The Wonders of Plantain by Jill Davies
A favourite herb of mine is plantain, in fact, I did my dissertation on this all those decades ago for my finals Herbal Medicine project. It’s a bit of a cure-all plant and a really important one to know. Now, or soon to be seen peeping amongst the first spring offerings, all parts of the plant can be used (roots, stems, leaves and seeds), either in teas or stronger decoctions. The spring leaves are useful and can be used on into the summer and autumn. If you happen to be needing it urgently for an insect bite or similar while out walking, just chew or rub the leaf vigorously and place or rub onto the affected part. In Greek times it was used as a medicine that could draw out pus and infection and still today it is valued for this property, soothing irritated membranes and for drawing out toxins and infection wherever they may be. I put it into my ‘LiteFlush Powder’ to deeply draw on toxins within the bowel. I’ve also included it in our ‘ImmuGold Tea’ for a host of good reasons. Let me explain more!
Firstly its name comes from the Latin, “planta” meaning a foot, in reference to its appearance and habitat and also to its ability to be spread very easily by its tiny seeds clinging to the soles of shoes. When you pick a leaf you may have noticed the fibres running through the leaves that hang like strings from the broken stem?
It has another name ‘snakeweed’ and for good reason. The little seed stalk that grows from the centre of the wide flat leaves sometimes resembles a snakes head but, more importantly, it is used to draw out venom from a snake bite. In fact, it is still an important remedy for the bites of bees, mosquitoes and poisonous spiders too.
There are two species that are commonly found and have equal use medicinally. They are Plantago major pictured here and Plantago lanceolata (longer lance-like leaves).
Herbalist Culpeper (1826) and its uses
Nicholas Culpeper described it in 1826 as a herb which, “prevails wonderfully against all torment or excoriations in the guts or bowels and stays all manner of fluxes”. And to this day plantain is still used today for cooling and moistening the bowels and for bacterial enteritis, diarrhoea and haemorrhoids.
It’s a great soother for sore membranes (gut, mouth etc etc). It is also expectorant and ideal for coughs and mild bronchitis. Back in Culpeper’s day, it was seen as “an especial remedy for those that are troubled with consumption of the lungs, or ulcers of the lungs, or coughs that come of heat”. This property as I’ve said still holds true today; it pulls water and mucus up from deep in the lungs and is used to treat emphysema and fibrosing alveolitis. It also works well if you want to give up smoking as it can make the taste of cigarettes unbearable.
Why I use it so much
Plantain Leaves, Trials and Research
Broad and ribwort plantain are common on lawns both public and private and these understated ‘weeds’ are a gold mine of immune supportive properties and in particular upper respiratory issues making it a flu/cold winter ‘must have’. The German commission confirms its use to ease coughs and all irritations of the mucous membranes connected to upper respiratory tract infections, where it reduces the irritation of lung tissues, partly by thinning down excess mucous. And clinical trials in Bulgaria have documented its use for chronic bronchitis. It also helps stimulate the immune system mostly down to its main active compound called ‘plantamajoside’ (similar to echinacoside in Echinacea in fact). It is also able to neutralise various bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, streptococcus betahaemolyticus, salmonella and more. Plantain will also stimulate the liver, helping it remove unwanted toxins more quickly and efficiently. There are so many attributes that plantain posses that are too numerous to list right now! But finally to say it will also help digestion and is easily made into a tea. So all these attributes and more made it a must-have in our wonderful ‘ImmuGold Tea’.
Its drawing qualities also make it very useful for teeth abscesses or inflammation around the roots of the teeth. It has even been known, to save a tooth and therefore it is a useful mouthwash to use before or after root canal surgery, or just on a daily basis. Equally, this drawing ability makes it invaluable to deep cysts and infection, difficult wounds etc.
Another use is for any and all skin conditions whether as an infection (deep or superficial) or for any skin condition that seems impossible to heal or alter. A study published in the Lancet described several people who contracted poison ivy rash who were immediately treated with plantain which caused the intense itching to subside and not return.
Similar to Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera contains allantoin which stimulates tissue regeneration and like aloe, plantain contains this cooling and healing potential protectant to the skin, encouraging healthy re-growth.
The Safety of Plantain
The wonders of plantain are limitless and I’ve only scratched the surface here. Equally, it is extremely safe to use in high or frequent doses if necessary and by young or old alike. Also apparently safe in pregnancy and breastfeeding.