Plantain Can Be Your Friend and Not Just a Weed.
I treasure the healing properties of plantain so much I’m actually growing it in a pot in my garden. That may sound strange because most people can find it along roadsides, in meadows, and unfortunately to the dismay of some gardeners – their lawn.
Not so with our new property in Texas. No plantain in sight. Luckily (or maybe not…) this European native and has become highly adaptive to all kinds of soil and can easily be grown everywhere. I’ve promised to keep it under control in my garden plot and will do this by keeping it contained and not allowing it to go to seed.
Get the Facts on Plantain:
- Name: Plantago major, Plantago lanceolate
- Family: Plantaginaceae (Plan-tag-i-NA-see)
- Growing Zone: Everywhere in full or part sun and in any soil.
- Perennial (comes back year after year)
- Propagate from seed in early spring or fall. Control the seeds – control the weeds!
- Flowers: Tiny yellow spikes, 6-18 inches high
- Leaves: up to 7 inches long and either oval or lancet shaped
Plantain leaves have stems that contain string-like veins and these veins are seen on the leaf. Think of pulling the veins on a celery stalk when you were a kid.
There are five to seven prominent parallel veins from the base. Leaves are generally broadly lance-shaped to egg-shaped, are hairless or sparsely short haired.
If plantain leaves are bruised and applied as a poultice, this will prove serviceable in treating all old, runny, angry, rotten injuries that are spreading. Sauer’s Herbal Cures: America’s First Book of Botanic Healing, 1762-1778, page 247
I’ve found that plantain is useful for bee stings, spider bites and other skin abrasions. It is known far and wide for its healing properties. All you need to do is pick a leaf, crush or chew it, and apply to the affected area. You may want to wrap it with cloth to keep it in place. Fresh or dried leaves can be used interchangeably.
The (cleaned) root can be chewed to ease toothache pain.
You can add plantain to any of the homemade herbal remedies in this previous post.
Many herbs can be used in infusion form help to cleanse the face. They also have healing and soothing powers. Make plantain herbal cleansing water by bruising several fresh, washed plantain leaves and placing them into a glass jar. Add boiling distilled water and steep for half an hour or longer. Strain and use this remedy on bites, stings, swelling and bruises. It will keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and makes a wonderful morning face brightener.
How to Harvest Plantain and Save It for Later
Plantain leaves can be used fresh whenever they are needed and available. Harvest plantain leaves just before the flower stalks mature and dry them in shade on screens. You can also dehydrate them at 95°F until they are dry and crumbly. Discard any that turn black.
Store the dried crushed leaves in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. This will keep at least a year. For the longest storage time avoid direct sunlight.
Plantain is considered generally recognized as safe for all herbal treatments. The mature leaves are tough and fibrous, but tender young leaves can be eaten in salads. Caution should be taken; they have a mildly laxative effect.
Because of its healing properties, those with blood disorders or prone to blood clots should not use plantain internally.
Be certain of the treatment of the plant before you collect it in the wild. Has it been exposed to roadside spraying or other questionable practices? Only harvest from a plant that you know is safe – or better yet – grow it yourself.
For more information: see the post Plantain – Herbs We Love For Summer from Herbal Academy of New England