There are several varieties of Plantain, but today we will discuss the two most common, broad leaf and narrow leaf. They are a perennial. The broad leaf plantain has leaves over 1 inch across that grows close to the ground. The flowers are on a spike that rises from the middle of the cluster of leaves. The narrow leaf plantain has leaves up to approximately 5 inch long and less than a 1 inch wide, covered with hairs. The leaves form a rosette. The flowers are small, brown, tinged with green and they grow on a spike. The flowering period lasts from April to November.
Plantain is also known as ripple grass, white man’s foot, buckhorn plantain, hock cockle, rub grass, snake weed, door yard plantain, waybroad, Cuckoo’s bread, and Englishman’s foot.
It is a very common weed that inhabits backyards, alongside trails, meadows, roadsides, agricultural lands, and backyards all over North America.
Young raw plantain leaves can be added to salads or steamed as a spinach substitute. The seeds of the flower stems can be eaten and has a nutty taste. The seeds are psyllium.
Plantain Medicinal Parts Used: Leaves, Roots and Flower
Dr. John R. Christopher the noted herbalist states that the roots, leaves, flowers and seeds can be used internally or externally.
In the past plantain has been used for treatment of blood poisoning. It is used as a poultice on the outside and taken as a tea on the inside.
Plantain has been used as a diuretic for kidney and bladder problems. It was taken throughout the day as a tea to help the kidneys and bladder.
As a styptic it was chewed or pounded into a paste and applied to a wound to stop minor bleeding.
This herb was used to heal wounds, cuts and scratches. Because it is found in high traffic areas around playgrounds, baseball fields and parks it is easy to grab, crush and use. Plantain tea or juice was used to heal sunburn, burns, mild ulcers and scalds. James Duke in his book “The Green Pharmacy” explains that plantain has been one of the most popular folk remedies for burns in the United States of America.
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends using plantain on insect bites and stings, while a New York Times “Personal Health” column notes that simply rubbing shredded or mashed plantain leaves on skin infected with poison ivy may help clear up the rash and ease itching.
The University of Maryland has studied it for the treatment of conjunctivitis and found it to be effective. Here is a link to their site. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/conjunctivitis-000040.htm#ixzz29ox30QwQ
As with any wild plant be sure you have identified it correctly prior to eating or using it. While herbs have been used for eating and the treatment of illness for thousands of years, they can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider. I have had no special medical training and cannot give medical advise. This is for information only.