant and reduces the intestinal absorption of fat and bile.
Plantain is also known to lower LDL cholesterol and the triglyceride levels in blood, as well as having beneficial effects on blood sugar levels.
- Use Plantain To Bring Relief from Coughs And Colds
Plantain has both expectorant (mucus loosening) properties, and antitussive (cough relieving) properties, which makes it perfect for treating coughs and colds. It’s anti-inflammatory, cooling and pain relieving actions also make plantain a good choice for sore throats.
Plantain reduces the secretion of mucus in the body, especially in the respiratory system.
For a cough and cold remedy, drink plenty of plantain tea. And for sore throats gargle with cooled plantain tea, or with a few drops of tincture in a glass of water.
Plantain is an approved herb listed by Germany’s Commission E as a treatment for coughs and bronchitis.
The antitussive properties of plantain can also be used to treat coughs brought on by allergies.
- Make A Plantain Tincture
You will need:
- 1 cup of plantain leaves, washed and patted dry
- 1 pint of 100% proof vodka or brandy
- Glass jar with tight-fitting lid
How To Make:
- Place the leaves into the jar with the alcohol, making sure that the alcohol completely covers the leaves and fills the jar. Stir the mixture well.
- Screw the lid on the jar and set it in a cool dark place.
- The jar needs to be shaken every few days for 6 weeks.
- At the end of this period, decant into clean bottles and store in a dark place.
Tinctures made with 100% alcohol can last for two to three years without losing any potency.
Take the tincture for colds, respiratory infections and digestive discomfort. Place 10 drops under the tongue and hold for 30 seconds before swallowing. You can also add 10 drops of the tincture to a glass of water and sip slowly.
The tincture can be used externally on spots, boils, sores and wounds.
- Make A Medicinal Plantain Tea
You will need:
- 1 cup of fresh plantain leaves
- 2 cups of water
- Heat-proof bowl with a lid (or cover with a plate or pan lid)
How To Make:
- Wash the plantain leaves to remove dust and dirt, then place into the bowl.
- Boil water and pour over leaves. Cover the bowl and leave the leaves to steep until the water has cooled completely. It’s important to the cover any medicinal teas that you make to prevent the steam from escaping, as the steam will carry away some of the healing properties.
- Strain the tea and store in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Don’t throw away the leaves! You can use them as a face mask, or as a poultice on any irritated skin.
Drink 1 or 2 cups of plantain tea each day to soothe the digestive tract and ease diarrhea or constipation, or to get relief from the symptoms of colds and flu. Drinking a daily cup of plantain tea will provide tonic benefits, strengthening many systems in your body.
- Make A Plantain Salve
You Will Need:
- A handful of plantain leaves (washed and thoroughly dried)
- 4 oz coconut oil
- ½ oz beeswax -pellets or grated
- 8 oz heatproof jar
How To Make:
- Rip the plantain leaves into smaller pieces and place in the jar, packing them tightly. Don’t fill the jar more than half way.
- Add the coconut oil to the jar and place the jar in the saucepan.
- Add water to the pan so that it comes about halfway up the sides of the jar.
- Set the heat to a low simmer and leave the oil to infuse for about two hours.
- After the infusion has had of couple of hours, strain the oil to remove the plantain leaves.
- The oil will be a translucent, light green color. Place it back in the empty jar.
- Add the beeswax to the oil and return it to the saucepan, heating gently until the beeswax melts.
- Pour the oil mixture into storage tins or jars and leave the salve to cool. It will solidify and become opaque as it cools.
Use the salve on minor cuts, scrapes and burns. The salve is also perfect for chapped hands, dry lips and sunburned skin. You can use it as an effective treatment for diaper rash, and it’s also safe to use on any skin ailments and sore spots that your pets might have.
Updated: October 7, 2018 by Dr. Kimberly Langdon M.D. All medical facts and points stated on this page are correct as of this date. Please be aware that new content and additional references were added in this last update. All the content and media has been uploaded by Lily Greene our webmaster, who is also in charge of page design.