Plantain Uses and Benefits

Discover how the plantain weed can be used for health benefits.Join Julie Polanco on this episode of Crunchy Christian Podcast as she discusses plantain uses and benefits. Find out how this common weed has been used for centuries to help with many health issues.

Some Facts About Plantain

History

Plantago major (and its related species, Plantago lanceolata), as plantain is known in Latin, now grows in more than 50 countries worldwide. While first mentioned in English texts around 1265, it grew in England far earlier. Danish researchers found plantain pollen in the stomachs of mummified “bog people” dating from 200-400 A.D. Indeed, the Anglo-Saxons of 500 A.D. listed plantain as one of their sacred herbs. And, many old monasteries grew it for medicine and food as early Christians considered plantain a symbol for the well-trodden path of the many who follow Christ.

In other parts of the world, its use dates back even further. It is said that Alexander the Great knew of plantain uses and benefits and used plantain to cure his headaches. Pliny, the Roman, used it to save someone bitten by a mad dog. And, in ancient India, mongoose who fought with cobras and sustained a bite ate plantain leaves to neutralize the venom.

It also appears in many medieval nativity paintings, in Chaucer, and in several Shakespearean plays, most notably Romeo and Juliet. Desiderius Erasmus, a classic scholar of the 15th century, stated that plantain was effective against poisonous spider bites. Even King Henry VIII got in on the action, including it in his own collection of herbal recipes.

In the United States

Plantain came to the United States by way of the Puritans who brought it with them from England. They used it for deep cuts and sore feet. As people spread westward, so did plantain, and its hardiness soon made it a weed. In fact, the Native Americans called it “white man’s footsteps” because it seemed to grow wherever the white man went. They quickly learned of plantain uses and benefits, using it for wounds, bruises, boils, toothaches, diarrhea, and swelling. They also learned that plantain cured the bite of a rattlesnake.

What does it look like?

This plant is so common, nearly everyone has seen it but may not even have known it. Much like dandelion, the leaves form a rosette around a central stalk. The stalk arises about 6-8 inches from the rosette, with tiny, somewhat hairy, greenish purple flowers forming a cylinder at the top of the stalk. The leaves are oval shaped with parallel ribs, not webbed, and unevenly toothed on the edges. The part that is used is the leaf.

Plantain Uses and Benefits

Today, plantain seeds are often used for bird seed. But, historical uses continue to this day. Because of its long use for wounds, poisonous bites and stings, swelling, boils and indeed, many skin related issues, today’s herbal skin salves often include plantain. Listen to the podcast to hear how Julie used it to help her son when he suffered an insect bite.

 

Modern research supports plantain’s historic use for reducing inflammation, promoting wound healing, and supporting digestive health. Chemical constituents of plantain include flavonoids, terpenoids, glycosides, and tannins.

 

Safety

This herb has a long history of use with children and pregnant women among Native Americans. It can be eaten as a vegetable in salads, made into a tea, or used in a salve.

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