Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Wild Edible/Medicinal: Plantago Major (i.e. Plantain)

I have been utilizing Plantain (a.k.a. Plantago major) as a medicinal herb and wild edible since I was a kid. This medicinal plant is literally everywhere (well everywhere below the permafrost line and above the equator) you look and many regard it as a weed or an unwanted part of their yard. So where is the best place to look for plantain? Gardens, Lawns, trails and anywhere that gets a good bit of sun during the day. Plantain can also grow in partial shade but would require richer soil (it can grow in poorer soil configurations but would need more sunlight). 

Read these other articles on Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants:  Queen Ann's Lace (LINK);  How to determine if a Plant is Edible (LINK), How to Make Pine Needle Tea (LINK); Winter Wild Edible Collection (LINK); Seven Eastern Woodland Trees Essential to Survival (LINK); Red Clover (LINK); List of Common Ailments w/ Cooresponding Wild Medicinal (LINK); Wild Edibles- Leeks a.k.a. Ramps (LINK); Wild Medicinal Squaw Root- The Key to Women's Wilderness Health (LINK)

 So How Do You Identify Plantain?

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 5 to 30 cm 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. Can grow to a height of 5 inches.
Medical Properties

How to use plantain medicinally: 1) make into a salve and apply to wounds, stings, skin irritants, burns etc.n to expedite healing and ward off infection; 2) Make a spit poultice to apply directly bites, stings, skin ailments, stop bleeding, treat poison ivy, etc.; 3) boil leaves and place in cotton bandanna to treat bruising, swelling, stings, sprains, strains or muscle pain; 4) make tea with the leaves to treat diherra, gout and GI ailments,; 5) Use tea as a mouthwash to treat toothaches.
Plantain is found all over the world, and is one of the most abundant and accessible medicinal herbs. For thousands of years, poultices of plantain leaves have been applied to wounds, sores, and stings to promote healing. The root of plantain was also traditionally used to treat wounds, as well as to treat fever and respiratory infections. Due to its astringent properties, a tea of plantain leaves can be ingested to treat diarrhea or dysentery. Due to the high vitamin and mineral content, plantain tea simultaneously replenishes the nutrients lost as a result of diarrhea. Adding fresh plantain seeds or flower heads to a tea will act as an effective lubricating and bulking laxative and soothe raw, sore throats.

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Wild Edible: 

How to eat plantain: 1) young leaves in a salad or plain (100 grams= vitamin a in a carrot), 2) stringy leaves can be boiled with a stew(acquired taste), and 3) Seeds can be ground into flour (very high fiber but also a laxative)
Plantain leaves can be twisted or braided to create cordage for making sutures (biodegradable and healing properties) and can also be used for light cordage for fishing or other camp tasks but best use is for improvised stitches. I have used this twisted cordage for fishing with little success and should not be thought of as durable cordage, utilizing it as a biodegradable stitch is about the only feasible use for the plant as cordage.
Plantain Recipes:

Plantain tea: For colds and flu use 1 tbls. dry or fresh whole Plantain (seed, root, and leaves) to 1 cup boiling water, steep 10 min. strain, sweeten. Drink through the day.
Healing salve: In large non-metallic pan place 1lb. of entire Plantain plant chopped, and 1 cup lard, cover, cook down on low heat till all is mushy and green. Strain while hot, cool and use for burns, insect bites, rashes, and all sores. Note: used as night cream for wrinkles.
Plantain Poultice: One of plantain's most common uses is as a poultice for stings, bites, scrapes and rashes. The simplest way to harness plantain's healing powers is to crush a few fresh leaves, and apply to the affected area. Replace fresh leaves as necessary. The fresh plantain juice takes the pain away and seems to work wonders at stopping blood flow. The healing and drawing properties also help relieve the burning sensation of a sunburn.

Plantain is one of the most prevalent and useful medicinal herbs available on the planet and utilized for nearly anything you might need from food to a wide variety of medical conditions. I will say that this is perfect for adding to additional greens (wild onion, clover, etc.) for a salad (as long as it is a young plant older plants just taste a little too chewy). If you have any kind of skin ailment plantain will help draw the issue out weather it be a bite, sting, burn or poison ivy- just chew up a few leaves and make a poultice and secure it with a cotton bandanna and your in business.  Be sure to get out there collect this plant and try using it in all of its applicable means as the more you know the less you have to carry with you.

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  1. Interesting post. Are there any look a likes that we should be weary of in North America?

    1. None that I've encountered in the eastern woodlands, but I will look into other areas and get back to you.

  2. I have been trying to get rid of this stuff for years on my property LOL, it was just last year I found out this was not an evil weed like it looks like LOL. Good to know, thanks Josh.