Cynthia is a homesteader who grows and harvests food for her family. Cynthia prefers using home remedies when she can.
What Is Plantain?
While many of you may be thinking about the banana's distant cousin, I am referring to that ever-present 'weed'—the Plantain. Most everyone cuts down Plantain when mowing the lawn. It is an eyesore to most, in an otherwise well-manicured lawn. Yet it is more useful than you know.
Plantain belongs to the Plantago genus. The genus contains over 200 varieties of plants that we call 'Plantain' or 'Fleaworts'. Keep in mind, that this does not include the similarly named fruit called plantain.
Plantain is an amazing backyard marvel and a useful herb. Here I'll share with you five ways to prepare plantain for medicinal use, and over 20 ways to use it medicinally! This article stems from my research and personal experience.
Plantain is widely available, safe to use, and it treats many ailments. Perhaps you'll think twice before chopping plantain herbs down this coming spring.
Plantain, Plantago major or P. lanceolata
First and foremost, never just randomly pluck something from a field or meadow and eat it or use it without making 100% sure it is exactly what you think it is. Not all plants you will find in the wilderness or your backyard for that matter, are safe for human consumption.
Make sure you properly identify plantain before using it for culinary or medicinal purposes. My personal motto is 'When in doubt, throw it out!'
Plantain is most commonly considered a weed, although it has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties as a herb. Plantain can be found in footpaths, meadows, lawns, roadsides, and dumps (waste sites). Leaving the normal civilian to think of it as just another hindrance to achieving the perfect lawn.
Because of the commonality of Plantain showing up on footpaths, it was nicknamed 'White man's footprint' by the Native Americans. Plantain was also often referred to as a 'Native American Band-aid' as well.
How To Use Plantain Medicinally
Crushed leaf, Salve
Pain relief, swelling
Reduces heat and swelling
Reduces heat and swelling
Stomach ulcers, Irritable bowel
Ingestion, Succus, (seeds for IBS)
Soothing effect on mucus membranes
Leaves stop bleeding
Plantar Fascitis and Tired Feet
Put fresh leaves in shoes, and replace as they dry
soothing, pain relief
Soothes cough, helps loosen phlem
Poison Ivy (allergic rashes)
Stings, Insect Bites
Salve, Crushed leaf
Helps relieve pain and swelling, and draw out stinger
Poultice, Crushed Leaf, Salve
Reduces swelling, heals, wards off infection
Teeth and Gums
Place leaf on affected area and use Tea or Tincture as mouthwash
Treats infections and relieves pain until you can go to dentist
Seed Husk Injestion
Dietary Fiber source
Tea or Tincture
Pain and swelling
Acne and Rosacea
Boils, skin ulcers
Crushed Leaf, Salve
Swelling, heat, infection
Crushed Leaf, Salve
Soothes pain and swelling
Pain relief, anti inflammatory, swelling
Pain relief, anti inflammatory
1. Plantain Succus
From the table above I am sure many of you are wondering what a 'Succus' is since tea and tinctures are much more common home remedies.
Read More From Remedygrove
Simply put 'succus' means juice. Yep, that simple! In this case, you will want to mix the juice from fresh plantains with the same amount of honey. For example-
- 1 cup fresh plantain juice
- 1 cup honey
- Store in a cool dry place away from light in sterilized bottles
You should really use raw honey for this and stay away from any honey with additives.
- 1 teaspoon three times daily for stomach ailments
- Topically as a wound dressing for sores and ulcers
2. Plantain Tincture
Tinctures are widely known in my area, although I feel they need an explanation as not all folks are well versed in Southern traditions and our homemade medicinals. Tinctures are also known as suspensions, elixirs, solutions, or infusions. Put simply, a tincture means to dissolve something in alcohol.
To be clear you really need 100-proof alcohol for the most effective tincture solution. Moonshine is commonly used for this purpose.
- Freshly picked plantains
- Mortar and pestle or blender
When making your tincture always use freshly picked plantain. If using a mortar and pestle crush leaves and then put them into a jar with just enough alcohol to cover, and give the jar a few good shakes to thoroughly mix. For the blender method place plantains in the blender and fill with just enough alcohol to cover the leaves. You will want to blend it until it resembles baby food. Store in a cool dry place away from any light, I put mine in a low cabinet all the way in the back.
As a rule, you can use your tincture within a few days, straining the contents to leave you with just the liquid and removing the pulp. I personally wait a little longer, a week perhaps so that all the health benefits have soaked into the alcohol.
Storing a tincture is best done in amber glass or a dark glass sterilized bottle.
A tinctures dose is measured in drops, remember it is alcohol based after all. 2-4 drops twice to 3 times daily. I suggest purchasing amber dropper bottles, this way you will have your tincture in an easy-to-manage bottle with a dropper. As well as eliminating light entering into the bottle.
Amber bottles were once used more frequently than you find today, they eliminated light affecting the shelf stability of the items stored within. Extending the shelf life of anything is always a plus in my opinion!
