Backyard medicine : Plantain

Common Name: Plantain, White Man's Footprint

Botanical Name : Plantago spp

Parts used: herbalists use mainly the leaves and seeds but the whole plant is useful

Energetics: cool and moist

Plantain is wonderful herb to know. I look at it as nature's secret gift to us in difficult situations. It is always around us when we need it and it will grow anywhere. As a mom of a very active toddler , I always carry a small first aid kit with me, and plantain is one of the plants that I don't leave the house without. We live in Colorado and nature is our playground so sometimes is hard to keep those little knees bruise and scrape free. Plantain is the "boo-boo" plant. It will do miracles for minor scrapes and cuts. It draws the sting and the poison out of the skin when you have a bug bite .
 Every summer I pick a big jar full of plantain leaves and infuse it in olive oil for a few weeks until it turns bright green and absorbs all the wonderful healing power of the plant. Then I strain it and either make it into a salve or add some vitamin E to the oil in order to extend its shelf life.I use the plantain oil as a base for a wonderful Healing Salve. My little boy knows to ask for it every time he falls. Sometimes even without having any scrapes or bruises, just because it is so much fun to smear salve all over your arms and legs. ;)
 When we are playing outside , I always look around to see if there is any plantain growing around, just in case. And nature always gifts us with the healing power of her plants when we need them. You can find plantain almost anywhere - look in the grass by your kids playground, or by the small creek near the trail you are hiking. And when you need it , just grab a leaf and crush it between your fingers and apply to the sting or cut. It is nature's "band aid".
Plantain is easy to recognize since its leaves have five parallel veins that run down the length of the leaves. It grows close to the ground and adapts well, that is why you can find it even in lawns that get mowed on a regular basis.
 Use plantain for any insect bite, it has the power to draw the sting of a wasp or a bee out. Use it to soothe and relieve the rashes caused by poison ivy or poison oak. Plantain will heal minor cuts and scrapes in no time. It can also be used instead of a diaper cream for babies to prevent and heal diaper rash.
 Herbalist and Wise Woman Susun Weed recommends carrying dried plantain leaves with you if you are allergic to bee or wasp stings. Using the dried leaves in a spit poultice and applying immediately after you get stung can prevent an allergic reaction. ( A spit poultice is made by chewing on the herb - dried or fresh- until you create kind of a paste. Then you apply it topically to the skin.)
 You might be familiar with another use of plantain without even realizing it. Most of us know about the benefits of fiber and have heard about psyllium fiber/seeds/husks. Metamucil is a brand that uses those seeds in its products. Psyllium seeds come from a variety of plantain ( Plantago psyllium) that grows mainly in South America. It is a great source of fiber and it helps with regularity. The truth is that the seeds of any of the plantain plants can be used in the same way. They are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and make a wonderful addition to any baked goods or oatmeal. Instead of flax seeds you can add plantain seeds.
 Plantain is a great tissue healer and it will work for the internal tissues of the body. Plantain infusion or tincture will help with the mucous membranes in the body. It is a great rinse that you can use in a Netti pot, just add 1/4 tsp of salt to 8 oz of the plantain infusion and make sure that it cools down to room temperature so you don't burn yourself.
 Plantain infusion is also helpful for any stomach upsets that are connected to irritated tissues and can even have a positive effect on leaky gut. It heals and strengthens the gut lining.

Those are some of the basic uses of plantain. Next time you are outside, look for this wonderful plant. It is a great addition to any herbal first aid kit and great remedy to have around if you have children or you love to play in nature.