Plant Profile: Plantain

Plantain(Plantago major; Plantago lancelota)














Family: PLANTAGINACEAE 
Energetics: Cooling, moistening 
Taste: Bitter. 
Tissue States: Hot, Dry. 
Parts Used: Leaf. Less often the Root & seed.
Systems affected: Bladder, intestines, kidneys, lungs, skin. 
Key Components: Polysaccharides, lipids, caffeic acid derivatives, flavonoids, acubin, apigenin, baicalein, iridoid glycosides, terpenoids, alkaloids, vitamin C & K, betacarotene, calcium, mucilage. 
Preparations & dosage: Infusion: Pour 1 quart of just boiled water over 1 oz of the fresh leaf. Cover & steep overnight. Strain and enjoy warm or cold within 2 days. Alternately: Pour 1 cup of water over 1 heaping teaspoon of dried or one or 2 cut up fresh leaves and infuse for 10 minutes. Both ways can be done for a short or long steep. Tincture: Fresh plant is always preferred to dry for tinctures. 1-3 squirts 1-3x per day
Topical: Apply fresh chewed or bruised leaves directly to the affected area until symptoms resolve. 
Herbal Oil: Fresh wilted is great to use to make an herbal oil which can then be use alone, blended with other oils or even be made into a salve. There are many ways to make an herbal oil. 
Properties: Deobstruent, cooling alterative, emollient, astringent, mucilaginous, diuretic, styptic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, aperient, hemostatic. 
Uses: Plantain is an amazing choice for all kinds of HOT conditions. Think a feeling of being hot whether it be systemically (feeling hot, red or yellow tongue) or locally (Sharp pain, stings, burns, hot itchy rashes)
Plantain as a Detoxifying Blood Cleanser and/or Infection Fighter: Draws out toxins from the body. It is a nutrient rich plant that is excellent for stimulating the liver which gives it a long history as a remedy for blood poisoning, THE best remedy actually. Not only can it reduce swelling but it has, according to Dr Christopher. This affinity for the liver also makes it useful for all kinds of liver problems such as poor digestion, difficulty assimilating nutrients, hepatitis, jaundice and all manner of skin issues. It's cooling nature is also useful for someone with generally too much heat in the body that presents as someone being "hot headed". Both root and leaf create a slightly stimulating effect on the cardiovascular system which benefits the glandular & lymph systems to help clear infection from the body.

Use internally as a demulcent and as an infection fighter for Urinary tract infections.

Use as an eye wash for eye infections.

Poultice is great for skin infections.

Tea or diluted tincture for mouth wounds or infections.

Plantain for the digestive system: As a cooling demulcent with wound healing (vulnerary), Anti-microbial (infection fighting) and an astringent to help tighten and tone the tissues, it makes a wonderful choice for acute and chronic upper digestive issues. Leaky gut. Ulcers. IBS. Ulcerative Colitis. The seeds are actually more soothing as they have more mucilage than the leaf but are not as good at stopping bleeding. 


Plantain for Seasonal Allergies: Plantain, with it's antihistamine properties, is an excellent choice to help calm the excessive histamine response caused by seasonal and other allergies. Blend as a tea or tincture with nettle and spearmint as a nourishing allergy relief tea.

Plantain as a Poultice For All Sorts of Bites & Stings:Use as a poultice to draw out toxins from bites and stings of insects, venomous snakes & spiders. For more serious bites and stings you should use a poultice as well as take a tea or tincture internally every 30 minutes until symptoms abate. Watch the video below about using fresh Plantain leaf on a bee sting or you can read my story further down.






This afternoon, around 4:00, I was in the garden texting with my son, trying to figure out when he would need to be picked up from work. As I'm talking with my husband I step back and a sharp pain shoots through my foot. I pick it up and it is a stick with a GIANT thorn in it. I pull it out, thank my husband and hand him the stick (He was the one that was trimming bushes and left it there after all). Right about then, my son texts me and tells me he should be ready by 4:30, OK, cool. I hear my 5 year old screaming inside the house so I head towards the house to answer her calls before heading out. Not 3 steps onto the driveway I feel a SECOND sharp pain in the SAME FOOT! I pick the foot up and there was a BEE still stuck in my foot. I had stepped on him! *SIGH* I pull the bee out of my foot and he flies away. Instinctively I know that we have very little plantain in our yard but there is some next to the tomatoes, so I hobble run to the back yard and sit down next our beautiful plantain friends. I take a leaf and chew it up a bit (I show you in the video how I did this) and put it on the sting. Ahhh.. Almost instant relief. I chewed up a second leaf and applied that as well. After about 5 minutes I get up and walk away to get my keys to pick my son up from work and head on my way. There is NO PAIN on my foot where the bee showed his displeasure at being stepped on. 

