What is a plantain weed?
You may well ask, what is a plantain weed? After all, how many people actually know what plantain weed looks like, or if it has any practical uses. Plantain IS considered a weed pest by many of the perfect lawn category. However, when Europeans came to settle in America, they thought enough of plantain to bring it over on the boats with them and plant it here. I’d say that there must be something to plantain after all, wouldn’t you?
Plantain is another wonderful, wild, medicinal herb. Plantain is definitely one of my personal favorites. Here’s the two kinds that I’ll be describing.
Ribwort plantain is beneficial because:
It literally kills the itch of poison ivy or poison oak, insect stings and bites, and also nettle stings.
It loosens phlegm when you have a dry, irritating cough.
It relieves an irritated digestive system.
Greater plantain is beneficial because:
Its leaves can help sore, tired feet.
Its seeds can be eaten to help irritated digestive systems.
Plantain is a healing herb also, as it flushes dirt and infection out of wounds.
Plantain would be beneficial for any skin ailment, I expect, because of its healing and soothing properties. No burning or pain whatsoever with this herb. It’s safe to use on children’s cuts and scrapes also. Just pick a leaf and crush it enough for the juice to be expelled, and place it directly on the wound.
As to plantain being the “go-to” cure for poison oak and poison ivy, I would like to relate my own personal testimony.
This year in the early spring, when the pollen had started settling on everything and turning it yellow, I had a dry throat and cough from breathing all the pollen. I boiled up some plantain tea (which I’ll describe later). I had the boiled leaves still setting in a pot on the stove.
One night, we had a storm with bad wind. The next morning, a big dead tree had fallen on the fence containing our cows. The tree had the fence mashed all the way to the ground. My husband was already at work, so I tried unsuccessfully to fire up the chainsaw and remove the tree. I had to call my husband to come home and cut the tree to get it off the fence, so our cows wouldn’t get out. While waiting on my husband, I decided to work on clearing some of the smaller stuff out of the way so it would be easier for my husband to get to. The tree was literally strangled by poison oak. The base of the stuff looked like a small tree itself. I’ve never been particularly aggravated by poison ivy or poison oak, so I proceeded to cut the stuff off of the tree so my husband wouldn’t get it on him. I hardly ever wear gloves, and was wearing my usual work clothes-sleeveless coveralls. Well, you can guess the rest! In a day or so, I couldn’t sleep for itching, and my arms, neck, and even the outside of my ears felt like foreign objects that I wanted to remove. I rubbed calamine lotion on my arms, which only relieved the itching temporarily. Then, I remembered that plantain was good for relieving bee stings and such. I got some of the cooked plantain leaves from the pot on the stove and just rubbed them up and down my crusted, oozing arms, and on my neck and ears. It was like a miracle! There was no more itch! The swelling, which had been terrible, went away. My arms didn’t begin to itch again until the next day. All I had to do was rub the leaves on the bumps, and the itch just disappeared! The day after that, the mass of bumps were completely gone. The swelling was completely gone. The only sign that was left, was some scabs were I had scratched the blood out of my arms. Even they were all gone before a week was up. I’ve never seen anything like it. If I ever get poison oak or poison ivy again, the plantain leaves will be the first thought in my head, instead of the last! I highly recommend it, especially if you have a sensitivity to poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. Also, even though I used cooked leaves, I imagine that fresh green leaves would have been even better. All of the juices would have been present in the leaves.
Plantain will also take the itch, pain, and swelling out of bee stings, mosquito bites, and deer fly and horse fly bites. If you have livestock, or live in the country or woods, you know how miserable deer fly and horse fly bites are! Just pick some fresh plantain leaves, crush them enough to get the juice to come out, then put them directly on the sting or bite. Just let the plantain work its magic!
Ribwort plantain leaves can be boiled to make a wonderful tea that will loosen up the driest of coughs. If you feel yourself getting sick, go pick several handfuls of ribwort plantain leaves in a five-quart pot. Rinse the leaves thoroughly. Fill the pot with fresh water and put on the stove to boil, on High. I usually boil them at a rolling boil for three to five minutes. The leaves should turn dark green instead of being bright green. Leave the leaves in the pot to steep. I actually just leave the leaves in the pot until all the tea has been used, but if you would rather take them out, just get spaghetti tongs and remove them. As soon as the plantain leaves have steeped, and the temperature of the tea has cooled enough to drink, get a ladle and fill a good-size mug. The hotter, the better. You will feel the effect of the plantain as soon as you let the vapor float up your nose and into your mouth. It will have a warming, soothing effect on you immediately. The flavor is certainly not offensive. It’s not strong in flavor or aroma, either. It’s just comforting when you don’t feel good, that’s the best way I can describe it. When it comes to loosening the phlegm, I don’t feel much effect the first day. I will usually drink 5 or 6 cups a day, spread out throughout the day. The second day, when you get up, you should be able to tell a difference when you cough. Phlegm should come out, instead of you getting a scratchy throat. Continue to drink the plantain tea throughout the day. By the third morning, your cough should be really loose and lots should come out. Don’t quit drinking the tea until you feel better, though. Also, realize that sometimes it may take a little longer to improve than others, depending on the virus.
When disposing of the cooked plantain leaves, I sometimes give them to my goats. They love them too! If you have an herbivore who would enjoy them, don’t waste them! Also, you can just eat the leaves like you would eat cooked turnip or mustard greens. Cooked plantain leaves are actually very good if you mix them with a cooked “domestic garden” green.
Ribwort plantain will help clear out digestive upsets. If you have mucous in your bowels during a sinus infection, drinking the plantain tea will help pass the mucous right out without giving you diarrhea. If you have digestive upsets because of something else, maybe something you ate that didn’t agree with you, or you have a nervous stomach, plantain tea will relieve gas, bloating, or diarrhea. In my experience on stomach upsets, plantain will relieve them in a manner akin to homemade yogurt. Plantain will just ease the bloating and pain away and clear out the cause. You can make the plantain tea and/or eat some of the cooked leaves to help with digestive complaints.
Plantain relieves itching eyes caused by allergens such as pollen, dust, or chemicals. Sometimes, I will get up in the morning and my eyes will itch and have a crust in them. Most of the time, it’s caused by pool chemicals, pollen, or when someone in the neighborhood has sprayed weed-killer, or sprayed their crops. I make the plantain tea and let it set on the back of the stove and cool completely, usually overnight. The next morning, when I get up, I just dip my fingers in the tea and rub it on my closed eyes. The burning itchiness is immediately relieved. I just repeat this as often as is needed.
Greater plantain leaves are nice and wide, and are great for putting in your shoes when exercising, hiking, biking, or during the day if you have an active job. They help cool and relieve tired, aching feet. When the leaves dry out, just replace with new fresh leaves.
Greater plantain develops long stems full of seeds, as the plant matures. These seeds can be eaten to help with digestive upsets. You can eat them raw or cooked. They are a good source of natural fiber. Try greater plantain seeds if you have either constipation or diarrhea.
I’ll be trying further plantain experiments, and will update this post as I learn new uses.
ODDS AND ENDS
Plantain has long been used as a child’s play gun. Find a ribwort plantain. Pick the seed head and as much stem as you can get. Hold the seed head and some of the stem in one hand and then twist the rest of the stem up and over itself in an upside-down “U”.
Pull back quickly on the stem piece that has the seed head on it. See how far you can shoot!
Thank you so much for reading this post!
Written by Angela Griffin
Founder of herbalpanther.com