Plantain (Plantago Major) is a very familiar perennial weed and my be found anywhere on yards and meadowland. It is an excellent herb to know about and go to when hiking, or in the outdoors and need an easy medicine.
The herb has a long history of use as an alternative medicine dating back to ancient times. Being used as a panacea (medicinal for everything) in some cultures, one American Indian name for the plant translates to “life medicine”.
The Plantain belongs to the natural order Plantaginaceae, which contains more than 200 species, twenty-five or thirty of which have been reported as in domestic use.
The plant is without odor. The leaves are saline, bitterish and acrid to the taste and the root is saline and sweetish.
The chemical analysis of Plantago Major reveals the remarkable glycoside Aucubin which has been reported in the Journal of Toxicology as a powerful anti-toxin.
The leaves and the seed are medicinal used as an antibacterial, antidote, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antitussive, cardiac, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, haemostatic, laxative, ophthalmic, poultice, refrigerant, and vermifuge.
Medical evidence exists to confirm uses as an alternative medicine for asthma, emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, rheumatism and blood sugar control.
A decoction of the roots is used in the treatment of a wide range of complaints including diarrhea, dysentery, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhage, hemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, coughs, asthma and hay fever.
It also causes a natural aversion to tobacco and is currently being used in stop smoking preparations. Extracts of the plant have antibacterial activity.
Plantain is a safe and effective treatment for bleeding, it quickly stops blood flow and encourages the repair of damaged tissue. The heated leaves are used as a wet dressing for wounds, skin inflammations, malignant ulcers, cuts, stings and swellings and said to promote healing without scars.
Poultice of hot leaves is bound onto cuts and wounds to draw out thorns, splinters and inflammation. The root is said to be used as an anti-venom for rattlesnakes bites.
Plantain seeds contain up to 30% mucilage which swells in the gut, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. The seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic worms. A distilled water made from the plant makes an excellent eye lotion.
Plantain is a wonderful herb to know of if you are an avid outdoor hiker and traveler, for if you get receive a wound, you can use this as first aid. Clean the leaf and simply chew it with as little saliva as you can and put this crushed poultice on the wound and cover to hold it in place.
Plantain draws toxins from the body with its astringent nature, plantain may be crushed or chewed and placed as a poultice directly over the site of bee stings, bug bites, acne, slivers, glass splinters, or rashes.
The leaves can also be made into a tea or tincture, and this is said to help with indigestion, heartburn and ulcers when taking internally.
The properties that make plantain an effective wound-healer also make it an effective remedy for hemorrhoids.
When processed and turned into a lotion or ointment, plantain can be applied to hemorrhoids to stop the flow of blood, which is also useful in the treatment of cystitis accompanied by bleeding.
Plantain is good for injuries because of its coagulating properties, but those with blood disorders or prone to blood clots should not use Plantain internally.
If harvesting it yourself, make sure to get from an area that has not been sprayed with any chemicals or pesticides, and make sure that you have correctly identified the plant before using or consuming.
The young leaves are edible raw in salad or cooked as a pot herb, they are very rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. It can be used in soups and salads.
Plantain is very easy to cultivate, it succeeds in any soil and prefers a sunny position. It is an important food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies.
Plantain grows from a short, tough rootstock or rhizome, which has a large number of long, straight, yellowish roots, is a basal, rosette of large, broadly oval, dark green, leaves.
The 4 to 10 inch long smooth, thick, strong and fibrous leaves have 3 to 7 or more ribbed veins, abruptly contracting into a long, petiole (leaf stalk) which is reddish at the base.
The leaf margin is of Plantain is entire, or unevenly toothed. The flower stalks, are erect, long, slender, densely-flowered spikes.
Each tiny flower is brownish and bell-shaped with four stamens and purple anthers.
Flowers bloom most of the summer. The fruit is a two-celled capsule and containing four to sixteen seeds.
Harvest fresh young edible leaves in spring. Gather Plantain after flower spike forms, dry for later herb use.