Plantago lanceolata L.
narrowleaf plantain, buckhorn plantain, broad-leaf plantain,
Leaves (can also use roots and/or tops & seeds)
PHYTOCHEMICALS & NUTRIENTS
Adenine, allantoin, aucubin, apigenin, benzoic acid, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, fiber, luteolin, oleanolic acid, p-coumaric acid, salicylic acid, tannin, ursolic acid, vanillic acid
Potassium, vitamin A
The leaves are attached by to the base of the plant rather than to a stalk or stem. The leaf is distinctive having three or five parallel veins that are spaced apart following the shape of the leaf, width depending on the species.
Narrow leaf plantain is also known as buckhorn or English plantain. It is native to Europe and reaches a height that ranges from six to 30 inches. From April to October, the plant blooms with a short spike of white flowers. It has been used traditionally in tea form as a remedy for coughs and diarrhea. The leaves help sores heal more quickly when applied topically.
PROPERTIES & USES
As a tea, plantain acts as a diuretic, helping reduce water retention and soothe the urinary tract with its demulcent (mucilaginous and soothing) properties. In this way, plantain supports kidney health.
Plantain also acts as an expectorant, helping remove excess mucous secretions from air passages. It is considered by some to be helpful in the slowing of tuberculosis bacteria.
Plantain has anti-inflammatory properties and deobstruant properties that help reduce inflammation and clear areas obstructed by infection. This is also helpful for chronic infection of the lymph nodes.Some research has shown that it is helpful in lowering cholesterol (an inflammatory response) and controlling diabetes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantago
Heartburn and indigestion are eased by use of plantain. This herb also has anti-microbial properties which help the body destroy or resist pathogenic micro-organisms -- this includes bacteria, fungi and viruses. Plantain is an alterative which means it balances the process of nutrient assimilation and excretion, restoring the body to normal function. A hepato-protective herb, plantain helps protect the liver.
Some of the most dramatic uses of plantain involve those where it is applied topically. On contact, plantain has a healing, antibiotic and styptic (stops bleeding) effect. In a poultice, plantain is good for all kinds of insect bites and rashes including allergic skin reactions to poison oak, ivy, nettles and sumac. An anodyne, plantain is a pain reliever and soothing to skin irritation. I've seen it stop pain in 15 seconds, although this can vary. An anti-inflammatory, I've yet to see it fail to stop fire ant bites from turning into angry whelps. The astringent properties of this herb cause the tissues in the skin to tighten and dry fluid secretions. A vulnerary, plantain promotes wound healing and normalization of damaged tissues.
Other conditions that have been helped by plantain include the treatment of tumors and venomous bites.
The seeds of this herb are called psyllium seed and are used in many commercial laxative formulas. These same seeds are said to be helpful in the treatment of diabetes.AS A FOOD
Young leaves of the broad leaf variety are tasty and can be eaten in salads.
AS A SUPPLEMENT
Plantago psyllium is a type of plantain whose seeds are used (psyllium seeds) as a fiber supplement (taken with LOTS of water) in many bulk laxative formulations -- commercial and natural. The husks of the seeds expand and become mucilaginous (similar to the texture of egg whites) when wet. This is helpful in the treatment of constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticular disease.
A good first aid plant to have close at hand. A few fresh leaves, crushed or chewed, can be used quickly to stop bleeding of an open wound, stop pain and inflammation of bites and stings, relieve itching from poison ivy. Its anti-toxin qualities have given it a reputation in folklore as being useful for snakebite.
TEAS, TINCTURES, SYRUPS
A cup of strong plantain tea will quell the worst indigestion. Taken as a tea, tincture or syrup, plantain can also relieve coughs and bronchitis.
A small was of chewed leaf placed next to the gum will quiet a painful toothache until it can be attended to.
Ointment made with olive oil extract of fresh plantain and a little beeswax is a very good general purpose remedy for many skin ailments, and is especially helpful with diaper rash.
JUST FOR FUN -- PLANTAIN WARS
During my childhood, we used to have plantain wars in the summer. We would pluck the long leggy stems and use them as ammunition. To do this, fold the stem over itself forming a loop and shove it forward while pulling backwards on the section of stem nearest the bud. This will cause the bud to pop off and shoot forward. With practice your aim can improve and catch your unsuspecting target off-guard.
CAUTIONS & CONSIDERATIONS
Do not mistake plantain for foxglove (Digitalis lanata), which has a similar appearance.
As with all herbs, avoid use of plants that have been exposed to toxic chemicals or have not been certified 'chemical free.'
DISCLAIMER: None of this is to be considered a substitute for medical examination and/or treatment. Use what you will, but do so knowing that you must consider your own circumstance and the application of these things with sound judgment.