Common Plantain

Common Plantain

This large, cosmopolitan genus includes about 200 species of often weedy, invasive annuals, biennials, and perennials, found in a wide range of habitats. Plantago major (greater plantain) is a common weed of lawns and paths but has several variants which are grown in borders as ornamentals. In many parts of the world, plantain is known as "white man's foot", alluding to the way that it was spread worldwide during colonial times in the trouser cuffs of Europeans. A number of different plantains are used medicinally, some for their leaves and others for their seeds. The main constituents in the foliage are tannins and iridoid glycosides, notably aucubin, which stimulates uric acid secretion from the kidneys. Plantago lanceolata (ribwort plantain) is similar to P. major in chemistry and used interchangeably. Plantago asiatica the Chinese plantain, is very similar both in appearance and chemistry to P. major. It was first recorded in Chinese medicine during the Han dynasty (206BCE-CE23). Plantain seeds, notably from P. psyllium, contain up to 30 percent mucilage, which swells in the gut, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. The husks, rather than whole seeds, are used in certain preparations. The common name "fleaseed" refers to the flea-like appearance of the seeds. Plantago ovata (blond psyllium, ispaghula) has pink- or gray-brown seeds, used interchangeably with those of P. psyllium. Other species, such as P. indica (black psyllium) and P. arenaria (golden psyllium) are also used.

The English plantain, a common weed that was brought to North America with the first European settlers and spread throughout almost the entire continent, has lance-shaped leaves and spiky flowers. Farmers planted it in their meadows and pastures as preferred food for sheep. Medicinally, the juice taken from the leaves was used to calm fevers and promote wound healing, while plantain tea was used to treat congestion.

Evergreen perennial with a basal rosette of long-stalked, ovate to elliptic leaves, to 15cm (6in) long. Minute yellow-green flowers are produced in cylindrical spikes, to 20cm (8in) long, in summer.

Common Name:
Common Plantain
Other Names:
Buckhorn, Chimney-Sweeps, Dooryard Plantain, English Plantain, Greater Plantain, Plantain, Rat-tail Plantain, Rib Grass, Ribwort, Round-Leaved Plantain, Soldier's Herb, Way Bread White Man's Foot
Botanical Name:
Plantago major, Plantago lanceolata
Native Location:
Europe and temperate Asia; widely naturalized
Well-drained soil in sun (P. asiatica, P. psyllium); moist soil in sun or partial shade (P. major) Plantago major is prone to powdery mildew in dry conditions.
By seed sown in autumn or spring. Plantago major and variants self-seed freely and spread from borders into lawns and paths. Variants come reasonably true from seed.
Plants are cut during the growing season and used fresh, as juice, or dried for decoctions (P. asiatica). Leaves are cut before flowering and dried for infusions, liquid extracts, and tinctures (P. major). Ripe seeds are dried for decoctions and powders.
(Rose Plantain)

Has a leafy flower spike, resembling a green rose.
Has maroon leaves.
40cm (16in)
40cm (16in)
Plantain, a lowly weed that will grow just about anywhere and seemingly overnight, has inspired at least one touching, if sad myth. According to legend, the plantain plant was once human—a lovely young woman, in fact. Unfortunately, she had a lover that skipped out on her just before a date. As myth has it, the young girl stood so long and so desperately by the roadside, waiting and watching for her errant boyfriend, that one of the gods took pity on, or lost patience with her—and turned the girl into the plantain plant (which does indeed love to grow along roadsides). Since this isn't a particularly lovely plant, as weeds go, it mustn't have been and especially creative god that wreaked the transformation. But plantain is a marvelous medicinal, adn extraordinarily prolific too boot. The Native Americans called it "white man's foot" because they believed the early settlers spread it all over the countryside by catching the seeds in the cuffs of their pants and then inadvertently dropping them wherever they went. Do not confuse plantain with the edible plantain banana (Musa acuminata, syn. M. paradisiaca), the dried peel of which is an excellent wart remover. Nor with plantain herb more popularly known as psyllium and a famous bulk laxative.
Parts Used:
Leaves, whole plant
An astringent herb that is diuretic, expectorant, and anti-mucus, promotes healing, controls bleeding, and is effective against bacterial infections.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for diarrhea, hemorrhage, hemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, mucus, sinusitis, asthma, hay fever, ear infections, dry coughs, gastritis, diarrhea, gastric ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome. Externally for wounds, bruises, insect bites, ulcers, eys inflammations, shingles, hemorrhoids, and varicose ulcers. Often used to moderate the irritant effect of herbs containing volatile oils.
To treat liver disease, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and various respiratory tract ailments.
Plantain has antibacterial, astringent, diuretic, and expectorant properties. It also soothes irritated mucous membranes and helps stop bleeding. It is taken internally for asthma, bronchitis, coughs, diarrhea, gastric ulcers, gastritis, hayfever, and hemorrhoids. Plantain is applied externally, in poultices, to treat hemorrhoids, insect bites, minor wounds, ringworm, skin irritations, shingles, and varicose veins.
Plantain is available as dried herb. To make a tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried herb and steep for 5 minutes. Strain, and drink up to 2 cups a day, 2 tablespoons at a time.
Typical Dose:
A typical daily dose of English plantain ranges from 3 to 5 gm of the herb.
No serious side effects are associated with using plantain. The herb may cause allergic reactions in people who have allergies to dust or grasses.
Possible Side Effects:
English plantain's side effects include possible allergic reactions.
Drug Interactions:
Taking English plantain with these drugs may reduce or prevent drug absorption:
Cabamazepine, (Carbatrol, Tegretol)
Digitalis, (Digitek, Lanoxin)
Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron)
Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
Lithium, (Eskalith, Carbolith)
Culinary Uses:
Young leaves are edible though the midrib and veins are fibrous. Dried leaves are used to make tea. Seeds are edible.
The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Bown, Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pp. 322-323
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.200-201
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp.90-91