One of the most popular traditional uses for this herb was to support lung health. Plantain leaves are rich in mucilage, which exerts protective and demulcent activity on the respiratory tract. It moistens and coats the airways with a protective layer which reduces the irritation that causes a dry cough.
Researchers in Bulgaria found that Plantain leaves were effective against chronic bronchitis. Containing glycerine and pectin which have natural demulcent properties, Plantain exerts a soothing effect on the lungs, provoking the production of more mucus which helps to relieve discomfort and irritation.
The German Commission E has approved the use of Plantain for coughs and irritations related to infections of the respiratory tract. Studies found that the herb has properties that help to relieve irritation in the lungs whilst supporting the immune system to clear out the infection.
Plantain leaves are high in immune boosting vitamins A and C, and the high tannin content imparts astringent properties which reduce inflammation and combat infection by depriving bacteria of nutrients.
One of the lesser known active ingredients of Plantain is the compound plantamajoside. It has a similar molecular structure to the active ingredient in Echinacea, echinacoside, and has been shown to have a similar action in modulating immune response.
The high mucilage content of Plantain leaves, coupled with their anti-inflammatory properties make this wonderful herb for many digestive complaints. Mucilage rich herbs absorb toxins in the bowel and give bulk to stools. They contribute to a lower bowel transit time by absorbing water in the colon and creating stool a bulking and softening effect.
Plantain also has astringent properties which make it effective in treating diarrhoea, gastritis and colitis. It can help to restore acid balance which regulates gastric secretions, and can treat inflammation in the stomach and bowels.
According to the Russian Ministry of Health, Plantain is an effective treatment for chronic colitis, acute gastritis , enteritis and enterocolitis.
With soothing, demulcent properties, Plantain helps to restore the protective coating of mucous membranes to a damaged stomach lining which helps to protect against ulcers.
If ulcers have already formed, the high tannin content of Plantain gives this herb anti-ulcer properties. Tannins react with exposed proteins in the ulcer to form cross-linking, thereby helping to close the wound and create a protective layer. This “second skin” prevents further damage and allows the internal layers to heal.
The iridoids and flavonoids found in Plantain impart strong antispasmodic qualities, it can provide relief from abdominal cramping and stomach ache by relaxing the smooth muscles in the stomach.
Applied topically, Plantain is an excellent wound vulnerary with the power to stop bleeding and heal bruises, including puncture wounds, bug bites, bee, wasp, and nettle stings, boils and ulcers. When treating cuts and other open wounds, it not only staunches the bleeding, it also prevents infection by removing dirt, and as an antiseptic it disinfects the wound.
A unique trait that sets Plantain leaf apart from most other tissue-healing plants is its intense drawing ability. It draws out the poison from snake bites, animal bites, insect bites, bee stings, wasp stings and nettle stings. This same drawing action makes it highly effective in splinter removal, and in bringing blisters or spots to a head.
Finally, this versatile herb contains a compound known as allantoin – a powerful skin soothing agent that encourages cell growth. Plantain can be used to provide natural relief from sunburn, to treat acne and rosacea and to keep the skin healthy, glowing and blemish free.
Folklore and history
Plantain arrived in the Americas on the soles of European shoes and planted itself throughout the continent, hence its nickname "Whiteman's Footprint". The Native Americans observed that it followed the white man, springing up underneath his feet wherever he walked. Soon adopted into their herbal medicine, Plantain leaves were used by Native Americans to heal wounds, reduce inflammation, staunch bleeding and to soothe stings, burns and rashes. They were taken internally for many complaints including coughs, colds, bronchitis, diarrhoea, gastritis, haemorrhoids and bladder infections. They carried the powdered root with them as an antidote to snake bites and to draw out other poisonous toxins.
In the Highlands of Scotland Plantain is called "Slan-Lus", meaning "the plant of healing", for its great reputation as a wound healer. It is also called Healing Blade from its use in treating wounds, especially from swords such as the famous Scottish Claymore. The leaves were heated and used to staunch blood flow and encourage repair to damaged tissue.
Erasmus, in his book "Colloquia", tells a story of a toad that was bitten by a spider, but immediately chewed on a Plantain leaf, relieving itself of any ill effects of the poison.
Not to be confused with the banana like plant that is well known for its use in Caribbean cooking, Plantago major is considered one of the best healing herbs on the planet.
Native to Europe and parts of Asia, Plantain was considered one of the nine sacred herbs by the Anglo Saxons who celebrated it as the “mother of all herbs”. This hardy, prolific perennial was used topically for scrapes, bruises, cuts, burns and skin conditions, and taken internally for digestive complaints, coughs, colds and gastric disorders.
Today, the "German Commission E", an advisory panel on herbal medicines for that country, lists Plantain as a safe and effective herb with demulcent, astringent and antibacterial properties.
Plantain Leaf Tincture
Can be added to water or fruit juice and taken when required.
Traditionally Taken: 2-3ml taken 2-3 times per day, or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.
Plantain Leaf active constituents: 2-3% Iridoid glycosides (aucubin, catalpol); 2-6.5% mucilage; flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin); 6.5% tannins; oleanilic acid; plant acids; 1% silicic acid; minerals (zinc, potassium, iron); phenylethanoid (acteoside); chlorogenic acid; vitamins (A, C and K).