Plantain: Nature's Medicine

Plantain is a broad-leafed plant native to Europe and Asia. Plantain weed is sometimes overlooked as a common garden problem despite its tendency to thrive anywhere, including parking lots and playgrounds. However, it's not only a readily available and edible herb but has been utilized in traditional medicine for generations. 

Native Americans utilized it for its diverse medicinal potential, including treating insect and snake bites, reducing inflammation, improving digestion, reducing fever, and healing wounds. Please continue reading to learn more about this nature's medicine (plantain), its benefits, how to use it, and where to get it.

What Is Plantain?

The plantain, which is native to Europe and certain parts of Asia, was most probably brought to North America by early migrants who came from Europe.  Now, it may be found in almost any location: backyard gardens, freshly tilled regions, pastures, sidewalk cracks, and so on. The plantain leaves can be simply harvested from the wild as long as there has been no pesticide application in the area. Once you are aware of what to look for, plantain is quite simple to identify.

The plantain plants grow as unremarkable rosettes. Their leaves are green, oval-shaped, and have ridges that run vertically up the length of each leaf. The flower stalks are the most distinguishing feature of plantain; however, they are not present year-round.

You'll find the most nutritious and younger leaves around the bottom of the plant's stems. Like other greens, they can be used as a salad or soup ingredient. Mature leaves often contain a higher quantity of helpful medicinal ingredients, but as they age, leaves become thicker and more intense in flavor1.

Health Benefits of Plantain

Plantain leaves have been utilized by numerous communities as a cure for colds, coughs, wounds, and other ailments. Studies have shown their anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, antibacterial, analgesic, and astringent effects1. Let's review some health benefits of plantain. Let's look at some of the plantain's health benefits.

Plantain Reduces Inflammation 

While some inflammation is a healthy response for your body to have in response to an injury, having persistent inflammation can lead to several different disorders.

According to studies, plantain may have anti-inflammatory properties.  Specifically, the plantain leaves contain a variety of anti-inflammatory chemicals, including tannins, flavonoids, terpenoids, and glycosides. An animal study demonstrated that plantain extract reduced inflammation caused by liver injury2.

Similar results were obtained in a second animal trial, which reported that plantain extract greatly reduced inflammation and liver enzymes to protect against liver damage3. In addition, test-tube research suggests that plantain seeds may reduce many inflammatory indicators and prevent the growth of specific cancer cells4.

Plantain Heals Damaged Skin

One of the main benefits of plantain is its capacity to aid in healing damaged or infected skin.

Plantain, often known as "Healing Blade," was traditionally used in Scotland to staunch blood flow and treat sword wounds. Native Americans also utilized it to heal stings, rashes, burns, and wounds5.

Plantain is a nature's medicine. Plantain is a great wound vulnerability that can stop bleeding and cure bruises, including puncture wounds, insect bites, wasp, bee, and nettle stings, boils, and ulcers when applied topically. In the treatment of cuts and other open wounds, not only does it stop the bleeding, but it also prevents infection by eliminating dirt and disinfecting the wound as an antiseptic. Several studies have demonstrated the wound-healing and antibacterial properties of plantain leaf6.

According to research, plantain may promote wound healing by lowering inflammation, inhibiting microbial proliferation, and alleviating pain. Plantain also contains a chemical known as allantoin, which is incredibly effective for soothing skin and encouraging new cell formation. Plantain is a natural remedy for sunburn, acne, and rosacea, as well as a way to keep your skin shining and free of spots6.

Plantain Supports Digestive Health

Several plantain seeds and leaf components have been demonstrated to treat specific digestive disorders1.

Due to its high mucilage content and anti-inflammatory effects, plantain leaves are an excellent remedy for a variety of digestive disorders. Herbs high in mucilage absorb toxins in the colon and provide bulk to feces. To speed up bowel movement, they help absorb water in the colon and give the stool a bulky and softening effect.

Plantain seeds include psyllium, a fiber frequently used as a natural laxative because it absorbs water as it passes through the digestive tract7,8. According to one study, plantain leaves may also reduce the movement of your digestive tract, promoting bowel regularity and aiding in the treatment of diarrhea1.

In addition, animal research suggests that plantain's anti-inflammatory characteristics may benefit digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea9. It can regulate gastric secretions and cure inflammation in the stomach and intestines by restoring acid balance.

Plantain Draws Out Toxins

Plantain leaf differs from other tissue-healing plants in that it has a strong ability to draw blood. It extracts venom from snakes, animals, insects, wasps, and nettle stings. This similar drawing movement is quite useful for removing splinters and bringing stains to the surface.

Similarly, when plantain leaf is consumed orally, it draws out toxins from the body. It is believed as a blood purifier and stimulates the liver to eliminate toxins from the blood and body.

