Using Plantain as a Healing Herb
Plantain is actually considered a weed by many gardeners but is actually a herb and it thrives in compacted soil, growing from cracks in the sidewalk and can be found in lawns around the world. What many gardeners do not seem to understand is that this so called “weed” actually has many health benefits.
These “weeds” have been used for centuries for both food and as a healing herb to heal all kinds of things such as healing wounds, curing fever, and helping with stings and animal bites.
There are two main types of plantain that you are likely to have come across. The first is Plantago major and the second is P. lanceolata. You can identify the two by their leaves. Plantago major has broad leaves while the P. lanceolata has narrow leaves. Either of the two can be used as a healing herb. You can use them fresh in salads during the warm seasons when they thrive or dry and freeze them for use later in the year.
Rather than dig out the whole plant, it is better to just pick the leaves as these are what you will be using. Pinch off unblemished leaves, selecting slightly mature ones over the very tender leaves, unless you’re planning to use them in salads. Mature leaves have a higher concentration of potent phytochemicals.
The seeds of the plantain can also be used by drying and grounding them into a meal or a flour and used when making bread. Plantain is rich in magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. The rather strong fibres within the leaves were also used for making thread, fishing line and even cloth.
The Many Uses of Plantain
As we mentioned above, Plantain has been used to treat a wide range of problems for many years. Some of the best uses for this herb include:
- Boils and Acne – Use a small amount of tincture or salve.
- Burns – Make a poultice and apply a bandage with leaves. Follow it up with a plantain salve.
- Colds, Flu, and Respiratory Infections – Take the tincture under the tongue or drink freshly brewed warm tea with honey.
- Cuts and Open Sores – Apply crushed leaves to fresh cuts to stop bleeding. Wash with plantain tea or diluted tincture to prevent infections and promote healing.
- Dandruff/Scalp Problems – Apply plantain tea to the scalp and wash off after an hour.
- Improve Liver and Kidney Function – Drink 1-2 glasses of plantain tea every day.
- Mouth Ulcers – Swish 2-3 Tbsp plantain tea in the mouth 3-4 times a day.
- Poison Ivy/Sumac/Oak – Apply a poultice immediately, and then wash the area with plantain tea.
- Relief from Gastrointestinal Inflammation – Take the tincture under the tongue or drink plantain tea.
- Sunburn – Apply fresh poultice. Wash the area with the tea and then apply the salve.
- Throat Pain/Infection – Gargle with plantain tea or diluted tincture.
How to Make a Plantain Poultice
You can follow the simple steps below to make your own fast-acting plantain poultice.
- Grab a handful of leaves from the Plantain – If possible, try to pick the more mature larger leaves from the base of the plant as these contain more of the needed nutrients.
- Clean the leaves – You need to clean the leaves to clean off any dirt or other contaminants.
- Mash the leaves – Simply put a few of the leaves in your mouth and chew them up. They should start to look and smell like fresh wet grass clippings.
- Apply to skin – Apply the mashed up leaves to the problem area making sure that you also cover any surrounding swollen, reddish, or otherwise irritated skin.
- Cover – Use a bandage or tape to cover the plantain leaves but make sure that whatever you use is breathable otherwise it won’t work.
- Replace – It will take a few hours but the mashed up leaves are going to dry out and you may need to replace them.
How to Make Plantain Tea
Start by gathering the following items for your plantain tea which works wonders for boils, sunburn damaged skin, rashes, eczema, etc.:
- 1 cup of fresh plantain leaves
- 2 cups of water
- Heat-proof bowl with fitting lid
- Throughly wash the fresh plantain leaves and place them into a bowl with a lid.
- Boil 2 cups of water and pour it over the leaves in the bowl, replace the lid and leave to steep until the bowl is cold.
- Strain out the tea and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks.
- Drink 1-2 cups of this plantain tea a day which can help to control diarrhea or to get relief from the symptoms of cold and fever. If needed, you can also add a touch of honey. It can bring relief to people who have stomach ulcers, IBS or other inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
How to Make Plantain Salve
Start off by gathering the following supplies:
- Handful of Plantain leaves
- 4 oz Coconut Oil
- ½ oz Beeswax
- 8 oz Heatproof jar
- Tear the plantain leaves into smaller pieces and place into the jar until the jar is half full. Pack the leaves in tightly.
- Add the coconut oil and then put the jar in a saucepan and fill the pan about halfway up the jar with water. Set to simmer on a low heat and let the oil infuse for about two hours.
- Strain out the plantain leaves. The oil should now be a light green in color.
- Add the beeswax to the infused oil and place it back into the saucepan until the beeswax melts.
- Pour your mixture into tins or jars and leave the salve to cool down. As it cools it will become opaque.
How to Make Plantain Tincture
You will need to gather the following supplies for your plantain tincture:
- 1 cup of plantain leaves
- 1 pint of 100 proof vodka or brandy
- 1 Glass jar with a tight-fitting lid
- Place the plantain leaves into your jar and pour the alcohol over them so that it completely covers the leaves and fills the jar and stir the mixture well.
- Put the lid on the jar and place it in a dark place. Give the jar a very good shake every few days.
- After 6-8 weeks, decant into clean bottles and store in a dark place.
This plantain tincture, if stored correctly, can last for two to three years without losing its potency.
Potential Side Effects of Plantain
Plantain is considered to be a very safe herb to use, both externally and internally. Until research confirms that the herb is not harmful in any way, it is recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid using it.