Keeping it Simple with the Power of Plantain

I first encountered plantain as a child. I picked the broad leaves from my grandparents’ yard to feed their rabbits. Carefully plucking from the Earth, I would try for the entire stem. I imagined its purple tip was an extra tasty treat for those bunnies. At the time, I was oblivious at the time to the plant’s medicinal properties—or that humans could even use plants for healing. I simply enjoyed making friends with those rabbits as they nibbled the greens I stuck in their pen. This is a memory that comes to me when I see the plantain popping up throughout the yard today.

It’s easy to want to grow and craft with more exotic herbs than just the ones found in your backyard. I know this, because I seem to fall into this trap often. But, I don’t want to lose sight of the real magic of herbalism—which is most visible when I keep things simple. Sometimes I need to be reintroduced to a plant in order to regain my balance. It is the easily overlooked, but wonderfully common plantain that has helped me back there this time. Bringing to light this plant’s healing power will grant you a renewed appreciation and better health—for only the price of a little time and attention.

Plantain & It’s Powers

Greater Plantain (Plantago major) and Ribwort (Plantago lancelota) are the two primary species (of 250 found worldwide) that you’ll find in the yard, at parks, filling the cracks of concrete, or just about anywhere the Earth is trampled regularly. Plantain has been highly regarded throughout history for its cleansing properties. The Anglo Saxons even listed it as one of nine sacred herbs.

Plantago major or Greater Plantain

Plaintain’s most noted use early on was as a blood cleanser (alterative). Since then, we know that plantain does a lot more cleaning up of the body when given the opportunity to do so. Should you find worms plaguing the digestive tract, plantain can help to wipe them away when consumed as a tea. Furthermore, as a deobstruent, plantain has a drawing out effect on particles and substances not naturally found within the body. Examples of this would be splinters, bug bites, stings, or snake venom.

Plantago lanceolata or Ribwort

Plantain is a cooling, soothing herb. Perhaps this is why it is a go-to plant for healing wounds. In fact, it’s use is said to shorten recovery time on a variety of painful, irritating levels, such as bronchitis, sore throats, heavy menstrual cycles, and more. It will effectively ease poison ivy, along with any other infection that causes excessive heat in the body.

Using Plantain for Healing

All of these helpful benefits are wonderful, but to see them in action you have to know how to use the herb. For internal conditions (or if you’d like double strength when using externally) make a strong tea from plantain leaves by chopping them up and placing them in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Fill the jar with near boiling water and replace the lid. Let that stand for at least twenty minutes and then strain out the leaves before drinking. For internal issues it is suggest that you drink small amounts of tea frequently throughout the day.

Ribwort growing in the center of the driveway

My favorite way to use plantain for skin conditions is by making a salve. You could also extract the benefits into an oil and use that topically. Traditionally, plantain was used topically as a poultice. Simply mash (or chew) the plantain and place it on your bee sting for twenty minutes. The sting will be drawn out and the wound will be nourished with plantain’s lovely healing magic.

Plantain is easy to find, full of beneficial nutrients, and simple to use. Feeling silly for having overlooked this lovely plant, to work hard to get other herbs to grow, I am thankful for the gifts naturally provided. I can’t find an excuse for letting this “wayside weed” (considered by many today) remain unnoticed any longer. I hope you, too, will bring it into your home and let this wonderfully common plant find a new appreciation within your heart.

6 Comments

  1. Tamia Cramer (Finnegan) June 8, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Love the article. Plaintain is my go-to herb as a natural Neosporin. It has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungus properties. As you said it is a wonderful cooling herb and makes a great sunburn ointment. I am currently in the process of making salve, as I have run out. Can’t wait.

    1. Samantha June 8, 2017 at 8:35 pm

      Thanks for reading, Tamia! I love to hear that plantain is your “go-to” herb as a natural Neosporin. It certainly has much to offer. I’ll be making some salve when this oil is ready, too. I think I’ll need to dry some leaves to have available for winter time crafting, too. 🙂

  2. Jeri Pishvai June 8, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    Just yesterday I was noticing how many plantain plants had taken up residence in my walkway cracks. I was wondering what would be the best way to use them. Thanks to you I found my answer. As a little girl I loved to play “cooking” with weeds and mud! Soups, cakes, salads….My mom always told me they were poison. After I started studying wildflowers and herbs I realized why I was so attracted to certain plants. It had been like they were old friends…. Dearly familiar! Every one has been a healing herb! Plantain was one of my favorites back then. That’s why I haven’t had the heart to weed them out of my walkways cracks. I’m headed out to harvest their kind offering and get ready to heal my Grand Children’s owwies this year. Thank you for answering my unspoken call.

    1. Samantha June 9, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Thank you for reading, Jeri! This comment is so touching. I’m so glad you shared this story with me. I love to hear others’ stories of being with our plant friends. What a wonderful thing you can share with your grandchildren, too! I’m sure they will be happy to have memories of you showing them how plants can be our helpers some day!

  3. Karen June 11, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Do you know if plantain would be good for someone suffering gastroesophageal reflux? I have 2 friends who have this condition, one to an extreme degree. I would love to be able to help them.

    1. Samantha June 12, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      Hello, Karen!
      Thanks for reading. That must be tough having GERD. Although I don’t have much experience with it, there are many people out there that deal with this sort of thing. Any condition that can be effected by food and drink can be very difficult to deal with. I have not tried or know of anyone that has tried plantain for GERD or heartburn. That’s definitely not to say it isn’t a remedy.

      I would highly encourage your friends to find a master herbalist or naturopathic doctor in their area. These in-person visits and resources are very valuable, and often more affordable than one might think. They would be able to tell your friends more about plants and herbal remedies to help their conditions.

      Hope that helps!

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