Plantain (officially Plantago major) is a weed commonly found in the wild and (much to suburbanites’ chagrin) the lawns of almost everyone living in temperate climates. Just think, here’s a weed probably found in your yard that you used to kill, and now, after reading this, you will want to harvest! There are over 200 species. You can find it quickly when you see the green, nubby spikes, which stick up out of a cluster of round leaves.
In North America, Native Americans learned to use plantain to treat bites of all kinds. In fact, plantain was formerly used to heal the bites of “mad dogs, snakes, and venomous creatures.” A colonial American slave could win his freedom by teaching his master, at an urgent time, how to use plantain to cure rattlesnake bite. In 1710 an article was published, listing plantain leaf’s many benefits. The list sounded like it could have been written by a traveling medicine doctor as a promo for his elixir!
Take a few fresh leaves, crush or chew them, and see how quickly they stop the bleeding of an open wound or the pain and inflammation of bites and stings. Plantain can also be used to treat minor cuts and a wide range of skin disorders, including dandruff, eczema, or sunburn. Plantain is like a First Aid kit growing in the lawn! A cup of strong Plantain tea will calm indigestion, and the leaf will relieve the pain of a toothache. In Europe they endorse plantain as a treatment for bronchitis, sore throat, and cold symptoms.
Today, plantain has been acclaimed for its ability to relieve the effects of bee stings, insect and spider bites, and rashes caused by Poison Ivy or Stinging Nettles. Plantain, Jewelweed, and Hound’s Tongue are all called by Dr. Christopher “Nature’s erasers.” “Stand anywhere within sight of Poison Ivy, and look about. You will always see at least one of these plants, placed by the hand of God to come to your aid, if you should need it.” The fiber and mucilage from the seeds of the Plantago species are a primary source of fiber for millions of people worldwide. Plantain will also protect the body against tumors and help resist damage to the liver resulting from chemotherapy drugs.
Many commercial cosmetic creams and lotions list as an active ingredient a substance called allantoin that is found in plantain. It speeds wound healing, kills germs, and stimulates the growth of new skin cells.
Plantain heals on contact. Therefore it is essential for emergency situations such as stopping itching and/or bleeding, reducing inflammation, killing infection, etc. Along with cayenne, and comfrey, plantain should be kept close at hand in case of physical injuries.
A simple ointment, made with an olive oil, extract of fresh plantain, and a little beeswax makes a very effective treatment for skin ailments, including diaper rash. To soothe bug bites, eczema, poison ivy, or other minor skin irritations, rub fresh plantain leaves on the affected area. You can also make a soothing poultice of fresh, mashed leaves and a little cool water. Apply it to sunburns. Plantain is also available as a supplement in liquid extract and capsule form. The usual dosage for bronchial symptoms is one teaspoon of liquid extract three times a day, or up to 6,000 milligrams in capsules per day.
Plantain is both good for you and safe. Though some reaction to excessive amounts has been reported, there are no known reactions to normal use. Just remember to keep it cool or frozen to preserve its value.