Plantain aka life medicine

Plantain in February

Plantain in February

It was a lovely day in February, 45°F with no snow on ground, so I decided to take a stroll our land to see what was peeking through. Up until this day, winter had been very mild in western New York and grass was still green in most places.  Besides the grass thriving, I noticed the Plantain (Plantago lanceolata was growing on that day, not Plantago major, both are medicinal and can be used interchangeably) was still green and growing delicate young leaves in the center. Of course, I had to taste a couple of leaves and friends, let me tell you they were delicious, better than I have ever tasted before. Moreover, I have tasted my share of Plantain, as we use it quite a bit as a spit poultice for insect bites. Its delicate leaves did not have any bitterness to them, but had a rather smooth nutty flavor. I actually kept on going back to them because they were so delicious.

Plantain is commonly known as the band-aid plant but it is oh so much more. Yes, it is a wonderful remedy for insect bites, wounds, rashes and skin irritations. However, the properties that make it healing and soothing to wounds or skin irritations can help heal problems experienced internally.  This powerful herb can heal and soothe discomforts from the mouth to the anus. That is why for centuries it has been used as a panacea, or universal remedy.

Let’s first look at its basic properties: it is anti-inflammatory, astringent, antibacterial, antimicrobial, diuretic, mucilaginous and styptic. Sounds perfect for healing, as it is. It contains allantoin, which is considered a cell proliferant, that’s an herb that promotes healing of injured skin cells.  Plantain is rich in tannins that help draw tissues together to stop bleeding and aid in recovery. On top of that, its mucilaginous qualities protect and soothe inflamed tissues inside and out.  In addition, it contains, aucubin, which is a defensive compound that can inhibit the ability of bacteria and viruses’ ability to replicate their DNA, therefore reducing their life span and infection.  Finally, its drawing action on top of all of its other properties makes it the shining star we know and love. It can draw venom or toxins from a wound, pus from an infection and a splinter from a finger. Recently, I used it to remove an imbedded tick head from my husband.

Plantain is plain and simply a tissue healer. Interestingly, if a poultice is used on a puncture wound it will start the healing process from the inside out, unlike comfrey that may heal and seal the top layer of skin first, possibly trapping any infection inside; not a good thing or helpful during the healing process.

So let’s look at the body and all the types of sores, inflammations, infections, hot and irritated conditions that can afflict it and how Plantain can soothe, cool and heal the body.

Starting with the mouth ~ abscesses, root canal sepsis, sores, sore throats ~ Simply chew up some fresh leaves and place it inside the mouth on the infected, irritated site and it will draw out any infections and soothe the tissues. You can also rinse the mouth or gargle with tea for mild irritations. The veins of the leaves can be used as dental floss.

Respiratory ~ wet hacking coughs, any lung infection, laryngitis, allergic rhinitis, asthma, and even pneumonia ~ It’s astringent and drying properties help to pull and draw mucus up and out while its moistening properties soothe and repair the mucous membrane. For postnasal drip with coughs, make a strong tea and strain it through a coffee filter, add it to a neti pot with a little salt to heal irritated tissues. It is less astringent and more soothing than Goldenrod when used in this manner.  For dry coughs from a cold or inhaled irritant, chew a few fresh leaves and keep it in your cheek, let the juice mix with saliva and continue to swallow and let it drip down to moisten lung tissue. It will help loosen, soothe and cool dry hacking coughs.

Urinary ~ urinary tract infections, bladder infections, interstitial cystitis ~ It tones the urinary system while soothing and cooling especially burning when urinating as it provides a lubricating barrier. Tea or tincture made from the leaves relieves discomfort.

Digestive ~ gastritis, peptic & gastric ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, dysentery, indigestion, heartburn, hemorrhoids, and Leaky Gut Syndrome ~ Plantain is soothing and cooling to mucous membranes and is exactly what your gut needs. The seeds contain up to 30% mucilage, which swells up in the gut, acting as a lubricating laxative; soothing irritated membranes to help with healing. The leaves can also be made into a tea or tincture.

For all infections, using fresh Plantain leaves is ideal. To expedite the healing process, also taking a tincture made from the leaves internally is very helpful in giving your body the extra support to heal and recover.

The young center leaves are great additions to salads and high in vitamins A, C, K, B, folic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfur, phosphorous, zinc, copper and cobalt. You can also use it as a potherb, much like Swiss chard. When chopping up the leaves, cut across veins and into little pieces, they are not as tough when cut this way. Plantain seeds add essential fatty acids, protein, vitamin E and more calcium to any meal. The seeds can be ground-up, added to baked items and mixed with other flours.

This just brushes the surface of all the magical properties of Plantain. Nevertheless, I am sure by now, you can see that we are very lucky that this versatile herb is so common.



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