Plantain (Plantago major) is used in herbal medicine to treat sluggish bowels, to heal wounds, to fight skin infections, to reduce phlegm, to soothe urinary tract infections, and to ease dry coughs.
Plantain seeds have high mucilage content and are often used to treat constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Pour a cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of plantain seeds. Cool and drink before bed.
Use plantain leaves in a relaxing tea for treating coughs due to colds and flu. Plantain tea not only soothes sore throat and coughing, but also acts as a gentle expectorant to help clear phlegm from the lungs and nasal passages. Plantain is also useful in the treatment of asthma, allergies, and hay fever.
Plantain is a good addition to lotions, ointments, and poultices. Use for skin inflammation, sores, bee stings, burns, hemorrhoids, and slow-healing wounds. Plantain may also be used in gargles and mouth washes. Use regularly to treat gum inflammation, mouth sores, and fever blisters. For added strength add a pinch of myrrh powder or a couple drops of tea tree essential oil.
Plantain leaves were once used to prevent diaper rash. Fresh leaves were crushed and put in baby’s diaper. Plantains are rich in mucilage, oils, protein, and starch and may be used as a food source when cooked like turnip greens. The seeds may be eaten fresh off the stalk.
Native Americans make good use of the plantain or “life medicine.” Medical research confirms that the plant is good for many of life’s ailments including emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, rheumatism, dysentery, gastritis, peptic ulcers, and diabetes.
Plantain can stop blood flow and encourages repair of damaged tissue when applied to external wounds. It has natural antibacterial properties that kill germs. Leaves may be used as a poultice on wounds, skin ulcers, and snake bites. Plantain poultices may also be applied to draw out splinters and thorns. Use of plantain can help reduce scarring when used over a period of time.
Plantain ointment is easy to make. Mix one cup of plantain leaves with a quarter cup of olive oil and heat in a small, enameled pan over low heat until mushy. Stir in two teaspoons of grated bees wax (until melted). Strain and store in a tightly covered container. Use within a couple of days or store in refrigerator for longer shelf life.
Plantain grows wild throughout Georgia and the Appalachians. When spotted in manicured lawns, it is considered a broadleaf weed. Instead of spraying with toxic chemicals, let a bed develop into mature plants. Plantain’s large green leaves are cool and refreshing next to a weathered shed or along a fence line.
Plantain is a valuable plant. For centuries, plantain leaf poultices have helped wounds, sores, sunburn, and stings (just crush the leaves and apply to skin). Plantain soothes pain, speeds healing, and fights infection. Plantain is also used as a spring tonic to build the immunity.
Young plantain leaves are astringent and make an excellent remedy for diarrhea. Pour a cup of boiling water over a quarter ounce of dried leaves, steep for ten minutes, and drink slowly. Plantain leaf tea us also used to increase uric acid excretion from the kidneys (which helps control gout).
Plantain seeds are useful for treating sore throats, ulcers, and other irritated tissues (due to their mucilage content). Plantain mucilage coats, heals, and protects.
Plantain seeds are good for the whole digestive system. Be sure to chew well. They can also be made into tea. A cup of plantain seed tea is excellent home remedy for constipation.
Young, fresh plantain leaves can be used in salads. The older leaves are tough but make healthy additions to soups and stews. Plantain leaves are nutritious with lots of flavonoids, calcium, and vitamin A. Try stir frying young leaves in toasted sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and maybe a sprinkle of cayenne pepper flakes or fresh lemon juice. Another way to get plantain into the diet is to lightly toss with olive oil, add salt, pepper, or other favorite dry seasonings, and bake until crispy. Much healthier than potato chips!
Plantain produces long, narrow spikes which rise well above the leaves. Each spike can produce up to 10,000 seeds (small, oval-shaped, and bland tasting). The seeds can be ground and mixed with other grains when making bread.
There are over 200 species in the plantain family. Plantago major and Plantago lanceolata are the most common. Both have the same medicinal properties. Plantago major has wider rounded leaves, with multiple flowering stalks while Plantago lanceolata has longer, slender leaves with a cone of flowers on the top. (The banana-like fruit known as plantain is not related to Plantago.)
Plantain grows wild in the North Georgia area. Plantain grows in most soils and prefers full sun. The leaves form a rosette of large, dark green leaves that grow up to 10 inches long. The flower stalks are tall and slender with tiny brown seeds maturing in late summer and early fall. Harvest young leaves to use as a spring tonic. Gather seeds and leaves in late summer to dry for winter use.