Plantain herb is actually a wild plant that is native to Europe, Asia and North America. It has weedy properties and is often confused with notorious garden weeds and unknowingly eliminated. But if you knew how useful the plant is, you’d think twice before weeding it out!
Historically, the plantain herb has been widely used for healing and other medicinal purposes by various civilizations around the globe. The herb finds mention in the ancient, Anglo-Saxon text of ‘Lacnunga’, which means ‘remedies’. In the 1500s, the Europeans used it to cure everything from boils to fevers to dog bites. The Native Americans have also been using it to heal stings, snake bites, cuts and fevers.
How to Identify Plantain Herb
Plantains are low-growing plants easily found in gardens and wastelands. These are two types – broadleaved and narrow-leaved. Although both possess equal healing qualities, people generally prefer the broadleaved ones, as they are softer and more voluminous. But you are free to use the ones more easily available in your area.
Since they have invasive properties, it is better to collect them from a growth in a wasteland than introduce them to your manicured gardens. What’s more important is that you identify the plant correctly. One distinct characteristic of plantains is that it does not grow a stem above the soil, instead grows as a bunch of flowering stalks. But if you’re not too familiar with different types of flora growths, it might be a good idea to seek the help of an expert.
Once you’ve identified the plant, you can pick its leaves and use it for various purposes. For all medicinal purposes, use the slightly matured ones, which are still unblemished but have higher potency. If you want to use them for salads and garnishing, pick the tender ones, which are more edible in their raw form.
Benefits of Plantain Herb
Major chemical components of plantain include mucilage, tannins and iridoid glycosides (like aucubin). Because of these elements, the herb possesses antimicrobial properties along with being anti-inflammatory and pain relieving. Plantain also has the quality to soothe and heal stings, snake bites and wounds. The biochemicals present in the herb prevent the bites and wounds from becoming septic and accelerate their healing, while allantoin, another substance in the herb, aids regeneration of the tissue. The herb also displays astringent properties that help clean the body and can treat ailments like diarrhea and the common cold. It is also a much gentler form of astringent as compared to other varieties. The aucubin present in the herb can heal injured or damaged nerves too.
The plant is edible and is packed with vitamins, minerals and calcium. It is a rich source of vitamin K, which actually helps curb bleeding from wounds. The beta-carotene in plantain helps prevent cancer and improves eyesight. The herb is also a rich source of several other phytonutrients including oleanolic, apigenin and baicalein.
Uses of Plantain Herb
Plantain is a highly potent herb and can be taken orally or applied over the affected area, depending on the ailment. The following conditions can be cured by taking the herb orally:
- Respiratory infections including common cold and flu: Drink some warm plantain tea or keep plantain tincture under the tongue.
- Liver or kidney problems: Have plantain tea every day (two glasses) for healthier liver and kidneys.
- Gastro-intestinal inflammation: Drink warm plantain tea or keep plantain tincture under the tongue.
- Mouth ulcers: Swish two tablespoons of the tea or a tablespoon of diluted tincture in your mouth (3-4 times a day).
- Throat infections: Gargle with diluted tincture or plantain tea.
- Diarrhea: Have two cups of plantain tea in the day to regulate your bowel movement.
These conditions can be healed by proper application of the herb on affected areas:
- Burns: Apply plantain poultice on the burn area immediately and bandage it with the broadleaves. Follow it up by applying plantain salve for the next few days.
- Cuts and open wounds: Plantain herb can curb bleeding quickly. Apply some crushed leaves on the wound immediately, and then clean it with diluted plantain tincture to wash off infections and accelerate healing.
- Acne and boils: Apply plantain salve or tincture to the boil every few hours.
- Dandruff: Use plantain tea to wash your scalp or mix it in your hair oil and massage regularly.
- Sunburn: Cover the affected area with a freshly crushed poultice or sludge and then wash it with plantain tea.
Making Plantain Ready for Use
The poultice is one of the easiest and most effective forms of plantain use. It can be prepared quickly: simply crush the leaves and apply it on the wound. You can crush it between the palms or use a stone to beat it.
However, it might be impractical to run to the wasteland every time you need to use plantain. Sometimes there may be a medical condition when you may not be in a position to run or walk that far. For such situations, it is better to have the herb in your house, within your reach at all times.
For this purpose, plantain herb can be made into tea, tincture and salve, and stored for later use.
Make Plantain Tea
What You Need
- Plantain: A handful of fresh leaves
- Water: 2 cups
- Bowl: Preferably heat-proof and with a tight lid
How You Make It
- Clean the plantain leaves well with water, put it in the bowl and keep it aside.
- Boil two cups of water, pour it over the leaves and place the lid on the bowl. Leave it to cool down.
- By the time it cools, the water would have absorbed the essence of the herb. Strain the water and store it in your fridge. You can keep it refrigerated for about two weeks.
Apart from curing several ailments mentioned above, the tea can also be consumed as a daily tonic. It is rich in several vitamins and minerals that are good for your health and immunity. To add flavor to the drink, you can mix some honey as well.
Obtain Plantain Sludge
When you strain the plantain tea mix, what remains is the leaf sludge, which is useful in curing sunburns and protecting your face and body from the summer heat.
Make Plantain Tincture
What You Need
- Plantain: 1 cup of leaves, washed and dried
- Alcohol: A pint of vodka or brandy, 100 proof
- Glass jar with a fitting lid
How You Make It
- Place the leaves into the glass jar and fill the jar with alcohol by pouring it over the leaves. Stir the mix thoroughly.
- Place the lid on the jar and leave it in a cool, dark place for eight weeks. Remember to shake the jar after every few days.
- The tincture will be ready in six to eight weeks. Leave the jar in the dark place and it will not spoil for up to three years.
Make Plantain Salve
What You Need
- Plantain leaves: Washed and dried
- Coconut Oil: 4 oz
- Beeswax: ½ oz
- Heatproof jar
How You Make It
- Cut the leaves into smaller pieces and fill them in the jar up to half its depth.
- Pour coconut oil over the leaves then place the jar in a saucepan. Fill it with water halfway up the glass jar. Set the temperature on a low simmer and leave it for two hours. The oil will slowly infuse in the jar.
- After two hours, strain the leaves to obtain the oil, which would have turned a sweet shade of light green.
- Add beeswax to the oil and place it in the saucepan again for the wax to melt.
- Pour the melted mixture into tin containers and leave them to cool down. As it cools, the oil mix will set in the containers and turn opaque.
Apart from cuts and burns, you can use plantain salve to heal dry skin, chapped hands and as baby diaper cream in limited quantities.
With all its medicinal qualities, plantain should be a part of your first-aid kit at all times. All these years, there may have been a plantain plant growing in your backyard and you wouldn’t have known. But now you do! Look around, and see if you can find a plantain growing in your locality. If not, you can surely find it in wastelands and unkempt gardens. It’s time you give this weedy plant a second chance, and let it prove its immense usefulness to you.