When you think of healing herbs, most people don’t think of plantain. It has been used for hundreds of years. It grows like crazy in most of the world, even coming up through sidewalks. The only place I have not seen this wonderful herb growing is in the deserts of Arizona. So I bought some seeds and I planted and grew this common weed in my garden.  Don’t get confused with the banana shaped fruit also called, plantain – this is a little green herb.

Plantain is a versatile and useful plant many consider a weed has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and a food source as it is very nutritious.  It is commonly used for many skin irritations

There are many varieties of the species Plantago.  I planted 2 different varieties, one with wider leaves, Plantago major and one with long narrow leaves, Plantago lanceolata.

Plantago major

Plantago major

Plantago lanceolata

Plantago lanceolata

The leaves of the plant have parallel veins running through them, which is a common identifier. Plantain has been widely naturalized nearly everywhere in the world, despite being native to most of Europe and northern and central Asia.

The plant contains active chemical constituents such as aucubin, which is an anti-microbial agent, allantoin, which stimulates cellular growth and tissue regeneration, and mucilage, which reduces pain and discomfort. Ingesting a tea made from the leaves can treat diarrhea and soothe raw internal membranes due to plantain’s astringent properties.

From the Article Plantain by Margaret L. Ahlborn

Although many people consider this herb a weed it is truly a miracle medicinal herb. Even web sites on how to poison weeds toll the virtues of Plantain while telling you how to kill it.

If you want to learn more of the medicinal and historical uses of Plantain, please read this article, it full of great information.

Plaintain is one of the most widely distributed medicinal crops in the world.Plantain along the sidewalk

A poultice of the leaves can be applied to wounds, stings, and sores in order to facilitate healing and prevent infection; you can make tea; you can eat it as you would spinach; it is used to make extracts and salves; and it can be dried and put into capsules. Even the root can be used.

Plantain is very nutritious, it is high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. The young, tender leaves can be eaten raw, and the older, stringier leaves can be boiled in stews and eaten.  I will often chew on the leaves to help with instects.  I’ll add young leaves to my salads.  I juice the leaves and I add them to green smoothies.

When I first moved to Tennessee, this noxious weed was growing everywhere, and I tried to get rid of it. After I went back to school to study herbs, I discovered what a wonderful healing herb it was. I began eating the young leaves and the mosquitoes left me alone. If I did get a bite from a mosquito or an ant or anything, I quickly grabbed a leaf and chewed it and put it on and the itch and pain was gone within minutes.

I once shared the information about plantain with a friend for an injury – it really seemed to help.  They were so grateful they shared with me a portion from Romeo and Juliet.

Tut, man, one fire burns out another’s burning,
One pain is lessen’d by another’s anguish;
Turn giddy, and be holp by backward turning;
One desperate grief cures with another’s languish:
Take thou some new infection to thy eye,
And the rank poison of the old will die.

Your plantain-leaf is excellent for that.

For what, I pray thee?

For your broken shin.

Why, Romeo, art thou mad?

Not mad, but bound more than a mad-man is;
Shut up in prison, kept without my food,
Whipp’d and tormented and—God-den, goodfellow.

Here are just a few of the uses of plantain:

Please note:  Do not harvest the plant where there is a chance of weed spray and be careful alongside roads.  Please always seek proper medical attention.  This is only historical use of the plant.

  • It is considered a wild edible green
  • Bug bites from mosquitoes to ants and bees
  • Itching
  • Diuretic
  • Wounds, cuts and scratches
  • Antivenomous and may help with snake bites and scorpions ****PLEASE GET MEDICINAL ATTENTION.  But if you are out in the woods, it can help while you get to proper medical support.
  • Poison Ivy
  • Sunburns or mild burns
  • The root has been used for toothaches
  • Respiratory conditions and asthma
  • Blood purifier
  • Weightloss as discovered by a Russian scientists
  • May help with bad cholesterol
  • Baby skin conditions
Plantago major
Plantain herb pin

Plantain grows abundantly as a weed.  If you want or need to cutivate some in your own yard, seeds are available.  Once planted, if you nurture them, they will drop seeds and come back year after year as long as the area gets some water.

I carry Dr. Christopher’s Herbal Products and there are many formulas that contain plantain including topical salves.

If you look around nature, you’ll find many remedies.  Keep a look out for this plant to pop up in the spring time.

Years ago I went on a Kayaking trip for a 1 week. I was not a kayaker. But the trip sounded fun. We were on a river going from the top of the Andes to the Atlantic ocean for a week, camping and eating the food in the Kayaks that the guides brought. I wore gloves to protect my hands from paddling. On the very first day – by noon (I still had a whole week left), I developed a huge blister on my thumb. How in the world do you paddle and have a good time with a giant blister?

As I sat eating lunch I was looking around the river bank, knowing there had to be an herb that could help me. I saw lots of plantain growing. I knew of its benefits for insects bites. I was soon to find out, it was excellent for wounds as well. I grabbed several leaves and made a poultice for my thumb. By the end of lunch, dark hard skin had formed where the blister was. It was only slightly tender, but it was usable.

By the next day – only the dark circle remained as evidence. My thumb was completely fine. As the skin healed underneath, the hardened skin protected it and in a week or so it looked perfect.

It was nothing short of a miracle from this common weed that at one time was considered to be a panacea or a cure all and has been recommended for nearly everything.

Kally and Mark Kayaking in Chile

Despite being considered a weed by some, the plantain’s rich history and multiple uses have made it a valued medicinal plant and important food source plant throughout the world.

This information is not intended to diagnose or prescribe.  It is of historical and educational nature only.  Please seek medical care for any health issues you may have.

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Plantain: The Versatile Medicinal Weed