by Doris Potter
Plantain, (Ribwort, Fleawort) – Plantago Lanceolata and Plantago Major
Plantain is another favourite of mine, mostly unnoticed, yet abundantly grows along the edges along lanes and footpaths, camouflaged amongst grasses. The slightly sticky seeds get carried around with our foot wear. The very observant Red Indians named it the “White Men’s Foot Step” as it grew wherever he had been.
It again proves to be a very nutritious and powerful healing plant. It is easily found and is the perfect first aid plant when out and about. Rub the leaves and put it on itchy allergic skin, or insect bites, or use it as a plaster on wounds. For blisters on your feet, just put the leaves over the blister in your shoes. It is antiseptic, ant inflammatory and promotes the healing process in the tissues. Plantain also helps wounds that just do not want to heal, like bedsores, ulcers etc.
Very recently we had a dramatic first hand experience. We used our homemade plantain tincture, after A stabbed his finger deeply with scissors. Common sense would have suggested to go to A&E, but accidents do generally not happen when it suits. It was in the middle of the night and A wanted to go to England early in the morning. We immediately bathed the finger with plantain tincture in boiled water, then made a compress and agreed to wait until the morning before making any decisions. Very soon the pain improved. The bleeding stopped and in the morning the fairly deep puncture wound looked surprisingly well. With continuous treatment the finger was healed in a week’s time. Needless to say the trip to England took place as planned.
Plantago lanceolata and Plantago major have similar properties and can be interchanged in their use. Both grow from a rosette of leaves and are insignificant in colour. Plantago lanceolata with narrow pointed thin leaves, tiny little white flowers around a black flower head (like the ring of Saturn), Plantago major has broad leaves , tiny pink flowers that turn very quickly to green seed and nestle around the stalk.
As in most healing plants one finds also in the species of plantain a peculiarity. Both plants belong to the flowering species. Nonetheless they more behave like grasses; the seed heads look more like the ones of grass; the strong vanes in the leaves stream towards the point, also a feature of grasses. The seed can be ground to flour for baking.
It has amazing properties, is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, astringent; demulcent (healing irritated inflamed internal tissues) and is very nutritious. It boasts a high content of protein, Vitamin K, A,C. The taste is strong and slightly bitter I would say one certainly has to get used to it or disguise it in other foods!!
Roots, leaves and seeds of Plantain are widely used in Homeopathic Medicine. Its healing energy is best understood as a cooling remedy in “hot” and dry conditions, such as burns, inflammations, infections, bites, skin irritations, allergies, irritated mucous membranes. You find it typically in cough mixtures, chest creams. Drops or teas are used also for digestive disorders
It can be cooked or used in salads, as tea, as a syrup or fermented, externally as a leave poultice, as a tincture, or infused in oil or ointment.
It is June and if you suffer from hay fever why not try the following plantain recipe to relieve the irritated mucous membranes:
Anti Allergy Tea
50gr dried plantain leaf
50 gr dried nettle leaf
50gr dried elderflowers
Mix and put in an airtight container. These herbs have an antihistamine effect, which help calm the immune response and tone up the mucous membranes.
Use 1 tsp per cup (250ml) of boiling water, strain and drink hot or cold up to three times daily.
It is best to use 1 cup daily well before the height of hay fever time and increase when necessary.