Plantain (Plantago major)
Also known as ripple grass, snakeweed, and Englishman’s foot.
You have probably seen this fellow growing up between the cracks in your sidewalk or in the gravel on your driveway.
It’s a common “weed” in many parts of the world. A threat to any well-manicured lawn.
But I bet if you knew all of its amazing properties, you would think twice before whipping out the Roundup!
Plantain can be identified by its large, broad, dark green leaves. The leaves have prominent parallel veins, and grow low to the ground. The flowering stems emerge mid-late summer, and grow to 10-30 cm high on average.
This herb loves disturbed soils. That’s why you’ll often find it around the places you walk, drive, and the grass where the kids and dog love to play. This also means it probably loves the edge of your garden (I’m often removing plantain from my garden perimeter!).
Worldwide, there are over 200 species of Plantain (Gray, 2011). You can find this herb nearly anywhere.
Both the leaves and the seed-spikes are edible. Leave the roots.
You’ll be able to pick leaves all throughout the summer. The seeds are usually ready near the end of summer, or beginning of autumn.
Plantain is high in vitamins, minerals, and beneficial enzymes. Vitamins A, C and K, as well as potassium are abundant (Gray, 2011).
I enjoy chopping up fresh plantain and tossing it into a salad. HINT: the smaller the leaves, the less bitter they are. It’s also great chopped and added to soups (even my hubby will eat it like that!).
I’ve heard of people steaming it, or having it sauteed with other veggies in a stir fry – I’ve yet to try this, but let me know if you do! I would be interested to see how it turns out!
Plantain is known for it’s ability to draw out unwanted toxins from the body. For example, here in northern Canada, we have a lot of mosquitoes. A lot. Applying some mashed leaves to a mosquito bite will help draw the itch out.
That goes for other biting animals as well. Take spiders, bees and even snakes for example. Apply a plantain poultice to those bites to aid in the healing process.
Beverly Gray, authour of one of my favourite books, The Boreal Herbal, explains how plantain can also be beneficial during cold and flu season. In the far North (think the Yukon) they use plantain as a cough suppressant and aid to congestion. It reportedly helps relieve hay fever, runny noses and excess mucus (Gray, 2011). For cold and flu relief, consume plantain as a tea, tincture or cough syrup.
The urinary system as well can benefit from aucubin. It can help heal urinary tract infections, cystitis, kidney infections, and gout (due to its ability to increase uric acid levels) (Gray, 2011).
Healing Salve Recipe (adapted from Beverley Gray’s recipe in The Boreal Herbal)
1 cup plantain leaves
1.5 cups olive oil
1/2 cup coconut oil
15-20 drops Essential Oils (optional): choose from Tea tree, lavender, rosemary and myrrh (based on their antimicrobial, healing properties)
Blend the plantain leaves in a food processor or blender. Add the oils and blend again. Label a jar, add your mixture to it, and cover with a lid.
You’ll have to give your mixture some time to set, I recommend 25-30 days. This will allow the properties of the plantain to leach into your oil mixture. While you’re waiting, just be sure to shake your mixture daily. When it’s ready, I like to use a strainer to remove any of the plantain bits.
Now you’re left with just your ready-to-use healing oil. Use it on damaged skin, cuts and scrapes, or my favourite – on insect bites! Think of it as a home-made Polysporin.
I don’t have time to wait!!
So you want your plantain to work its wonders now, and not have to wait a month? No problem! you can do that too.
Simply make the worlds easiest poultice.
Take some fresh plantain leaves – chew them up (or mash them). Then, apply the chewed leaves directly to the affects area. It’s as easy as that!
Have you ever used Plantain before? Do you have any of this wild wonderful weed growing in your yard right now?
Gray, Beverley. 2011. The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North. Aroma Borealis Press, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Pp 132-136