Plantain: The Little Big Weed

The Plantago — more commonly known as the ‘plantain plant’ — is often mistaken for a weed and killed, but it actually has many medicinal properties.

  • 'Medicinal Herbs' by L. Sturdivant and T. Blakley calls plantain "the hardiest plant in the universe." There are about 200 Plantago species.
    Photo courtesy
  • Plantain contains constituents that promote wound healing, speed up cell growth, and soften skin. It's a mild anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antihemorrhagic and an expectorant. Plantain can act as a sedative, antiseptic, antiviral, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, and antiheumatic. It's a powerhouse of an herb.
    Photo courtesy

It’s hard to believe that the little green “nuisance” weed many pay to destroy, is one of the most beneficial plants around. Plantain (Plantago spp.), not to be confused with the banana type plant, has a low-profile, is medicinal, nutritional and quite delicious. The cool rubbery leaves with prominent veins on the underside are easy to identify as well.

Plantain is called the green band-aid for good reason. It is one of the primary plants home herbalists use for bites, stings, cuts, and scrapes. It is known to be strong enough to work on some of the worst bites, but mild enough to use on children and pets. Along with yarrow, it was used during the Trojan War, and English children still refer to it as “soldier’s herb”. It has slight drawing powers, so it can be used for splinters.

Most people have an abundance of plantain in their yards, as the plant loves well trodden soil and being around humans. It’s so common where people walk, that the Native Americans called it “white man’s foot (or footprint).” Don’t harvest from an area that is known to be contaminated with pesticides or motor oil from a dripping car, etc.

Making a spit poultice of plantain is one of the first herbal remedies most home herbalists learn.  Pick a clean leaf, chew with your front teeth (digging leaf out of your back teeth isn’t pleasant), and when it is a nice mash, place it on the wound. 

If you are able, it is best to do your own spit poultice. Your saliva contains antimicrobial peptides, called histatins, and epidermal growth factors to help repair and regenerate tissues.  After an injury and even before a fight, your saliva is flooded with these growth factors. You will also be taking in some of the plant’s saliva-liquefied healing compounds internally through the mouth before applying the mass to the wound from the act of chewing to prepare the poultice. How perfect nature is!  

Do not use a spit poultice on deep, open wounds to avoid the possibility of introducing anaerobic oral bacteria into the bloodstream. 



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