There’s one herb that I wish everybody knew, especially you! It’s awesome for bug bites, bee stings, cuts, scrapes, and all that first aid stuff, gut health, tooth infections, and it's even great for respiratory health. The herb is Plantain. No, I'm not talkin’ bananas here. I'm talking about Plantago major. A cool little plant that grows in your sidewalk cracks, along roadsides, and pretty much in all of the places that we as humans have come in to disrupt nature.
I bet if you were to walk outside right now, and take a walk around your block, this plant would be growing somewhere along your walk. It’s that readily available to you. It’s just hanging out saying, “Hey, hey You! Don’t Spray me! Use me, pick me, make me into your medicine! I’m strong, I’m here for you, and I just want to be loved by you!”
It’s highly likely that you or your parents or grandparents or someone you know has spent tons of time trying to get this little weed out of their yards with little or no success. That’s because plantain is strong AF! That strength is a great testament to its value as food and medicine in our lives! Only the strong survive, right?
There’s a long list of the ways that plantain can be used as medicine, so I’ll stick to the ones that are most important to me.
Plantain has this cool little compound called allantoin, and it helps to regenerate cells, pretty cool, eh? I use plantain in The Essential Salve that’s one of the main reasons the salve is so damn Essential!
Did someone get a little cut or scrape? No fear, I’m sure there’s a plantain leaf somewhere nearby. Go find one, hopefully no dogs have peed on it, but if you think there’s that risk, don’t chew it up in your mouth, just mash it up as much as you can to get those juices flowing. Consider using a couple rocks or something to mash it if you can’t get it juicy enough with your hands, or by chewing it up (my preferred method when it hasn’t been peed on).
Little Buzzy Bee get a little too close and sting you? Yup, make yourself a little mash up (poultice) of plantain and plop it right on there. The same thing goes for spider bites, bug bites, snake bites, and all those pesky bug bites. You see, plantain has this super cool way of drawing out venom and infection from the body. Kinda like plant magic! ;)
Splinters, or maybe there’s a Thorn literally in your side? You guessed it, plantain can help with that too!
I once had a rough and tough mountain man carpenter over to help build our chicken coop. He came inside in the evening complaining about a huge splinter he’d had and couldn't tweeze it out. I thought to myself, well, I’ve got some plantain tincture. I dabbed a little on a cotton ball and had him hold it in place. About 10 minutes later, I asked him how the splinter was. He had forgotten about it, but took the cotton ball off, and the splinter was out of his hand and hanging out on the cotton ball. He was blown away by my hippie magic! ;)
Or, there was the time last summer I was cruising around through the woods and got pricked by a blackberry shrubbery. I didn't think much of it, other than, “whatevs, my body will take care of it”. Fast forward a month or so, and I’m looking at my leg, there’s a swollen large red circle with some pussy looking gunk right where that darn thorn injected itself into my leg. So, I thought. “Well Melvin, I guess your body didn’t push it out, Plantain that heck outta that ish!” And so, I did. Another little cotton ball with plantain tincture and a Band-Aid to hold it in place. 30 short minutes later, I take the bandage off and check it out, there’s a thorn about ¼” long just removed from my leg, along with a bunch of the nasty pussy stuff hanging out too. Pretty gross, and also, total plant magic! I put a fresh cotton ball with plantain tincture on there to draw out the rest of the infection I had let happen. Yup, it worked like a charm!
Burns - they suck, right? This is where The AfterBurn really comes in handy!
If your campfire or oven got the best of you, plantain can be your friend! A little spit (or rock smashin’) poultice on the smaller burns will do just fine.
Maybe you spent too much time in the sun, and now your skin is Red hot and crispy. Boo for sunburns! it can be really nice to have a little plantain that you’ve infused in a light carrier oil like almond or apricot oil. Maybe even consider adding a little lavender essential oil to it to increase the cooling and healing benefits of this plant partnership.
Mouth or Tooth Infections
There’s a little thing in the plant world known as “The Doctrine of Signatures” and it says that Like Treats Like. It’s interesting with plantain, as that little leaf looks a bit like a tongue (work with me here, ok!). With plantain this means that it just might be great for infections in the mouth then, right? Yup, Toootally right! ;)
So, if you or someone you know gets a gnarly tooth infection and it’s so painful, use a tincture as a mouthwash. You could also use some chewed up plantain and keep it on the infected area. That whole magical pulling out infection thing is what plantain can do for you here.
Make a mouthwash with a bit of plantain tincture. Take the tincture and dilute it with water, about 1 dropper full to ⅛ cup water. You don’t want to burn your mouth with alcohol, that’s where the dilution is uber important. If you’re super well stocked, you could add some echinacea, and spilanthes to this tincture to work even more plant magic, but plantain solo will be great!
The same thing about Plantain that helps our skin to heal so well, also helps our gut wall to heal and repair itself. I know, pretty crazy, right? Frickin’ plants, they never cease to amaze me!
Plantain can help to heal and repair the damaged gut wall, as it does with other mucosal tissue. So this can be a great herb to have on hand for those with IBS, Leaky Gut, Ulcers, or other inflammatory issues of the gut. You can use it in a tea, juice it, or just eat young leaves on a salad if you like. Be sure to add some peppermint to the salad or the tea, both for it’s great flavor and it’s gut lovin’ benefits. We use plantain in our Diges-Teas for this very reason, and it’s sooo super yum!
Speaking of inflammation and the gut, yup, plantain. Plantain is cooling, meaning that it reduces inflammation when needed. Super great friend to have on hand for all of those gut health issues most of us are dealing with.
So yes, plantain is one of my absolute favorite super bestest plant friends! It’s one I think you should know, your kids (if you’ve got them) should know, your grandma, your neighbor, frickin’ everybody should know plantain! And everybody should use plantain, and most of all, everybody should LOVE plantain!
So how about you? Have you used plantain before? What did you do? How did it work? Leave a message in the comments below and let me know. :)
If you enjoyed this post learning about my good ol’ buddy, Plantago major, do me a favor and share it with your friends! Or, tune into the Podcast episode here! Together, we can inspire a movement where there’s an herbalist in every home, again! #SpreadLikeWildFlowers
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*Always remember to contact your healthcare provider when considering the use of botanical medicine as a possible treatment option and the medical considerations. While the information in this article is absolutely relevant, herbs work differently for each person and each condition.
**I am a trained herbalist and not a licensed or registered healthcare practitioner. I cannot diagnose health conditions, nor prescribe medicines legally; I am not a medical doctor. However, I will recommend or suggest medicinal herbs for various health complaints, as I do believe in the safety and efficacy of botanical medicine.
***The information I’ve provided is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment. Please consult your medical care provider before using herbal medicine, particularly if you have a known medical condition or if you are pregnant or nursing.
About the Author: Melissa Mutterspaugh
Melissa lives in Oregon, in the foothills of Mount Hood. She's a clinical herbalist, environmental educator, mother, wilderness therapist, lover, nemophilist, music loving maniac, and the founder of Mountain Mel's Essential Goods. She is passionate about inspiring others to take better care of our planet, through taking better care of themselves, naturally!