Broadleaf plantain is a common weed that many people tend to easily recognize yet there is nothing common about this plant. It is a good source of nutrition as well as a multitude of health benefits.
Plantain (pronounced plan-tin) is a perennial leafy plant in the Plantaginaceae family that often behaves as an annual or biennial plant. Interestingly it has a cousin named the narrow leaf plantain (or ribwort) that shares almost the same nutrients and medicinal factors. Broadleaf plantain’s botanical name is Plantago major and the narrow leaf plantain is Plantago lanceolate. There are other plantains but they are not as commonly widespread as these two varieties.
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Broadleaf plantain was used as food about 4,000 years ago in Europe and there is some indication that this plant was cultivated. As people left Europe to explore and settle in what is now North America, they took many seeds with them (including plantain) so that they could continue using the food and medicine they were accustomed to. Some records indicate that various Native people called this plant “The footstep of the white,” because it ultimately ended up growing in areas where the Europeans had been.
For centuries plantain was well-recognized as a medicinal plant. In the late 1500’s Shakespeare made mention of this amazing plant in “Romeo and Juliet.” In Act I, Scene II he wrote:
Tut, man, one fire burns out another’s burning,
One pain is lessened by another’s anguish;
Turn giddy, and be holp by backward turning;
One desperate grief cures with another’s languishing:
Take thou some new infection to thy eye,
And the rank poison of the old will die.
Your plantain-leaf is excellent for that.
For what, I pray thee?
For your broken shin.
There is an abundance of goodness in the plantain. It contains seven flavonoids, beta-carotene, crude fibre, dietary fibre, fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It also contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, and K. Plantain also contains calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc.
Young leaves can be eaten raw but as they get older they tend to become bitter and quite tedious to prepare because the fibrous strands are best removed before use. Some people blanch the leaves in boiling water before using them in salads in order to make them tender.
Plantain can be used to make a tea and use this tea to prepare rice, quinoa or couscous.
Plantain as Herbal Medicine
Plantain is best recognized as the plant that you make a poultice using your teeth and apply it to a fresh cut to stop the infection and stop bleeding. There is truly a plethora of health benefits when using plantain as herbal medicine.
This plant is apparently the best in the field of blood poisoning treatment. Michael Tierra, L.Ac., O.M.D. (one of the forerunners of the North American Natural Health movement) states that plantain is an herb that will “dry excess moisture and remove excess fat where toxins are retained.”
Plantain is an alternative meaning it cleans and corrects impure conditions in the blood. It is also a diuretic so it is useful for bladder and kidney problems and it helps reduce water retention.
Susan Weed, director of the Wise Woman Center in New York has always praised plantain for its virtues. It stops itching from insects, stinging nettle, and it can help to draw out poisons from snake bites. (Although keep in mind it is imperative to seek medical help if you have been bitten by a poisonous snake.) Plantain has also been known to help alleviate the pain of poison ivy.
Those with skin disorders have found relief by using plantain; in fact, some herbalists rate plantain over aloe and other herbs when it comes to treating skin problems. Dr. James A. Duke wrote in his incredible book “The Green Pharmacy” that plantain tea (or juice) is a popular folk remedy for treating burns.
Plantain roots can be powdered and used on toothaches. Using a fresh root by chewing it can bring relief.
Russian scientists have discovered that plantain and its cousin psyllium are both useful for weight loss. According to Herbal Legacy, “Those taking 3 grams of plantain with water 30 minutes before eating lost more weight than women not using this herb. Plantain contains mucilage which acts as an appetite suppressant while reducing the intestinal absorption of fat and bile. It also lowers LDL cholesterol and the triglyceride levels in the blood. Plantain usually lowers blood sugar.”
Finally, the seeds can be used on a salad or stored as herbal medicine. The seeds are nature’s “Metamucil”.
Broadleaf plantain has green, oval to egg-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette. These leaves have thick stems that meet at a base. When these stems are broken, they reveal string-like veins that resemble those in celery. Long-pointed, green, petite flowers grow from the base; these also contain a small pod housing dark seeds.
The leaves grow in a rosette and can range from 3” to 10” in length. Plantain leaves have stems that contain string-like veins and these veins are seen on the leaf. There are five to seven prominent parallel veins from the base. Leaves are generally broadly lance-shaped to egg-shaped, are hairless or sparsely short haired.
Plantain is found in almost every state and province throughout the U.S. and Canada. It has even been found growing at the altitude of 7,200’ in California. Like many weeds, it inhabits disturbed areas such as agricultural land, pathways, lawns, gardens, and parkland. It prefers well-drained soils that are neutral or alkaline and does not like heavily shaded areas.Print
- Fresh large plantain leaves (washed and dried)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp. wheat germ
- 2 tbsp. spiked salt (or a variety of spices of your choosing)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Combine the flour, water, egg, wheat germ and spices into a bowl and mix well. Dip leaves into the batter and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Be sure to not to overlap for best results.
- Bake 5 -10 minutes if the leaves used are very large. If the plantain leaves are smaller then start watching them at about the 3-4 minute mark to ensure they do not burn.
- Serve warm or once cooled!
Anne Roared Samuelsen – The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activities or Plantago major L. Journal or Ethnopharmacology 71 (2000) 1-21
Herbal Legacy: https://www.herballegacy.com/Ahlborn_Medicinal.html
Naturally Wise: https://www.natuurlijkerwijs.com
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