Plantain grows abundantly in yards across the country and is an excellent herb for skin injuries and irritations. Such a useful herb is often right under our noses!
When I first learned about plantain, I was shocked that such a beneficial herb grew all over my yard, in parks everywhere, and really in any green area not sprayed for weeds.
This skin-soothing herb can be found all over the country and on every continent in some variety. Though humble and often overlooked, it’s absolutely an herb that every person needs to know about.
When stings, bug bites, scrapes, and cuts happen, plantain is one of the best herbs to put to use. Chances are high that you can find it in a grassy area near you, just waiting to be put to use!
Plantago lanceolata (narrowleaf plantain) and P. major (broadleaf plantain)
*These are two varieties of plantain, both of which are equally beneficial. In my yard, plantago major is more abundant, but plantago lanceolata also grows in a few places. Plantago lanceolata is said to be more widespread across the United States.
Both plantain varieties grow in rosettes typically close to the ground, unless permitted to grow in unmowed grassy areas where they may grow up to a foot or more tall. Leaves of both varieties are also very green with thick, deep veins that run the length of the leaf. Narrowleaf plantain leaves are long and only about an inch wide or less, while broadleaf plantain has sturdier leaves shaped more like spinach. Both varieties send up tall stalks that first produce tiny flowers and then later seeds.
The leaves are most often used (and will be discussed here), but the seeds of certain plantain varieties are also used in the form of the supplement psyllium.
Actions in the Body
- Plantain is a beneficial vulnerary, which means that it helps the skin heal from wounds.
- It is anti-inflammatory and this action also helps to improve irritated, inflamed, or otherwise injured skin.
- Plantain’s antimicrobial properties also promote skin health and are beneficial during wound care.
- It also an astringent herb, tightening and firming body tissues.
Plantain is most frequently used in infused oils that are later turned into balms and salves. Because it is so beneficial to the healing of injured or irritated skin, these preparations are often ideal. Dried herb is used for infused oils.
When immediate help from plantain is needed, perhaps after a bug bite or sting, a simple plantain poultice is often enough to greatly improve the irritation. The fresh leaves can be crushed, mashed, or even chewed and then placed over the affected area. The poultice can be changed every 15-30 minutes until the irritation is gone.
You will feel very earthy if you make a plantain poultice by chewing the leaves, and yes I’ve done it, and yes it worked incredibly well!
Plantain can also be made into an herbal infusion and applied topically or taken as a tea. 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb (or 1-2 tablespoons fresh) can be steeped in 1 cup of freshly boiled water for 10-15 minutes for the infusion. Large amounts of leaves, fresh or dried, can also be directly added to bathwater.
Plantain is safe for infants, children, the elderly, and both pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
Do you have plantain growing around you? Did you know it was so useful?
Fritchey, Philip. Practical Herbalism. Whitman Publications, Warsaw, Indiana. 2004. (found here).
Hawkins, Jessie. Botanical Medicine in the Home. Vintage Remedies, Franklin, Tennessee. 2013. (found here).