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Herb Spotlight - Plantain

Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)  

Family: Plantaginaceae

Part Used: Leaves, Seeds

Flavor/Aroma: Salty, Bitter, Sweet

Energetics: Cooling, Drying

 

Overview:

Chances are you have stepped on or over this powerful healing herb numerous times in just the past week without even knowing it. Plantain will grow almost anywhere, making most assume it's an invader or weed, but to the contrary- this plant embodies a variety healing abilities that have been utilized by both the ancient Romans and Greeks.4 It’s a commonly overlooked herbal medicine that should be a part of everyone's first-aid kit.

Botany:

There are over 100 species of Plantain, each and everyone one thriving in urban spaces, lawns, and wild spaces alike. Plantain grows with smooth, vibrant green leaves with pronounced parallel veins that are especially noticeable on the under part of the leaf. Some varieties have leaves that are slightly hairy. It prefers to grow in disturbed soil and can live in both moist and dry conditions. In the late spring and summer months, Plantain will sprout tall, narrow stalks from its center, adorned with a bundle of delicate flowers on top, or a dense seed cluster when not in bloom.5

Cultivation and Harvesting:

Plantain easily reseeds itself, allowing it to spread prolifically without much attention to habitat, and well in both sunny and shaded areas. It is said to be native to most of Europe and Asia. It grows freely in America and Australia, and is cultivated regularly in Germany and Russia1, as well as other locations for medicine. Plantain leaves are best harvested before or after the flowers fully express in the spring and summer months, and the seeds in the fall.

Southern Oregon Cultivation:

A walk down the block, or over to the local park, will surely increase your chances of meeting this valuable herbal ally. Plantain, every single species, can survive repeated trampling and abuse, and still maintain its therapeutic properties. It can be found wild throughout Southern Oregon along hiking trails, roadsides, and most likely in your own backyard. It’s flowers nourish local pollinators alike.

History and Folklore:

American Native Uses: Plantain gained the nickname “white man’s foot” by indegenoius peoples due to its supposed first sighting having been when European settlers first arrived. It was noted to have been used topically for skin healing and to halt bleeding wounds.

Plantain is recognized for its medicinal abilities and tenacity in the 10th century, Anglo-Saxon herbal anthology called the Lacgunga; it states: 

“And you, Waybread, mother of herbs, Open from the east, mighty inside. Over you chariots creaked, over you queens rode, over you brides cried out, over you bulls snorted. You withstood all of them, you dashed against them. May you likewise withstand poison and infection.” 4

Traditional Chinese Medicinal Uses:The seed is regularly used to expel hot, dry conditions due to the seeds cooling and sweet attributes; these include diarrhea, painful urination, swelling or edema, sexual dysfunctions, irritated eyes, and liver disorders. Plantain was also utilized for hot-phlegmy coughs, and to purge toxins from the skin topically.7,4

Modern Applications:

Due to the leaves highly medicinal muliage, Plantain is best used fresh for topical preparations to support ailments such as rashes, burns, bites, stings, and other less severe abrasions. Also topically it can be applied to staunch bleeding, speed up tissue healing, and help extract foreign materials and toxins. It is indicated to support both internal and external inflammatory processes, coughs and bronchitis1, and bacterial infections. Research has shown Plantain to be effective against Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus due to its iridoid glycoside and aucubin components, which are compounds that contribute to the antibacterial potency of the plant, and are essential to protecting our bodies from these serious infections. It can also be applied topically to relieve hemorrhoids and vaginal pains due to its tannin rich make-up, which contributes to its astringent characteristics.4,2,3

Uses and Preparations:

Dried Herb Tea Preparation: 

1 Tablespoon per cup of warm water.

Using a reusable tea bag or tea ball, immerse the loose dried herbs into boiling water and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes, preferably covered, in order to release the maximum amount of herbal goodness. Some herbal tea can carry a strong flavor. We recommend organic honey as a sweetener which preserves the beneficial herbal compounds. 

Tincture: 

3-6 mL up to 4 times per day.

Some herbal tinctures can have a strong flavor on their own. Adding your tincture to a glass of 6-8oz of water is one easy way to help, should you wish to dilute the flavor.  

Recommended Usage:

It is important to remember that some bodies may react differently than others when using herbal products. Our recommended usage amounts are designed to be an average dosage only. If you have specific concerns about the usage amount or interaction with other medication, please consult with your doctor or health care practitioner prior to using our products.

Precautions:

We recommend consulting with your practitioner if you are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, or if you are using any other medications.

References:

  1. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/Plantain.html?ts=1571438263&signature=fdb9d9d0a87cf337f3eeb2b0f905d650
  2. Plantago major in Traditional Persian Medicine and modern phytotherapy: a narrative review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29629064
  3. Chemical constituents and medical benefits of Plantago major. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29028587
  4. Plantain. (n.d.). https://www.herbrally.com/monographs/plantain
  5. Plantago major. (n.d.). https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/hool/plantain.html
  6. Bennett, Robin Rose. The Gift of Healing Herbs. Berkley: North Atlantic Books, 2014. Pgs. 281-289.
  7.  Zhufan, Xie. Practical Traditional Chinese Medicine. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2000. Pgs 202-203.

    For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.