That Weed in Your Driveway Is One of the World's Most Medicinal Plants

Updated on October 19, 2018
Faceless39 profile image

I'm a dental hygienist, pyrography artist, avid gardener, writer, vegetarian, world traveler, and many other things!

The broadleaf plantain is one of the most abundant and widely distributed medicinal plants in the world.
The broadleaf plantain is one of the most abundant and widely distributed medicinal plants in the world. | Source

I'm an avid gardener, plant collector, and biologist, but somehow this common plant escaped my research until now. I've seen this plant my whole life, but wasn't sure what it was. It didn't seem that amazing, so I fell into the infamous trap of calling the plant a "weed" and not thinking much else about it. How wrong I was!

I have nothing against so-called weeds. I have entire sections of garden that grow wild and produce amazing wildflowers and random weird plants. Going out there to take pictures just now, I realized this stuff is everywhere in my garden and my grass. I had no idea these plants were one of the major medicinal species in the world. But they are, and I'm swimming in them!

About the Broadleaf Plantain

Plantago major, often called a broadleaf or common plantain, is a species of flowering plantain that's native to Europe and Asia. Over time it's been widely dispersed everywhere else and is one of the most abundant and widely distributed medicinal crops in the world. Most people have seen them growing in or around their driveway or within their lawn grass. That's because this plant thrives in compacted soils where other plants fear to tread.

Reportedly it was one of the first plants that colonists brought to America, and was critical in soil rehabilitation in otherwise trampled and compacted colonized areas. Each plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds, which have a way of naturally getting mixed in with cereal grains via wind dispersal. This is how they've been dispersed around the globe.

"White Man's Footprint"

Another name for the broadleaf plantain is "white man's footprint" or "white man's foot." This is a term used by Native Americans to describe how this plant seemed to surround colonial settlements. Trampled, disturbed ground naturally attracts these amazing plants. Each place the colonists moved, this plant would pop up. Apparently you could track the colonist's movements just by seeing where the "white man's footprint" was growing.

The broadleaf plantain thrives in compacted soils where other plants fear to tread.
The broadleaf plantain thrives in compacted soils where other plants fear to tread. | Source

The Powerful Healing Properties of Broadleaf Plantain

Broadleaf plantain is a natural astringent, and making the leaves into a tea can help relieve diarrhea and upset stomach. It's also a highly nutritious leaf vegetable, high in A, B1, B2, B3, C, and K. Plantain also contains calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc.

Like with most leafy greens, the new leaves can be eaten raw in a salad, while the tougher leaves can be cooked to soften them. Perhaps the most common use historically is as a poultice for wounds and insect stings.

Active Ingredients:

  • Allantoin: stimulates skin cell and tissue regeneration
  • Asperuloside: anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-algesic
  • Aucubin: anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-algesic
  • Mucilage: reduces pain and discomfort
  • Ursolic Acid: inhibits cancer cell proliferation & promotes healthy muscle

Other Healing Properties:

  • Anesthetic: induces insensitivity to pain
  • Antiseptic: prevents the growth of disease-causing microorganisms
  • Antihistamine: relieves symptoms of allergic reactions / allergies
  • Antiviral: treats viral infections
  • Antitoxin: works to neutralize toxins and poisons
  • Anti-inflammatory: helps reduce inflammation
  • Sedative: calms the nervous system and promotes rest

A plantain poultice can jumpstart healing and help alleviate pain and inflammation.
A plantain poultice can jumpstart healing and help alleviate pain and inflammation. | Source

How to Make a Plantain Poultice

Start with a handful of broadleaf plantain leaves. Crush the leaves with a mortar and pestle (or equivalent) until juices start to come out of the leaves. You will have a sort of mash of leaf fragments and juice. It's important the cell walls are broken to release the healing properties of the plantain leaves. Affixing an intact leaf to a wound will not be adequate.

Apply the mash directly to the affected skin and secure with a cloth, bandage, or cling wrap for 30 minutes. Reapply as often as needed.

