What is Plantain?
Great plantain is a plant with broad leaves. It is native to Europe and parts of Asia. It now grows worldwide as a weed. The leaves and seed are used to make medicine. Be careful not to confuse great plantain with buckhorn plantain, water plantain, or other similar sounding medicines.
Great plantain is used for swelling (inflammation) of the bladder, hemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, common cold, irregular menstrual bleeding, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
Plantain is native to Europe and was brought over by European Colonists to North America in the early 1700s. It is now widely distributed in temperate, moist locales, along roadsides, in fields and pastures, and is commonly found in lawns and gardens. This plant was prominent in the early Anglo-Saxon period where it was highly regarded. Plantain is mentioned in King’s American Dispensatory. Plantain has long been known as an “herbal drawing agent”.
WHAT IS PLANTAIN USED FOR?
In modern times, plantain has been used to support healthy levels of inflammation both internally as an extract and externally, as a topical agent. Topically, the leaves, or extracts of the leaves are often used to sooth irritated skin. Its ability to support inflammatory pathways in the body often directly impacts the epithelial tissues, such as in the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems. Because plantain naturally contains mucilage, and has moist cooling properties, it has an inherent ability to support mucous membrane health by soothing occasional irritation.
Plantains have wide-ranging antimicrobial properties besides being anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It can not only soothe insect bites and superficial wounds but prevent infections and accelerate healing.
An active biochemical aucubin is mainly responsible for the antimicrobial action of the herb. Another substance allantoin in the herb helps with skin tissue regeneration.
Plantains also have an astringent property that has a cleansing effect on the body. It helps dry up excess secretions in the respiratory tract and the digestive system, thus being useful in treating colds and diarrhea.
The astringency is moderated by the demulcent effect of the mucilage in the herb, so this herbal remedy is much gentler than other commonly used astringents.
The edible leaves of broadleaf plantain are rich in calcium and other minerals and vitamins, including Vitamin K. This vitamin helps stem bleeding from cuts and wounds. Tender leaves can be eaten fresh in salads, but older leaves have to be cooked.