3. Plantain Tea
This is possibly the most simple way to use plantain, you can dry leaves ahead of time and store much like you would any loose leaf tea. Fresh plantain leaves can also be used to make tea, fresh would be a time saver, although both are beneficial.
- 1 teaspoon of dried plantain leaf (and/or) 1 fresh plantain leaf
- 1 mug of boiling water
In order to reap all the medicinal benefits of plantain tea, you need to steep the tea for 10 minutes. It seems like a long time for tea but it is time well spent.
The addition of honey in plantain tea offers a more palatable flavour, as well as soothing the throat.
4. Plantain Poultice
A poultice is another common home remedy. This is a very simply treatment and another effective way to use plantain.
Crush the leaves until they are a wet ball or gob. Then place them on the effected area, using gauze or cheesecloth to hold it in place.
5. Plantain Salve
One of the best things (in my opinion) about plantain's fantastic medicinal properties is the drawing salveyou can make from it. I know that 'black drawing salve' is widely known and used by many people, yet somehow I never have all the ingredients needed to make it when I need it.
Making salve from plantain is very easy and requires fewer ingredients than black drawing salve. Using only a few ingredients you can get major relief from some common ailments!
Plantain Herbs, Stop Mowing Them Down
I think the common misconception about weeds it simply aesthetic. Over the years society has become more and more interested in seemingly unblemished lawns and plants that people find aesthetically pleasing. While a plantain is useful, its round rosette of large leaves and its tall centers with seed tops just are not as appealing as roses.
Next time you cut the grass, consider keeping a small plantain weed. They can be eaten in a salad or cooked like greens, in addition to being used for medicinal purposes. The seeds from the stalks can be sprinkled on foods to help aid digestion and add fiber to your diet! Plantains are a very useful plant to have around the house.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2015 Cynthia Hoover
Bonnie Hoover on February 11, 2020:
Does anyone know a natural pain medicine
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on January 24, 2016:
Susan great observation! Plantain is related to hosta! There are over 200 variety of hosta and though I need to research further, in my studies I found that many are edible! Plantain weed can be found all over in warmer climates, just make sure to harvest in places that have not been chemically treated! I will check in to Rose Mountain - I have so much growing here that I never thought of ordering! Ebay is a good spot to look for medicinal herbs as well!
Susan on January 23, 2016:
Well, this 'plantain' is a new one for me...never heard of it as an herb. Thanks for all the info. Now, what part of the country does this weed flourish? I live in central Texas....the leaf appears in a similar way to a Hosta plant but am sure they are not the same. Hope it grows in Texas. If not, can this be purchased from Rose Mountain?
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on March 29, 2015:
I will look into this further for you Dmitry. In my area we are just starting to enter spring (we had snow two days ago). Once they start popping up here on the farm I will see if I can manage to cultivate and grow additional ones from the seed stalks!
Dmitry Kresin from Ukraine on March 25, 2015:
Cynthia, what do you think could be a cultivation method? Collecting them and spreading in a needed area or something more complex?
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on March 24, 2015:
Thank you for reading Amber, it is really simple to make them. If you have any questions that I may not have answered about how to make tinctures and salves I would be happy to answer them. In a pinch you can just crush them and use them.
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on March 24, 2015:
Dmitry I am not sure, I will see what I can come up with, they do have seed like stalks that come up in the middle, perhaps cultivating the seeds would work, I will try when they start popping up.
Amber Blevins on March 24, 2015:
I really enjoyed reading this. I have always known about the medicinal properties, but don't know how to make the salves and tinctures.
Dmitry Kresin from Ukraine on March 22, 2015:
Great! I didn't know plantain was edible! I have lots of them in my garden and I wish I have more. Is there any solution how to multiply them? :)
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on March 13, 2015:
Thank you Kristen Howe! They are very useful and under utilized! Mucj like dandilions!
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 13, 2015:
Wow. A lot of fascinating information on plantains. I never had them before. Now this might make me want to try them real soon. Super useful! Voted up!
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on March 11, 2015:
Thank you aliciaharrell! As spring approaches I will update the article with better photos from my yard. I found very few available through public domain. It is a good plant too keep around!
Alicia Rose Harrell from Central Oklahoma on March 11, 2015:
Voted your hub up! I enjoyed how detailed it was. I have not seen this weed where I live, but as you pointed out, maybe I just was not really looking. Now I will be! Thank you Cynthia for writing this interesting and well written hub. :D
Cynthia Hoover (author) from Newton, West Virginia on March 01, 2015:
I often wonder why they have the same name :) Rachel. I am sure most people will be thinking of the fruit not the weed. You are welcome! It is a very useful plant, when kids get stings and into poison ivy patches. I am very allergic to poison ivy, it has saved me from needing steroids! I appreciate the comment :).
Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on March 01, 2015:
I have to admit, when I first read the word "plantain" I was thinking about those things that look like bananas. I don't think I ever saw that weed in my yard. But, if I do I will know what to do with it. Very interesting. Thanks for all the work on your hub.