When I went back to school I had the choice of taking herbal medicine classes or aromatherapy. I was already dabbling with essential oils, but I knew very little about herbal medicine. So I decided to take herbal medicine and learn something new. Boy am I so happy I did!
Plantain (not related to the banana) was the first herb that I learned about. I was shocked when I was reading all of its benefits! “Wait! Plantain is a weed? Plantain is a weed that most people think is pesky and want to get rid of it? And it has all these benefits? If people only knew! I wish I knew sooner” All these thoughts were running through my head as I kept reading. I was stunned! This was the time I fell in love with herbal medicine! Now I can’t get enough herbal medicine and use it daily.
While living in Southern California I didn’t come across too many plantain plants, but the ones I did I am pretty sure were sprayed with chemicals. So I left them alone. I just recently moved to Northern California and I have been finding it everywhere and in places I am sure haven’t been sprayed. I am in plantain heaven!
Let’s talk about the name real quick. When I was in school, we also talked about the importance of knowing the Latin name of the plants we are studying. Plantain is one of the reasons why. There are some herbs out there that share common names with other foods. Plantain is not a banana. There is a plant called licorice that is nothing like the candy licorice. And there is also a plant called Marshmallow that is not white and puffy. So knowing the Latin name is really helpful.
Okay, let’s get to all the details of Plantain:
Latin Name: Plantago major or Plantago lanceolata.
Common Names: Ribwort, ripplegrass, waybread, broad-leaved, snakeweed, Englishman’s footprint, Soldier’s footprint, greater plantain, and lamb’s tongue.
There are two different leaves. One is broad and the other is narrow. They have ribbed lines in them. The front is a little darker green than the back. A plantain plant can have a number of leaves. The leaves can get about a foot long. Plantains have a very skinny stem that goes into a spiked-like flower. The stems are stiff and grooved. The flowers can get to 2 to 3 inches. The flowers have seeds all along. At first, they are green and then they turn brown. And then get fuzzy almost like a dandelion.
Her leaves are both soft and kind of astringent. The flowers are smooth before it blooms and slowly gets fuzzy.
The leaf reminds me of how grass smells. The flowers and seeds have no smell.
The leaves and seeds are slightly bitter and astringent.
They are rhizomes. They are very long and skinny. Very light brown, almost white. They remind me of hair.
Leaves, flowers, seeds, and roots.
Plantain grows mostly in lawns, fields, meadows. She needs a lot of moisture and loves disturbed soil.
Alterative, analgesic, mild antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-venomous, astringent, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, emollient, styptic, and vulnerary.
Topically plantain is great for relieving itch and inflammation from plants or bugs. Plantain draws things out of the skin. So if you got bit, stung, or got a splinter, you can chew a plantain leaf up then spit it out and put it on your wound. It will pull out whatever needs to come out. Sounds gross, but it comes in handy!
If you have a tooth ache and are in a bind and can't get to the dentist soon, place chewed up plantain leaves to the troubled area. Repeat this until you can get to the dentist.
Internally plantain is packed with nutrients. Helps with things like inflammation, kidney trouble, back pain, uterine issues, and edema.
Cooling, moistening and slightly constricting.
Skin, lungs, digestive system, intestine, and urinary system.
Tea, infusion, tincture, and powder.
All doses three to four times daily unless stated otherwise:
Fluid Extract: ¼ to 1 teaspoon
Infusion: 3 to 4 tablespoons
Powder: ¼ to ½ teaspoon
Tincture: ½ to 2 teaspoons
Shouldn’t use excessive amounts while pregnant.
It is said that the Native American's called plantain "White mans foot-print" because everywhere the white man was, so was plantain. Native Americans also believed that they carried plantain root in their pocket it would prevent snakebites.
It is believe that if you want to ward off evil spirits you hang hang plantain in your car. To cure headaches wrap plantain with red wool around your head. To eliminate weariness place plantain under your feet.
Planetary Ruler: Venus
The planet Venus is know for her astringent actions. Astringent, tones, tightens and draws. Plantain definitely has astringent properties to her. She draws out anything from the tissue that shouldn't be there and helps to tone tissue. When I think of the planet Venus, I think of beautiful and elegant. Plantain to me has an elegant look to her, when her flower has bloomed. Also, Venus is all about pleasure and something that can be considered to bring pleasure is abundance, and plantain definitely grows in abundance.
When it comes to plantain I think it's easier to say what she doesn't do.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Popham, S. (2019). Evolutionary herbalism: Science, medicine, and spirituality from the heart of nature. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Nock, J. A. (2019). The modern witchcraft guide to magickal herbs: Your complete guide to the hidden powers of herbs. New York: Adams Media.
Cunningham, S. (2016). Cunningham's Encyclopedia of magical herbs. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.
Wood, M. (1998). The book of herbal wisdom: Using plants as medicine. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.