When you hear the name plantain, it commonly brings up images of bananas. But, there is also a herb called plantain (Plantago major), which is often considered a weed by most people. Although native to Europe and parts of Asia, it is believed to have been introduced to North America when the settlers came from Europe.
It’s sometimes called as broadleaf plantain, white man’s foot, or greater plantain and is usually found growing wild in your yard. Here are some surprising benefits of this herb and recipes for medicinal uses.
Types Of Plantain Herb
There are mainly two types of plantains. The ones with broad leaves are called Plantago major and the narrow-leaved variety is called Plantago lanceolata. Although both can be used for healing purposes, most herbalists seem to prefer the broadleaf plantain with larger, but softer, edible leaves.
Nutrients And Healing Properties
Broadleaf plantain is highly nutritious and is rich in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. Scientific studies have noted that plantain extract has a wide range of biological effects, including wound healing activity, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, weak antibiotic, immunomodulating and antiulcerogenic activity.1
Its leaves have been used for healing wounds for centuries and in the treatment of many diseases related to the skin, respiratory organs, digestive organs, reproduction, circulation, against cancer, for pain relief and against infections. The plant contains biologically active compounds such as polysaccharides, alkaloids, lipids, caffeic acid derivatives, flavonoids, iridoid glycosides, and terpenoids.
Uses Of Plantain Herb
The leaves of the herb are edible and taste similar to spinach, though slightly more bitter. Besides being tossed in salads and other dishes, the leaves are also used to make tea or tincture, which helps with indigestion, heartburn, and ulcers when taken internally. Due to its astringent properties, plantain tea is used to treat diarrhea and soothe raw internal membranes. Here are other common uses of plantain leaves.
- Burns – To treat burns, apply a poultice immediately, bandage it with the leaves and follow it up with a plantain salve.
- Cuts And Open Sores – Applying crushed plantain leaves helps stop bleeding from fresh cuts. You can even wash the cut with plantain tea or diluted tincture (1 tablespoon to a glass of water) to prevent infections and promote healing.
- Boils And Acne – Place a drop of tincture on the boil or acne or just apply the salve.
- Mouth Ulcers – Rinse your mouth 3-4 times a day with 2-3 tablespoons of plantain tea or use 1 tablespoon of tincture diluted with a cup of water.
- Throat Pain Or Infection – Gargle with plantain tea or diluted tincture. Place 5-10 drops of tincture under the tongue and ingest it slowly.
- Dandruff And Other Scalp Conditions – Apply plantain tea or oil infusion to the scalp and wash it after an hour.
- Sunburn – Apply fresh poultice or plantain sludge liberally, wash the area with the tea and then apply the salve.
- Liver And Kidney – To improve your liver and kidney function, drink 1-2 glasses of plantain tea every day.
- Gastrointestinal Inflammation – For relief from gastrointestinal inflammation, place a few drops of tincture under the tongue or drink plantain tea.
- Cold, Flu, And Respiratory Infections – Take the tincture under the tongue or drink freshly brewed warm tea with honey.
In spite of its medicinal and nutritional value, plantains are considered as a weed that is invasive in many areas. They grow in abundance in wastelands and it’s better to gather them from there, rather than introduce them into your garden. Before using the plant, ensure that the area is clean, and not chemically treated.
Just pluck off unblemished leaves, selecting slightly mature ones over the very tender leaves, as the mature leaves have a higher concentration of potent phytochemicals. The tender leaves are good to be used in salads. Here’s how you make tea, salve, and tincture using plantain leaves.
How To Make Plantain Tea
Drink 1-2 cups of this plantain tea every day to control diarrhea or for relief from the symptoms of cold and fever. Additionally, you can add honey for taste. It provides relief from stomach ulcers, IBS or other inflammatory diseases of the GI tract. Plantain tea can also be used as a general tonic or used topically to wash wounds, boils, and skin damaged by sunburn, rashes, and eczema.
- 1 cup of fresh plantain leaves
- 2 cups of water
- Heat-proof bowl with a lid
- Wash the plantain leaves thoroughly, place them in a bowl and close the lid.
- Boil the water and pour over the leaves in the bowl.
- Cover the lid and allow them to steep until the bowl is cold to touch.
- Strain the tea and store in the refrigerator.
How To Make Plantain Salve
Plantain salve is effective in treating cuts, bruises, insect bites, poison ivy attacks, and skin rashes. It can also be used in small amounts as a diaper cream for babies.
- A handful of washed and dried plantain leaves
- 4 oz coconut oil
- ½ oz beeswax (pellets or shaved)
- 8 oz heatproof jar
- Cut the plantain leaves into small pieces, fill up half the jar and pack the leaves tightly.
- Add the coconut oil on top of the leaves.
- Put the jar in a saucepan and fill the pan about halfway up the jar with water.
- Set the heat on a low simmer and allow the oil to infuse for about two hours.
- Then, when you strain out the plantain leaves, you’ll have a light green colored oil.
- Add the beeswax to the infused oil and place it in the saucepan until the beeswax melts. The beeswax helps in keeping the salve firm at room temperature.
How To Make Plantain Tincture
The tincture made from plantain leaves and 100% alcohol can last for 2-3 years without losing its potency. It is an effective remedy for colds, respiratory infections, and ailments of the stomach. Place 10 drops under the tongue and keep it for 30 seconds before swallowing. You may also add 10 drops of the tincture into a glass of water and drink slowly. For topical application, place a drop of this tincture directly on boils and sores.
- 1 cup of washed and dried plantain leaves
- 1 pint of 100 proof vodka or brandy
- A glass jar with tight-fitting lid
- Put the leaves into a jar and pour the alcohol over it until it completely covers the leaves and fills the jar.
- Stir the mixture well and cover the jar with the lid. Store the jar in a dark place, giving it a good shake every few days.
- After 6-8 weeks, decant into clean bottles and store in a dark place.
|↑1||Samuelsen, Anne Berit. “The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activities of Plantago major L. A review.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 71, no. 1 (2000): 1-21.|