You can also chew it up completely and use another leaf or something else to hold it in place
However, this worked just fine for me and was so much easier. 

Another fun Plantain story that happened today (though probably not today anymore for those of you reading this). I was set up at a local farmers market. We had been open MAYBE half an hour and a husband and wife come up to me. They were looking at my first aid liniment. The woman showed me her hand and told me that a little bit earlier she had been bitten or stung by some type of deer or horsefly. I looked at the back of her hand and could see there was quite a bit of swelling. They were wondering if maybe the first aid liniment would be helpful for the bite. I immediately turned around, behind where my tables and tent were set up, I knew there was a small patch of plantain. I picked a nice leaf and brought it to her. I told her how to use it as a poultice and they took it and walked away with the plantain on her hand. They came around again and I asked how her hand was doing. She took the plantain off and showed me where the swelling was almost completely gone! Needless to say they were both quite impressed with how well and how fast it worked.

 A poultice can also work for boils, irruptive skin disorders, tumors & any established or stubborn infection. I would probably take internally for this purpose as well.

Plantain for Splinters: Plantain's abilities to draw things out of the body are so amazing that it can be used to remove deep splinters (soak area in a very hot plantain tea, add some sea salt if you have some, for 20-30 minutes. Then apply mashed plantain leaves & wrap it up so the plantain stays in place. Change this poultice a few times throughout the day. Do this until the sliver is close enough to the surface to pull out). Can be used as a styptic to help stop bleeding (place mashed leaves directly on wound until bleeding slows or stops). Soothes & slightly moistens irritated mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. Indicated for irritating cough. 

Plantain to Stop or Slow Bleeding: Apply a Poultice of fresh plantain onto a bleeding wound until the flow abates. Also known to help speed the healing process from injuries. Tea or tincture can be used to slow heavy menstrual bleeding. This works best when combined with yarrow and nettle or shepherds purse.

Plantain as a Soothing Demulcent: Taken internally for its demulcent properties for urinary tract infections the apigenin in Plantain also helps the kidneys secrete uric acid. Soothes & slightly moistens irritated mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. Indicated for irritating cough.

Plantain For the Mouth: Recommended as a mouth rinse for issues of the mouth including canker sores, thrush & infected or painful teeth and gums. Try using a fresh poultice right on the affected area in addition to rinsing. Bite your tongue recently? Give a plantain rinse a try?

Plantain as Food: The young leaves are best to use as the leaf gets bitter and a bit stringy as it gets older. You can use it as a trail nibble, in salads and smoothies, stir-fry and many other dishes.  Try adding it to pesto! The seeds are high in vitamin B-1 and can be eaten raw or cooked. Use dried or fresh in almost any baked goods. They can also be dried and ground and mixed in to replace some of the flour in bread or muffin recipes. Powder the dried seeds (or you can keep them whole) and use about 1 tsp sprinkled on food 1-3 times per day. 

Indications:
  
Essential Oil: N/A
Flower Essence: Transmutes emotionally sensitive situations & allays fears. 
Growing: A common lawn weed that most people try to poison or mow. Perennial that grows in any soil, shade or partial shade in zones 2-15! Found on paths, sidewalk cracks, roadsides, waste-grounds, meadows and almost every lawn in America. 
 Collection: You can pick the leaves during the season to use fresh or you can dry them by spreading them in a single layer over a screen or even freeze them to use over the winter. Compost any leaves that turn black.
Seeds: Harvest on the stalk when ripe. Hang upside down in a paper bag, strip the seeds off once dried and store in a glass jar or paper bag (ALL of my dried herbs are stored in glass mason jars). This is a prolific non-native plant and is considered invasive. Harvest to your hearts content (but at the same time, there is no need to harvest what you are not likely to use). 
Contraindications:  NO KNOWN though one herbalist in all of my research recommends to avoid LARGE doses internally if taking any type of prescription blood thinners. 

Resources

Northeast Foraging: Leda Meredith; Pg 208- 209
Backyard Medicine: Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal; Pg 127-131
The Herbal Apothecary: JJ Pursell; Pg 142-144.
The Way of Herbs: Michael Tierra; Pg 179-180.

Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: Rosemary Gladstar; Pg 188-191.


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