Plantago is also commonly referred to as plantain leaf but is in no way related to the fruit similar to a banana. Plantago or plantago major is actually a weed-like plant found thriving in many parts of the world. You have probably walked past it and trampled over it without realizing how beneficial this plant can be for your health.
In fact plantago has a wide array of medicinal uses ranging from topical skin treatment to treating colds and boosting the immune system. Come with us to discover more about this common but extremely beneficial plant.
What is Plantago?
Plantago or Plantago major is native to various parts of the world including Europe, Asia and North America. The plant has a long history of use as a medicinal herb and is described in literature dating back hundreds of years. An ancient collection of medicinal texts called Lacnunga (remedies) mentions plantago as one of the mine most important sacred herbs of the time.
Way back in the 16th and 17th centuries, plantago was used in Europe to treat a host of issues from boils and dog bites to cold, flu and fever. Since then, it has been used for a variety of other purposes both internally and topically. Modern research suggests that when it came to the value of herbs, our ancestors knew what they were doing as you will soon find out.
Nutritional Value of Plantago
Plantago contains a variety of nutrients that gives it a host of varied, health benefits. Plantago is a good source of fiber and also contains various important minerals like zinc, copper, calcium, potassium and magnesium. As well as its mineral content, plantain leaves are home to vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K.
Plantago is a great source of various plant chemicals including glycosides, allantoin, tannins, phenols and salicylic acid. These phytcochemicals are powerful, natural antioxidants which can protect us against free radical damage and disease.
According to studies done into the medicinal properties of plantain leaf, the plant has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, analgesic and immune-boosting properties.
Health Benefits of Plantago
1) Topical Skin Uses
Plantago is extremely useful as a topical skin remedy that can treat cuts, scrapes, bruises, bug bites and bee stings. It is also a popular remedy to ease the inflammation and pain of sunburn and minor rashes.
You can simply grab a handful of plantago leaves and apply them directly to the wound or injury or you may crush up the leaves and combine them with sufficient coconut oil to soothe larger areas of skin.
A traditional remedy for people walking or camping outdoors is to chew the leaf before applying it to the affected area of your skin. As well as its anti-inflammatory properties, plantago is antibacterial and can prevent infection taking hold in your wound or bite. Because of its antibacterial actions, it is also used to treat oral infections. You can simply chew on the plantain leaf after you have brushed normally.
2) Digestive Health
A tea made with plantago has long been used to treat comon digestive problems including diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, heartburn and even irritable bowel syndrome. We will be looking at how to make plantago tea later in the article. Plantago tea is also an extremely useful remedy for various respiratory issues. It does taste somewhat bitter and older leaves tend to be more bitter than younger leaves. Simply add some honey to make it more palatable.
3) Immune System Health
Being high in vitamin C and other antioxidants, plantago can also help boost the immune system so that it can protect you from illness. At this time of year, many of us are afflicted by colds and flu but foods and herbs rich in vitamin C can do a great deal to protect you from these seasonal illnesses.
4) Respiratory Health
When it comes to respiratory health, plantago is an extremely useful natural remedy. It has been use for years in the form of a tea to soothe respiratory tract inflammation, coughs and respiratory infections.
In Germany, the Comission E, which regulates the medicinal use of herbs, has approved its internal use for coughs and irritations related to infections of the respiratory tract.
The Commission E approved its use after researchers found that plantago had properties suitable for relieving irritation in the lungs while also offering immune support. They recommend that plantain leaves be used for moderate cases of coughing and respiratory irritation.
Trials conducted in Bulgaria found that plantain leaves were effective against chronic bronchitis. It has natural demulcent properties like glycerin and pectin which are found in over the counter cough medicine and syrups. These demulcent properties can help relieve discomfort by producing a type of protective film over the mucous membranes and relieving the irritation. The same properties can help relieve a variety of coughs including those caused by cold and flu and annoying dry coughs.
5) Bone Health
Plantago is also a great source of calcium and we all know how important it is to get plenty of the mineral. Calcium is necessary for bone health and teeth health. It can protect your bones from weakness and help stave off osteoporosis.
6) Eye Health
Plantain leaves are also a rich source of vitamin A which helps improve eye health and vision. It can also help protect against macular degeneration as people get older,
How to use Plantago
You can take plantago internally in the form of a tea but it is most often used topically as part of a salve or in a poultice.
A plantain tea is easy to make. It can help treat inflammatory conditions, intestinal problems and ulcers. Just follow this simple recipe.
What you Need
- one cup of fresh plantago
- two cups of water
- a heat-proof container with a lid
- honey to taste – optional
How to Make Plantago Tea
- Wash your plantain leaves and keep them in a bowl with a lid.
- Boil your water then pour it over the leaves. Cover and allow to steep until the container has cooled to the tough.
- Strain your tea and drink up. You can store in your refrigerator for a week or two.
- You can drink a cup or two of your plantago tea to ease gastric complaints like diarrhea or to relieve your cold or flu.
You can also use the tea topically to cleanse wounds and scrapes or treat sun damages skin, rashes and eczema.
One of the most popular and effective ways to use plantago is in the form of a poultice. It is especially effective for treating cuts, burns and bites or rashes caused by poison ivy.
All you need do is grab a handful of plantain leaves, crush in your palms and apply the leaves directly to the affected part of your skin.
Because the leaves contain mucilage, the bruised and crushed leaves can quickly soothe pain while their anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce redness and swelling.
Make a note of where you can find plantago and apply them as soon as you can following your injury.
Perhaps the best thing about this wonderful herb is you can find it pretty much anywhere. It maybe considered a weed by many but next time you look down at the ground, try looking out for it and remember what a wonderful gift from nature it is. You never know when you may need it.