Plantain is a super common weed yet really useful medicainally! It pops up in lawns and pathways all the time so have a peek in your garden or take a little walk and you're bound to spot somewhere!
There are two types of Plantain we use Plantago major and Plantago lanceolata, both with similar charateristics and actions only the first tends to be stronger when used topically. Pictured above is Plantago major, which has a broader, rounded leaf where as Plantago lanceolata or ribwort leaves are more narrow and ridged, both grow in patches low to the ground and have a big stem that grows tall emerging from the centre of the surrounding leaves. Also known as the 'white man's foot,' being indigenous to Europe and they get picked up easily and carried along the bottom of a shoe to get dropped later on therefore pollinating everywhere people walk!
Plantain has many actions including anti-inflammatory, diuretic, demulcent, astringent, antiseptic, anti-allergy and haemostatic. One of its most noteable uses is when applied topically as a first aid use when out and about in nature it will help with minor cuts, bites, stings; you can grab a couple of the leaves and crush them up to release the juices and apply directly to the affected area like a poultice or make into a salve (recipe below) to always keep with you.
Internally when taken as an infusion or tincture, as administered by a Medical Herbalist, plantain (more so ribwort variety in this case) is really useful for coughs and any infections affecting the upper respiratory tract such as sinusitis. Due to its its mucilage constituent and diuretic qualities it could be used during a urinary tract infection such as cystitis specifically indicated if there is blood in the urine, for kidney and bladder disorders and also for internal ulcers and haemorrhoids.
Plantain Salve Recipe
Really handy to keep to hand for first aid when out about; useful for nettle stings, midge bites, mild cuts and scrapes etc.
You Will Need:
- 6-12 fresh plantain leaves
- a neutral oil (such as olive, grapeseed, vegetable)
- beeswax (can be bought fromhere)
- essential oils of lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus (can be bought here)
- aluminium or glass jar containers (the small 10 ml ones used are from here)
To make a herbal salve using the plantain, identify and pick your greater plantain leaves, make sure you pick nice fresh, green leaves that aren't too close to amain road or area with a lot of traffic/pollutants.
Thoroughly wash the leaves then lay out on a clean towel or muslin cloth to dry in a warm place. Leave for up to 12 hours (although I was impatient and only did for around 3 hours), then bruise the leaves using a pestle and mortar or just chop the leaves with a sharp knife. Place the bruised leaves in a bowl set over a pan of boiling water and pour over you base oil of choice until the leaves are covered.
Leave the water simmering on a low heat for an hour, checking the water levels and giving the oil mix a stir every now and then. The oil should take on a green tinge of the plantain leaves as its properties seep into the oil.
Strain through a muslin cloth, straight into a measuring jug if using right away or leave to cool and pour into a sterilised glass bottle for later use. Depending on how many leaves you have and how much oil you use factors into the next stage. I had approximately 20-30 ml of the final infused oil, so placed all of it back into the bowl over the pan of simmering water making sure there's no leafy bits left! Add your beeswax at this stage, I actually only used 2 g as I wanted a soft salve that would easily apply straight onto the skin like a vaseline kind of texture, you could add more for a firmer balm. Keep stirring and once the beeswax has melted, take off the heat and add 5 drops of each essential oil, I chose these 3 for their antibacterial properties and are specifically indicated for insect bites. Stir and quickly pour into your sterilised containers and label. Once cooled it is ready to use!
Yield: I used around 6 leaves initially and produced around 25 ml oil, which made 3 x 10 ml jars.
I took along this salve to show at a herbal talk I recently did with Ramsbottom Incredible Edibles at their Hollymount Orchard site, where I talked about wild plants and one of them was plantain which I picked from the orchard and passed around the group and talked about how it can be used! Above photos are not mine and were taken by Pete Fillery.
Some of the links in this blog post may be affiliate links, but I wouldn't support/promote a brand unless I genuinely trusted and used their products myself.
My name is Helen Davison and I'm a NIMH registered practising Medical Herbalist based in Ramsbottom, Lancashire. I've had a keen interest in herbal remedies since my early teens and would experiment creating my own balms and bath bombs using natural ingredients, which prompted me in discovering and pursuing a career in Western Herbal Medicine.