Family: Plantaginaceae (Plantain) Family
Habitat: Fields, roadsides, lawns
Where found in Minnesota: Everywhere you walk; especially compacted ground
Parts Used: Leaves or aerial parts, seeds, root
Collection time: Throughout the summer
Infusion: Use an infusion tea for internal use for coughs and upper respiratory congestion; as a compress for sore eyes with Pink Eye and stys; as a wash for burns, swollen and pus filled gums, skin irritations, boils, dry skin, insect bites, cuts, splinters, and other skin injuries.
Poultice: A poultice would be a good choice for insect bites, and other skin issues (as listed for infusion).
Tincture: Use a tincture both internally and externally for all the above complaints. Massage into a teething baby’s gums; also good for thrush. Tinctures have a longer shelf life.
Salve: A salve can be made to use for all external issues listed above; for teething babies massaged into the gums and also on nipples sore from nursing teething babies. A salve could be made for diaper rashes, hives, poison ivy, poison oak, and chicken pox. Use a salve to put on sore nostrils from blowing your nose.
Syrup: Use a syrup for sore throats and sore bronchial passages.
Taking plantain internally as a tea or tincture at the same time as using it for external issues will help to reduce inflammation and discomfort.
Fresh leaves can be used to apply to all external issues and in the mouth over irritated gums. Plantain could also be dried for use during the winter months.
Energetics (Western Herbalism Tissue States / Taste / Temperature): Irritation, atrophy, relaxation, depression (especially putrefaction) / Bitter, cool, moist and dry, fibrous, mucilaginous, astringent / Plantain is a coolant
Historical Uses: Plantains arrived in the New World with European settlers. It has been said that Native Americans called the plant “Englishman’s foot” or “White man’s foot” because it spread rapidly, seeming to grow everywhere the settlers walked. Traditionally, the Old World uses were for cuts, sores, burns, snake and insect bites, and inflammations. A tea from the seeds were used for diarrhea, dysentery, and bleeding from mucous membranes.
Traditional Chinese Medicine: Plantain seeds from Plantago asiatica is used as a kidney tonic.
Native American Usage: European settlers noted that some of the Native American tribes of the Northeast region of the United States made a tea from the leaf as a wash for sore eyes, as well as for some of the same traditional uses used by the settlers.
Folk Uses: Plantain has a very wide-ranging history from all parts of Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. Stories of this plant’s usage include: all stomach conditions; gastritis; diarrhea; stomach ulcers; internal wounds and bleeding; abscesses; to induce appetite; kidney, bladder, and heart conditions; coughs; tuberculosis; inflamed skin conditions; headache; and snake bites.
Use with young children: Plantain is safe, gentle and effective to use with young children and infants.
Wood, Matthew, MS (Herbal Medicine). The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2008.
Hutchens, Alma R. Indian Herbology of North America. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1973.
Reader’s Digest. Magic and Medicine of Plants. Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1986.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal: A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitality. North Adams, MA: Storey Books, 2001.
Romm, Aviva Jill, MD. Naturally Healthy Babies and Children: A Commonsense Guide to Herbal Remedies, Nutrition, and Health. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 2003.