25 July 2005

Common Plantain

Quote for the day:

But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want something else. In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit. Weeds are people's idea, not natures.”
Author Unknown

Common Plantain

Photo credit: Rutgers Cooperative Extension - New Brunswick, N.J.

Common Plantain is the first plant I learned the medicinal properties of while quite young. It is my favorite of all due to its ability to stop itching almost immediately. Mosquitoes, stinging nettle and poison ivy top the list and this wonderful little plant gives greater relief than anything found on the shelves in a store and it’s free.

Find it by roadsides and in meadowlands apply the fresh leaves whole or bruised in the form of a poultice. Rub it on parts of the body stung by insects, nettles, etc., or as an application to burns and scalds, the leaves give relief and will stay the bleeding of minor wounds.

Don’t confuse it with the banana-like vegetable of the same name.
Photo credit: Augustana University of Alberta 2005 Cost Rica Field Trip

Active constituents

The major constituents in plantain are mucilage, iridoid glycosides (particularly aucubin), and tannins. Together these constituents are thought to give plantain mild anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antihemorrhagic, and expectorant actions. Plantain is approved by the German Commission E for internal use to ease coughs and mucous membrane irritation associated with upper respiratory tract infections as well as topical use for skin inflammations.

Dosage

The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide To Herbal Medicines recommends using 1/4–1/2 teaspoon (1–3 grams) of the leaf daily in the form of tea made by steeping the herb in 1 cup (250 ml) of hot water for 10–15 minutes (making three cups (750 ml) per day) The fresh leaves can be applied directly three or four times per day to minor injuries, dermatitis, and insect stings. Syrups or tinctures, approximately 1/2 teaspoon (2–3 ml) three times per day, can also be used, particularly to treat a cough. Finally, 1/2–1 1/4 teaspoons (2–6 grams) of the fresh plant can be juiced and taken in three evenly divided oral administrations throughout the day.

Side effects

Plantain is not associated with any common side effects and is thought to be safe for children. There is no information available about its use by pregnant or nursing women, though topical application appears to be safe. Adulteration of plantain with digitalis leading to dangerous side effects has been reported in Switzerland and the United States. Although rare, it points to the need for consumers to purchase herbs from companies that carefully test their herbal products for adulteration.

Common names: Broadleaf plantain, Lanceleaf plantain, Ribwort
Botanical names: Plantago lanceolata, Plantago major
Synonyms: Broad-leaved Plantain, Ripple Grass, Waybread, Slan-lus, Waybroad, Snakeweed, Cuckoo's Bread, Englishman's Foot, White Man's Foot, (Anglo-Saxon) Weybroed.
Parts Used: Root, leaves, flower-spikes.

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