Use a Plantain Poultice to Treat:

  • Burns
  • Blisters
  • Cuts
  • Poison ivy/oak/sumac
  • Sores
  • Stings
  • Sunburn
  • Wounds

Plantain tea can help alleviate symptoms of cold and flu.
Plantain tea can help alleviate symptoms of cold and flu. | Source

How to Make Plantain Tea

Start with a cup of fresh broadleaf plantain leaves. Thoroughly wash the leaves and place them in a heat-proof container with a lid. Boil two cups of water and pour it over the leaves. Cover and let the leaves steep until the container is room temperature.

Drink 1-2 cups of plantain tea per day to help alleviate the conditions below. Can also be used to rinse wounds before and after applying a poultice. Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Use Plantain Tea to Alleviate:

  • Common cold
  • Diarrhea
  • Flu
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Respiratory infection
  • Upset stomach
  • And as a rinse for wounds and skin irritations

Have You Ever Seen a Broadleaf Plantain?

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Broadleaf Plantain in My Yard

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One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard.One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard.One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard.One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard.
One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard.
One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard. | Source
One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard.
One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard. | Source
One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard.
One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard. | Source
One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard.
One of many examples of broadleaf plantain in my yard. | Source

Disclaimer

Diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice is reserved for licensed healthcare professionals. Drugs, supplements, herbs, essential oils, and miscellaneous ingestibles may have dangerous side effects.

Sources and Further Reading

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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Kate P

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      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        2 months ago from The North Woods, USA

        @Robin, Thanks for the positive feedback! I guess I'm lucky that, where I live, very few people use pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides. I imagine this type of plant probably wouldn't grow unless in a "clean" (chemical/toxin-free) yard although you never know. But this is exactly the type of plant that people who use Roundup try to kill. So my thought is that, likely, the only people who will have this medicinal plant are already health-conscious and don't use those chemicals in their yards. I wonder how accurate that is..

      • profile image

        Robin 

        2 months ago

        Per usual very well written and interesting. Thanks- think I'll go out and find some...outside my neighborhood (immaculate yard/ pesticide area) Beware not to pick your helpful medicinal plants from a pristine-appearing yard- look for yards with a lot of weeds...and no outside cats and dogs!

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        2 months ago from The North Woods, USA

        @Spiritwalker, That's great advice! I think the mint I dried from the garden could do the trick. Thanks!

      • profile image

        Merlyn Seeley 

        2 months ago

        I have found that a peppermint tea bag mixed with any tea like that wild tea, makes it a lot easier to drink too, fyi

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        2 months ago from The North Woods, USA

        @Spiritwalker, That is so cool! I'll have to make myself some my next day off. I love green tea! Thanks for the comment :)

      • profile image

        Merlyn Seeley 

        2 months ago

        I tried it! Tastes like green tea :-P

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        2 months ago from The North Woods, USA

        @Tarrin Lupo, I haven't tried the plantain tea yet. I'm curious to know what it tastes like, too!

      • LupoTV profile image

        Tarrin Lupo 

        2 months ago from New Hampshire

        I wonder what the teas taste like, anyone ever tried it?

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        2 months ago from The North Woods, USA

        @Steph45, You are so welcome! And I am never mowing over them again!

      • profile image

        steph45 

        2 months ago

        Thanks for this incredibly useful article! I'm so excited to try this plant out!

      • Faceless39 profile imageAUTHOR

        Kate P 

        2 months ago from The North Woods, USA

        @Sneha Sunny, Now that you're aware of it, the plant will probably present itself to you when you least expect it! And in my case it was right under my nose and I had no idea of all its benefits! These days herbal remedies are not as widely used as they should be.. it's good to know that you're still using herbal teas to help you heal. Thanks so much for the kind words, and I hope you see this plant in your area!

      • Sneha Sunny profile image

        Sneha Sunny 

        2 months ago from India

        Loved reading about this amazing medicinal plant. I'm pretty sure it's nowhere near where I live, at least not around my home. Will try to see if they are somewhere around here in my city. But I do need to plant one in my garden now. I love to drink herbal tea when I have flu. Herbs get them go away very quickly, as per my experience. Thanks for sharing this!

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