Plantain - two common types: Plantago lanceolata and Plantago major

P. lanceolata is narrow leaf plantain. It has long lance-shaped leaves and strong veins.

P. lanceolata is narrow leaf plantain. It has long lance-shaped leaves and strong veins.

Why Get to know this plant:

This plant is amazingly abundant and almost always available when you need an “emergency” soothing, cooling topical application. Two species are commonly found, the broad leaf and lance (or narrow) leaf; both are medicinally similar and useful.

Plantain is useful to apply directly to skin after a bee/wasp sting, or after an encounter with an irritating plant such as Stinging Nettle. In fact it is commonly used to treat: insect bites and stings, snakebites, sunburn, poison-Ivy, rashes, sore nipples, blisters, burns and cuts.

As out outside in the bush remedy: chew up a handful of leaves in your mouth and then apply the whole muck onto the affected area, you will be surprised at how quickly and effectively the pain will go away from the skin irritation.

 

Plantain leaves can also be heated and applied to swollen joints, sprains, strained muscles and sore feet. Alternatively, the leaves can be infused in oil and made into a salve.

 

The leaves can also be used internally once dried into a tea to sooth the digestive tract. The tea is used to treat: sore throats, laryngitis, coughs, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and mouth sores among other conditions. Because of it’s abundance it is a great plant to start getting to know and harvesting when possible.

 

Where This Plant grows:

All over the world, this is a very common weed found on road edges, in grass fields, along walking paths, just look down at your feet while you walk, and you are very likely to find plantain there (either board leaf or narrow leaf).

P. major is broad leaf plantain. It has round, broad leaves with strong veins.

P. major is broad leaf plantain. It has round, broad leaves with strong veins.

 

How to Identify plantain:

Leaves are strongly veined in a basal rosette, narrow and long tapering to a tip (in narrow leaf plantain, P. lanceolata) and strongly veined, parallel lines, fanning outwards in a broadly elliptical leaf (broad leafed plantain (P. major). The flowers are tiny and look like little tufts that you might not even realize are flowers. They start off yellowish-green with whitish petals and dry out to brown pretty quickly. The plant grows to a height of up to 10 cm.

 

Parts Used:

Leaves

 

Medicinal Actions:

Anti-inflammatory, diuretic, anti-hemorrhagic, expectorant, astringent, antibacterial

 

Tips from Experience:

Make sure if you intend to harvest this plant for food that you collect young leaves. Also watch where you are collecting, since if they have been along paths and roads then it is likely that a dog out for a walk may have marked their territory there.

 

Constituents in the plant:

o   Iridoid monoterpenes (2-3%): chief components are aucubin (rhinantin) and catalpol

o   Mucilages: (2-6%, glucomannans, arabinogalactone, rhamnogalacturonane) provides source of natural fiber, with laxative effect

o   Flavonoids: including among other chief components apigenine-6,8-diglucoside, luteolin-7-glucuronide, allantoin: for anti-inflammatory effect, promotes healing of injured skin cells

o   Caffeic acid esters: chlorogenic acid, neochlorogenic acid, acteoside (verbascoside)

o   Hydroxycoumarins: aesculetin

o   Saponins (traces), Tannins, Silicic acid , Oleanolic acid

 

References:

Hoffman, D. Herbal Medicine.

MacKinnon, Kershaw, Arnason et al. (2009) Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada. Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, AB. p. 256

Mills, S. and Bone, K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy . Churchhill Livingstone, New York, NY. 2000, p, 26, 209