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by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Plantain is a persistent weed in gardens, on lawns and even in driveway cracks in the Pacific Northwest. But plantain is one of the most medicinally powerful “nuisance” plants in gardens and yards not being taking advantage of for health, perhaps to our detriment. The green leaves and small, stalk-like buds of the plantain “weed” bear distinctive health potential for those with severe menstrual cycles, acne and painful arthritis. For hundreds of years, plantain has been used as one of nature’s most powerful medicines, and for excellent reason.
One of Plantains many uses is, that of astringent for wounds and bug bites. Simply chewing plantain leaf or crushing and grinding it makes an effective poultice to draw out poisons from the skin and prevent infections and scarring. “Because it draws toxins from the body with its astringent nature, plantain may be crushed (or chewed) and placed as a poultice directly over the site of bee stings, bug bites, acne, slivers, glass splinters, or rashes,” explains Life Advancer.
A little herbal history
“Plantain has been known by many names throughout its history, band-aid plant, broad-leaved plantain, cart grass, buckhorn plantain, Che Qian Zi, common plantain, cuckoo’s bread, devil’s shoestring, dog’s ribs, dooryard plantain, Englishman’s foot, hock cockle, kemp, lance-leaved plantain, pig’s ear, plantane, ribwort, round leafed plantain, rubgrass, slan-lus, snakeweed, waybread, and white man’s foot.
Nicholas Culpeper listed plantain in his herbal printed in 1652, The English Physitian. Today it is titled Culpeper’s Herbal and is still among one of the most popular books written in English. Even back at that time plantain was a well-known plant. Culpeper stated, “This groweth so familiarly in meadows and fields, and by pathways, and is so well known that it needeth no description.” (Thulesius pg. 51).
Nicholas Culpepper also provided the following information: “The clarified juice drank for a few days helps excoriations or pains in the bowels, and distillations, of rheum from the head. It stays all manner of fluxes, even women’s courses, when too abundant, and staunches the too free bleeding of wounds.
The seed is profitable against dropsey, falling-sickness, yellow jaundice and stoppings of the liver and reins. The juice, or distilled water, dropped into the eyes cools inflammation in them. The juice mixed with Oil of Roses and the temples and forehead anointed with it eases pains in the head proceeding from heat. It can also be profitably applied to all hot gouts in the hands and feet. It is also good to apply to bones out of joint, to hinder inflammations, swellings and pains that presently rise thereupon.” (Plantain By Margaret l. Ahlborn)
Plantain has been used all over the world, and the Saxons listed it as one of their nine sacred herbs. Early Christians viewed it as a symbol and many cultures today refer to it as an aphrodisiac. Native American populations referred to it as Whiteman’s Foot due to its tendency to spring up around European settlements.
Bulk and certified organic herbs like dandelion and plantain can be purchased from Oregon company Mountain Rose Herbs (mountainroseherbs.com). Here is a sampling in real English of the many medicinal benefits listed in the herbal formularies today. Keep in mind this information has been proven with the test of time and is used in many countries.
Medicinally listed for the following:
Plantain leaf is approved by the German Commission E for respiratory catarrhs and mild inflammation of the oral and pharyngeal mucosa. It is traditionally used for upper respiratory support and is topically used for minor cuts, bruises, and stings.
A rich source of the mineral silica, plantain works as an expectorant, actually improving coughs, colds, and various respiratory ailments.
“Plantain acts as a gentle expectorant while soothing inflamed and sore membranes, making it ideal for coughs and mild bronchitis,” wrote David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG, in his book Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine.
Plantain is high in vitamins A, C and a rich source of calcium.
Why you want Plantain: Plantain soothes, cools and heals burns/sunburns. Draws out toxins from bug bites, bee, wasp, hornet stings, relieves the swelling and pain from these bites. Useful for skin issues: eczema, impetigo, rashes and reactions to poison ivy/oak. Plantain contains natural allantoin a phytochemical, and allantoin produces its desirable effects by promoting healthy skin, stimulates new skin cells and healthy tissue growth. Plantain is an anti-inflammatory and speeds wound healing.
Historical references indicate plantain is a beneficial digestive aid. If you experience constant digestive problems due to antibiotics, food allergies, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), plantain just might be a simple solution for you. The leaves and seeds reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and help repair damage to the gut lining.
The seeds of plantain can be used as a fiber supplement, acting similarly to psyllium husk in absorbing toxins and creating firmer stools, and improves hemorrhoids. When steeped, plantain leaves can be turned into an extract for gut health.
According to The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy, written by Dr. Finley Ellingwood, MD, in 1919, “plantain is effective against virtually all blood diseases, many glandular diseases, mercury poisoning, diarrheal conditions, female disorders, and injuries, bites and rashes on the skin.”
Safe for adults and children.
How to use: The leaves of plantain are quite edible and are cooked as greens or used raw in salads. Older leaves have a stronger flavor and may be considered objectionable. These older, stringy leaves may still be used in herbal teas, and are particularly suitable for survival situations where the tough fibers may be converted to rope or fishing line. Eaten raw and fresh in salads, as a tea, in tincture form and as an external compress.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10483683?dopt=Abstract _ Medical Herbalism_ by D. Hoffmann pg. 574
Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory L. Tilford pg. 112
Ashton, Megan “The Health Benefits of the Plantain Leaf” Livestrong.com, 29 April 2011. Web. 22 May 2013
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