Plantain, the Miracle Plant
Plantain can be used as medicine and is edible.
The young leaves are edible, raw in salad, or can be cooked as a herbal additive. They are rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin.
Plantain has been used as a medicine, all the way back to ancient times.
Plantain contains the glycoside Aucubin. Aucubin has been reported in the Journal of Toxicology as a powerful anti-toxin. There are also many more highly effective constituents in this plant including Ascorbic-acid, Apigenin, Baicalein, Benzoic-acid, Chlorogenic-acid, Citric-acid, Ferulic-acid, Oleanolic-acid, Salicylic-acid, and Ursolic-acid.
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.
There are many varieties of Plantain. I show pictures, in this post, of English Plantain. You might have other varieties in your area, so make sure to look online for the types in your area or buy a book to help you find the plantain. Do not use any plant that you have not positively, 100% identified!
A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guides) – pages 83-84
A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guides) – page 46
Plantain is a perennial herb, thought to be of Eurasian origin, but is now naturalized across the globe. Plantain is lamented as a common weed by some and a miracle plant by others.
Plantain is very easy to cultivate, it thrives in any soil and prefers a sunny position. It is an important food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies.
Harvesting your Plantain
By the light of the first moon, on the third Tuesday of the month… Nah, I’m just kidding.
Simply gather the fresh young edible leaves in spring. Gather Plantain after flower spike forms to dry for later herb use. Harvest roots in late summer or fall.
Plantain Parts and their uses
Leaves: The leaves and the seeds can be used medicinally as an antibacterial, antidote, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, and an ophthalmic. Medical evidence exists to confirm uses as an alternative medicine for asthma, emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, rheumatism and blood sugar control.
Root: A tonic from the roots is used in the treatment of a wide range of complaints including diarrhea, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, sinusitis, coughs, asthma and hay fever. The root is said to be used as an anti-venom for rattlesnake bites. It also causes a natural aversion to tobacco and is currently being used in stop smoking preparations
Seeds: The seeds contain up to 30% mucilage, which swells in the intestines, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. The seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic worms. Distilled water made from the plant seeds makes an excellent eye lotion.
Healing salve: In large, non-metallic pan place 1 pound of an entire Plantain plant, chopped, and 1 cup lard. Cover and cook down on low heat till all is mushy and green. Strain while hot, cool and use for burns, insect bites, rashes, and all sores. This is great for mosquito bites. Note: It is rumored that this can also be used as night cream to smooth wrinkles.
Poultice: Poultice of hot leaves is bound onto cuts and wounds to draw out thorns, splinters and inflammation.
Extracts: Plantain extracts have antibacterial activity. It is a safe and effective treatment for bleeding, as it quickly stops blood flow and encourages the repair of damaged tissue.
Wound Dressing: The heated leaves are used as a wet dressing for wounds, skin inflammations, cuts, stings and swellings and is said to promote healing without scars.
The entire plant is edible.
Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. They are somewhat bitter and tedious to prepare. It’s generally preferable, but not required, to remove the fibrous strands before use. Many people will blanch the leaves in boiling water, before using them in salads, to make them more tender. Once blanched, plantain can be frozen then used later in a sauté, soup or stew.
Dried leaves make a healthy herbal tea.
Seeds can be eaten raw or cooked and can be tedious to harvest. The seed can be ground into a meal and mixed with flour.
Now that you know about plantain and understand its many uses, I’ll bet many of you will seek it out in your own backyard or surrounding areas!