Is plantain a weed or herb?
I spent years ridding my vegetable garden and flower beds of plantain before realizing it had any beneficial herbal properties.
Broadleaf plantain, not be be confused with plantain fruit, is a perennial plant that produces greenish flowers and has large, oval leaves. It’s native to most of Europe and northern and central Asia but has spread to other parts of the world because of its ability to grow wherever there is sufficient water.
Plantain grows 4-5 inches tall and can be found growing along paths, disturbed roadsides, field edges, vacant lots, yards, parking lots, parks, sidewalk cracks and waste areas. Its smooth parallel-veined leaves grow up to 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. Its leaf stems are fibrous and can have red coloring at the base. It produces long flower stalks with small white blossoms in midsummer. The flowers then give way to small, edible seeds.
Although plantain is considered a weed by some, it’s one of the most abundant and widely distributed medicinal crops in the world. The leaves are primarily used as medicine, but the seeds can also be utilized as a laxative. Plantain can be used to soothe bronchitis, burns, coughs, dermatitis, insect bites and stings, peptic ulcers, urinary tract infection and wound healing.
Gathering plantain herb
Springtime is the best time to gather plantain leaves because they are the most vibrant and tender. However, plantain can be harvested throughout the year. Plantain seeds can be collected in late summer when they are dry and brown. After collection store seeds in an airtight container and dry leaves.
Using plantain herb for common ailments
Bronchitis. Plantain helps to reduce mucus secretion in airways and reduce inflammation to clear up bronchitis. Drink three cups of tea a day made with 1/2 tsp of dried plantain leaves steeped in a cup of water.
Burns. Plantain’s anti-inflammatory properties aid repair of damaged tissue. Apply a whole plantain leaf directly to the burn as a poultice.
Cough. Plantain soothes coughs for the same reasons it’s useful in combating bronchitis. Make a tea using 1/2 tsp of dried plantain leaves steeped in a cup of water.
Dermatitis, poison ivy and other skin conditions. Plantain provides relief to dermatitis, poison ivy and other skin conditions because of its ability to draw out toxins and soothe and reduce inflammation. Apply whole plantain leaves directly to the affected area.
Insect bites and stings. After drawing toxin out of bug bites and stings, plantain can prevent swelling and rashes from developing. You can treat bug bites and stings by applying a plantain salve and or soaking a rag in plantain tea and holding it against the affected area.
Peptic ulcers. Plantain tea can soothe internal, inflamed intestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel issues and peptic ulcers because of its anti-inflammatory effects and tissue-healing properties. Drink a tea made from 1/2 tsp of dried plantain leaves steeped in a cup of water.
Urinary tract infection. Plantain can help relieve symptoms of urinary tract infections when consumed in a tea because of its anti-inflammatory and tissue-healing properties. Make a tea from 1/2 tsp of dried plantain leaves steeped in a cup of water.
Wounds. Use a topical plantain wash and apply a plantain salve to speed wound healing and ease discomfort.
- Midwest Medicinal Plants by Lisa M. Rose
- Kaiser Permanente
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Thank you for this article on plantain it is all over my yard and now I know what to do with it. Can an oil be made or a tincture?
Lea Ann, you can make both with fresh plantain leaves. A tincture can be made from 1 part fresh chopped plantain leaves and 2 parts menstruum. One dose would be 10-15 drops by mouth. An oil can be made from 1 part fresh chopped plantain leaves and 2 parts oil. Plantain-infused oil can be used topically.
Nice article. I have been using the leaves as a bandage on my cracked heels for the past few weeks. I spread aloe vera gel over my cracked heels and place the plantain leaf over the heel and put a sock on over it all. I leave it there all night and the cracks are finally healing on my heels. This is one of the miracle weeds in my garden. I would like to keep some for winter when I cant get them. Any suggestions on how i can store them. Thanks so much Linda
Linda, the best way to store plantain is dried out. You can dry it by harvesting it and hanging it upside down in a cool, dry place. After it’s dried out, store it in paper bags or glass jars to use later. You could also try harvesting some of the seeds this fall and growing it in a container if you want to have a fresh source through the winter. Plantain is pretty hardy and grows well in soils that aren’t incredibly fertile, so it shouldn’t be too hard to establish a small patch of it.
Salve how do you make it
You can make a salve using 1 part fresh, chopped leaves; 2 parts oil (olive oil works well). Oil should sit and soak with the leaves in it for 3-6 months before use.
But won’t olive oil go rancid by then? It doesn’t keep very well for long.
Olive oil lasts for 18-24 months from when you open it.
Hi Sara! I read plantain is helpful for inflammation – any recipes/suggestions for that?
Plantain is known to soothe inflammation and skin irritation. The best way to use it topically is by chopping or smashing the leaves up and applying the pulp directly to the site of the wound. You can also make a wound wash by making plantain tea — 1/2 tsp of dried plantain leaves steeped in a cup of water. Or you can use it topically as an oil — 1 part fresh, chopped leaves; 2 parts oil (olive oil works well). However, oil should sit and soak with the leaves in it for 3-6 months before use.
Dr. Joel Wallach DMV ND..says oils including olive oil more rancid than commonly known..as salve is external use less of an issue