There’s More Than Meets the Eye with the Plantain Herb
I treasure the healing properties of the plantain herb 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. While many may consider this plant to be a weed, I’m here to tell you that the plantain herb has gotten a bad rap. Today we are going to go over what makes this inconspicuously plant a must in your garden.
With our new property in Texas, I was saddened to find no plantain in sight. Luckily, for me and other plantain herb lovers, this European native has become highly adaptive to all kinds of soil and can easily be grown everywhere. Its ability to sprout everywhere is part of the reason gardeners would prefer to keep it off their lawns. However, if you plan to grow it, you should know that you will face little to no difficulty doing so.
Get the Facts on Plantain:
Like any other plant, the plantain herb, more specifically the plantain leaf, has unique properties that make a must have in your collection of medicinal herbs. Here is the lowdown on the plantain herb.
- 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 can be seen right on the leaf. The plantain leaf veins resemble that of celery stalk veins when you peeled them as a kid.
There are five to seven prominent parallel veins from the base of the plantain leaf. Leaves are generally broadly lance-shaped to egg-shaped. The plantain leaf is also hairless or sparsely short haired.
One of the most popular uses of the plantain herb is for medicinal purposes. The plantain herb is most commonly used to treat skin irritations. If you are looking for a way to ease common insect bites such as a bee sting, spider bite, or mosquito bite, then the plantain herb can help ease the discomfort.
All you need to do is pick a plantain leaf, crush it, and apply the paste to the affected area. You may want to wrap it with a cloth or gauze to keep it in place. Fresh or dried leaves can be used interchangeably as well.
You can even make homemade herbal remedies to ease toothache pain using plantain herb. All you need to do is clean the root of the plantain plant and chew it.
Many herbs are infused in skin cleansers to help purify your face. Plantain herb can be used in a similar fashion. You can make a plantain herbal cleansing water by bruising several fresh, washed plantain leaves and placing them into a glass jar. Add boiling distilled water and steep the leaves for half an hour or longer. Strain and use the solution when you wake up as a wonderful morning face brightener. You can even use this solution to remedy swelling and bruises on your skin. To store it, simply keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
How to Harvest Plantain and Save It for Later
Plantain leaves can be used fresh whenever they are needed and are available. If you would prefer, you can also harvest plantain leaves so that you always have them on hand. To harvest plantain, you will want to pick the leaves just before the flower stalks mature. Once the leaves are collected, dry them in the 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. If you store your dried plantain in a cellar or pantry, your harvest should keep well.
Plantain is considered generally recognized as safe for all herbal treatments. The mature leaves are tough and fibrous and work well for dealing with skin ailments. For the younger leaves, you can actually collect them and use them in salads. If you do consume plantain, you should know that they can have a mild laxative effect. This can sometimes come as a shock for those who use plantain for the first time.
Also, if you do choose to consume plantain, be sure that your body will be able to handle it. Because of its healing properties, those with blood disorders or prone to blood clots should not use plantain internally.
Lastly, if you do choose to consume plantain, you will want to make sure that the plants you harvest are safe. Be certain of the treatment of the plant before you collect it in the wild. Things to consider include whether or not the plant has been exposed to roadside spraying or other questionable practices. Only harvest from a plant that you know is safe. If you are unsure about the plant’s integrity, then it is always a great option to grow it yourself. Just be sure to contain it to a pot or a designated area so that the growth does not get out of hand.
Final Thoughts on Plantain Herb
This underrated plant is a herb with lots of essential value that is often overlooked. Now that you know a little bit more about the plantain herb, it may be worth your while to check and see if there are any plants growing in your yard. You might find that this common commodity may come in handy more than you know!
For more information about the plantain herb check out the post about plantain in – Herbs We Love For Summer from Herbal Academy of New England.