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If you think you know what plantain is, you may be thinking of the large banana-like a tropical fruit. That’s not what this article is about!
In this article, we will discuss a miraculous little weed that makes a tasty and nutritious addition to your diet and a valuable ingredient in your medicine chest. Read on to learn more.
What Is Plantain Weed?
There are over 200 varieties of this simple little weed, and it can be found all around the world.
It was not native to North America when the Spanish and Europeans first arrived, but it quickly took hold in their wake. For this reason, it became known as “the white man’s footprint” by Native Americans.
The type that is most abundant in North America is officially named Plantago Major. This is the broadleaf variety.
There is also a narrow leaf variety that is less abundant in North America. Both are nutritious and medicinal.
Since its introduction in the 1600s, plantain has spread enthusiastically and can be found almost anywhere.
It grows especially well in poor soil, so it is frequently found growing in sidewalk cracks, gravel pits and vacant lots.
What Does Plantain Look Like?
Plantain grows in dense groupings close to the ground. Is usually about six inches tall. Its leaves are short stemmed, oval in shape and ribbed.
In the center of each plant, you will find a leafless flower stalk. In the blooming season, it will have a few small pale lavender blossoms.
Appearance and size of plants varies depending upon the type of plantain and upon soil and climate conditions.
Plantain Tea Is An Excellent Healing Tonic
As a medicine, plantain has many uses ranging from easing the pain of arthritis to treating symptoms of the common cold.
Tea made from plantain leaves, seeds and/or roots can be very helpful with ulcers, heartburn, indigestion, coughing cold symptoms and even lung problems.
This tea can also be instilled directly into the ear canal to help ease the symptoms of and even cure an ear infection.
It’s important to note that this remedy should be used at the first sign of ear infection. If the infection is advanced and the eardrum has burst, you should seek medical help.
The plant is well known for having a healing effect when taken internally. If you are troubled with irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease or similar conditions, drinking plantain tea can be very helpful.
If you have been taking antibiotics for an extended period of time, plantain can help with the healing of your intestines. This is because the leaves possess very powerful anti-inflammatory qualities.
When ground, the seeds can be used like psyllium to add fiber to the diet. They can be soaked to form absorbable fiber (bulk mucilage) that helps pad the intestines.
Additionally, when consumed before meals this healthy natural fiber can help you feel more satisfied so that you eat less and lose weight.
Plantain Has Many Topical Medicinal Uses
In Native American medicine, plantain has become a standby. This is because it has very powerful anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
In Native American medical practice, leaves are often chewed or shredded to be applied directly to rashes, insect bites, animal bites, ringworm, burns and other types of wounds.
Plantain tea can also be used topically to treat bug bites, skin rashes and inflammation caused by contact with poison ivy and similar irritants. It is very effective in reducing this sort of inflammation. More on Poison Ivy, Sumac and Poison Oak here.
Additionally, the leaves can be crushed slightly and used as a poultice to help heal severe insect bites and even spider bites. Apply a poultice steadily and continuously as soon as a spider bite is noticed.
Continue until all symptoms have resolved. This treatment can greatly reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the recovery time.
In modern Western medicine, there is ongoing investigation to determine the many benefits of this humble weed. It is suspected that adding plantain to your daily diet can help to lower blood sugar levels and assist in combating the ravages of diabetes.
Anecdotal accounts indicate that drinking a strongly brewed plantain tea can also help ease the negative effects of chemotherapy.
It is also worth noting that a poultice made of planting leaves is effective against problems as serious and painful as hemorrhoids. The anti-inflammatory properties of the plant reduce swelling and pain.
Plantain is effective in treating injuries because it has strong coagulant properties. For this reason, it is excellent for stopping bleeding.
Be advised that if you have a clotting disorder, you should talk with your doctor before taking plantain internally. It may interfere with some medications and may cause complications of your condition.
Plantain Greens Are A Delicious And Healthy Addition To Your Diet
You can use this tasty and nutritious wild plant just as you would spinach and other greens. Harvest young and tender leaves for the best flavor.
Leaves can be used raw in salads, steamed, stir-fried or added to soups. Experiment with using plantain in the place of other types of greens in your favorite recipes.
You can also eat the flower stalks when they are tender and immature. They are tasty both raw and cooked. Chop them up in salads or just snack on them as you would whole carrots. Add them to veggie mixes, or steam a batch of them as you would asparagus.
The seeds are also tasty and extremely healthful. They can be harvested from mature stalks and parched to be used as a snack, a topping for salads or to be ground into of nutty and nutritious type of flour.
Make Your Own Natural Medicines With Plantain
It is easy to create plantain oil or plantain salve to keep on hand for treating rashes, skin irritations and injuries.
To create plantain oil, simply steep fresh or dried plantain leaves in a natural oil such as extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or coconut oil in a tightly sealed glass jar.
Set the jar on a sunny windowsill and leave it for a couple of weeks. You may wish to turn it from time to time, but don’t open it.
At the end of the two weeks, the oil will have turned deep green. Strain out the leaves and decant the oil into a clean glass container. Use this oil as a homemade antibiotic salve.
Keep in mind that some types of oil (e.g. EVOO) do not keep well at room temperature, so you may wish to store your homemade plantain oil in the refrigerator.
If you do this, you should put it in a wide mouthed jar for easy access. That way, you can scoop out the amount you need rather than having to wait for the oil to warm up enough to be poured.
Where Can You Get Plantain?
You may already have a healthy crop growing in your backyard. Although you might have been trying to get rid of it for some time, you would really be wiser to change your tactics and cultivate it instead.
If you do not see plantain in your own yard, look around. There may be some growing in a nearby field or other open area.
Once you’ve located a good source of plantain, be sure that it is not in an area that is being contaminated by herbicides, car exhaust and other negative substances.
Avoid harvesting wild plants from roadsides, ditches and areas frequented by dogs, cats and other animals.
You may also wish to avoid harvesting wild plants in public parks because they may have been sprayed with pesticides.
If you cannot find a good source of plantain, you can order dried plantain online. You can also order the seeds and plant yourself a patch.
When you do this, you can control soil conditions and get the best possible nutritional value and flavor from your plants.
The nice thing about planting edible wild veggies is that they are so easy to grow. Even if you have not had a green thumb in the past, you’re sure to enjoy a great deal of success and satisfaction when you plant wild edibles.