Plantain Benefits Respiratory Health

Lung health support was among the most common traditional applications of this plant. The mucilage present in plantain leaves has a protecting and demulcent effect on the respiratory tract. It lubricates and protects the airways, thereby reducing the irritation that produces a dry cough.

Bulgarian researchers discovered that plantain leaves were useful in treating chronic bronchitis. Plantain has a calming impact on the lungs because it contains glycerin and pectin, both of which have natural demulcent characteristics. It stimulates the creation of more mucus, which helps to alleviate discomfort and irritation10.

The German Commission E (an authority comparable to the FDA) has authorized using plantain to treat coughs and irritations associated with respiratory infections. According to studies, the plant has qualities that alleviate inflammation in the lungs while assisting the immune system in eliminating the illness11.  

Plantain Boosts the Immune System

Plantain leaves are enriched with vitamins A and C, which both have the ability to enhance the immune system. Additionally, the plantain leaf's high tannin content gives it astringent characteristics, which reduce inflammation and fight infection by preventing bacteria from obtaining nutrition.

The chemical plantamajoside is one of the lesser-known active components of plantain. It has a similar chemical structure to the active ingredient in echinacea and has been demonstrated to modulate the immune system comparably.

In addition to its immune-boosting properties, plantain is one of the top emergency foods. Plantain leaves can be utilized as a food source since they are nutrient-dense, easy to harvest, and prolific5.

How To Use Plantain to Treat Different Conditions

Here is a small list of ways to use plantain this summer (and throughout the year).

Respiratory Infection

Plantain helps clear bronchitis by decreasing mucus secretion and inflammation in the airways. To treat throat pain and nasal congestion, place plantain tincture under the tongue or consume freshly prepared (warmed) plantain tea with honey.

Sunburn

The anti-inflammatory effects of plantain aid in the restoration of injured tissue. Apply a cool poultice or plantain sludge immediately, then wash the burn with plantain tea or apply a salve with care.

Insect Bites and Stings

After extracting venom from insect bites and stings, plantain helps reduce the extent of soreness and rashes. You can cure insect bites and stings by putting a plantain salve or plantain tea-soaked cloth on the affected area.

Poison Ivy and Other Skin Ailments

Plantain relieves dermatitis, poison ivy, and other skin diseases due to its ability to absorb toxins, reduce inflammation, and soothe the skin. Directly apply whole plantain leaves or plantain salve to the affected area.

Digestive Upset or Diarrhea

Take as a tincture under the tongue or take warm or cool plantain tea, with or without honey, natural sweeteners, or digestive-soothing herbs.

Where To Get Plantain

Fresh Plantain Leaves

Plantain leaves can be used in a number of cuisines if you can find them in your garden. Young leaves, after being thoroughly rinsed, can be consumed either raw or cooked. Since older leaves tend to be harder, they may be better suited for prepared meals, such as stir-fries, soups, and stews.

For use on the skin, dry the leaves and put them in oil like coconut, olive, sunflower, or almond oil. Additionally, dried plantain can be included in natural skin care products such as lotions, lip balms, and ointments.

The Optimal Time to Harvest Plantain Seeds and Leaves

Plantain leaves are most vivid and fragile in spring. However, plantain leaves can be picked throughout the year. Late summer is the best time to collect plantain seeds because they are dried and brown. After collecting seeds, place them in an airtight container and let the leaves completely dry.

Plantain Supplements

Numerous health food stores and pharmacies sell plantain in pill, tincture, and tea form. The typical dosage for infusions and teas is approximately 5 ounces (150 mL) three to four times per day. In powdered form, the average daily intake varies from 3 to 5 grams1. Ensure that you don’t exceed the recommended dosage.

Before taking a supplement, it is essential to consult with your healthcare professional, particularly if you have any underlying health concerns or are taking medications.

Plantain Salves

If you are unable to obtain fresh plantain, you can use Harmony's Plantain Salve, which contains plantain leaf, to treat a wide variety of skin conditions.

Harmony's Plantain Salve is formulated with plantain, olive oil, and beeswax to treat insect bites and stings, as well as dandruff, dermatitis, and sunburn. You can use it for many other skin conditions, including rashes, bee stings, wasp stings, lip balm, makeup remover, poison ivy, scar tissue, ulcers, mastitis, boils, and mosquito bites, spider bites, and ant bites. It is manufactured in GMP-approved facilities in the United States and is safe for the entire family.

How To Use: Apply directly to problem areas.

The Bottom Line

The leaves and seeds of the common garden plantain are edible, even though the plant itself is regarded as a weed. Plantain can be regarded as a nature's medicine due to its powerful health benefits, like improved digestion, accelerated wound healing, and reduced inflammation.  It's commonly available as a supplement, tea, and skin care product. Try out Harmony's Plantain Salve this summer, especially as the temperature rises and insects become more prevalent. You'll love it.