Plantain, Profile and Uses

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This is another one of the herbs that I like it grows almost everywhere and was one of the first herbs I started using.

Habitat and Description

Plantain is a lot like dandelions, it is considered a weed, and it grows almost everywhere, in yards, fields, meadows, and roadsides.

It is native to Europe and parts of Asia but is said to have been introduced to North America when the settlers came from Europe.

Plantain is a low growing perennial plant the leaves are broad and oval shaped. The seeds and tiny flowers extend just about the full length of the spikes. Ribwort plantain leaves are narrower and the seeds and tiny flowers are at the end of the long stocks. The stocks holding the tiny flowers grow up from the roots. A sure way of identifying plantain is to take a close look at the leaves. The leaves have very strong and deep veins which extend in a vertical direction. If the veins of the leaves are in a horizontal direction it is not a plantain.

It also goes by the names English plantain, Englishman’s foot, white man’s footsteps, ripplegrass, snakeweed, Broad-leaved Plantain, Ribwort, narrow leaved plantain.

As with dandelions you need to be careful where you harvest it make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with anything and don’t collect from the roadside. Plantain can be harvested from spring to fall.

Medicinal Benefits

Plantain is rich in magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. The seeds contain vitamin B1. Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads and sandwiches. Very similar to spinach.

For external application, it can be made into a salve, lotion, oil or compress. Plantain’s anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties make it one of the most effective herbal remedies for topical treatment of skin conditions such as rashes, wounds, ulcerations, cuts, swelling, sprains, bruises, burns, eczema, cracked lips, poison ivy, mosquito bites, diaper rash, boils, hemorrhoids, and blisters. You can make a poultice to draw out splinters or thorns. It can also help reduce some of the scarring with more severe cuts and scrapes. It also draws out the poison of bee stings, snake bites, and spider bites, if stung immediately rub some crushed or slightly chewed leaf on the area and around the sting to prevent swelling and itching. According to many herbal practitioners plantain may be used as a substitute for comfrey to effectively treat bruises and broken bones.

Internally you can use in tea, tinctures, or syrup. Plantain has demulcent properties, making it soothing to mucus membranes. It is used to treat conditions of the respiratory tract including sore throat, cough, bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. It also has expectorant properties which help to expel mucus from the lungs when the respiratory tract is congested due to colds or hay fever. A number of studies have found that diabetics who drink plantain tea often have an easier time managing their blood sugar levels, and it can also reduce the body’s desire for sugar. Bladder problems can also be treated with this tea.

There is also some evidence to suggest that it can lower blood pressure. Stomach problems are often helped with plantain tea as well. Both diarrhea and dysentery have been relieved through the use of this tea

The demulcent properties of plantain are also beneficial in treating urinary tract infections including cystitis with blood in the urine, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and diarrhea. The seeds of plantain contain mucilage and can be used as a laxative to relieve constipation. They can also be dried and infused in water for a soothing eye lotion.

How to use

Tea / Infusion

You can use a combination of the leaves, roots, and seeds to make plantain tea or each by themselves. To make a plantain tea( infusion) simply add a small handful of fresh or dried plantain leaves to a cup or two of water, and bring to a gentle boil. Turn off heat, and let steep, then strain out the leaves. The infusion is best when fresh, it can however be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. This tea can be taken with a little honey for lung congestion illnesses like bronchitis and asthma.

Make a tea with just the seeds to treat constipation by adding a teaspoon of dried seeds to a cup of boing water let cool and drink (with the seed) at night.

Salves and Oils

You can go here to see how to make oils and salves.

Oils are great for coving large areas such as several bug bites, chapped skin, cradle cap, and sunburns. You can use the oil to make a salve for bug bites, cuts rashes, diaper rash, bee/wasp stings, spider bites, eczema, psoriasis, and poison ivy.


You can use a motor and pestle to crush the leaves until the juice comes out then apply directly to the skin and cover with a band aid or piece of cloth and leave on for at least 30 minutes. If outside and have an immediate need for it (bug bite, bee sting) then you can chew on it a few minutes to break it up, then apply to wound or bite. Cayenne added to the poultice can assist to draw out any foreign objects in the flesh.

Do not just use the whole leaf, it has to be broken down so the active ingredients can do their work.

Miscellaneous uses

The root can be chewed to ease the pain of a toothache. You can also sprout the seeds to eat. The seeds can be ground into a flour although I am thinking that would take a lot of seeds haha.

As with any herb you should consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.

So next time you see this in your yard you may want to just harvest it instead of trying to get rid of it.

So have you every used Plantain ?

10 Replies to “Plantain, Profile and Uses”

  1. Nina

    My personal goal is to learn everything I can about herbs. I use them in everything and for just about everything. I like to use plantain as a salve but most of the time it is handiest when I’m out working in the garden or walking in the woods. It’s nature’s own sting, bite and rash soother. My granddaughters’ wrinkled their noses when I had them chew their plantain up to spit on their mosquito bites; but when Mom and Dad came to pick them up, they ran happily to tell them all about their new “spit stuff”.

    I prefer other early spring greens to use in salads but would not hesitate to supplement if I had to.

    I hope to try the seeds ground as an extra in flour and I’ve never tried using the broadleafed when making dolmas. I may try that as well. Have you tried that? Let me know if you have. I’d be very interested!

  2. Marla

    For years I had pulled these little plants out without knowing the many medicinal used for them. Now I do save some of them for bugs bites and I use the juice straight from the plant instead of a salve. Thanks for sharing this valuable and informative information. I have shared on twitter & pinned. Visiting from #WasteLessWednesday

  3. busygreenmum

    Plantain is great – easy to find around here, even in our back garden. Not yet actually used it much though so far – I went on a foraging walk in the autumn where we tried some of the nutty seeds and we have used the leaves on nettle stings too but that’s about all so far. We have used dandelions a bit more ( also plentiful in our garden) in salads and cooking.

  4. JES

    I love this herb because it is everywhere! A perfect plant for a frugal pharmacy! 🙂 Thank you for sharing with us on the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth!

  5. Jann Olson

    They pop up in my garden now and then. I just thought they were a weed and had no idea that you could actually use them. Thanks for sharing with SYC.