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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