Plantain is a plant that grows in many untreated lawns and often goes unnoticed but this common weed is a powerhouse for our homes.
The plantain weed is edible and medicinal making it a great plant to know and harvest from the backyard and nearby wild areas.
Gather some of this useful plant material and learn its many uses for helping take care of you and your loved ones throughout the year.
Species of Plantain
Plantain grows low to the ground in a rosette fashion. The leaves whether narrow or broad have deep veins.
When it flowers, there is a slender stalk that grows up from the center of the leaves.
How to Identify Plantain
The plantain herb should not be confused with the plantain that is a type of banana. They are not related.
The main varieties of plantain found in many backyards are broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) and narrowleaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata). Narrow leaf plantain is sometimes also called ribwort plantain.
Plantain is native to Europe and parts of Asia but is commonly found throughout North America. It was often called white man’s foot by Native Americans because it appeared and thrived most especially around European settlements.
Plantain as Food
The entire plantain plant is indeed edible – roots, leaves, and seeds. The young tender leaves tend to be the tastiest and most versatile in terms of food but all of it can be eaten and used.
Use the young leaves raw in salads and smoothies. Or cook them and the bigger, tougher leaves in soups and casseroles. Use them like you would most any green like spinach or collards.
It is highly nutritious, being high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K.
How to Harvest Plantain
In most cases, it is the leaves of the plantain we want to use most often. Simply cut the leaves from the plant with scissors.
Because the plant does grow so very close to the ground, the leaves tend to be quite dirty.
Give the leaves a wash in cold water and spin through a salad spinner or lay out on a towel to dry.
Once the plantain has been harvested and washed it is ready to use.
How to Dry Plantain
To dry fresh leaves for use later, simply lay them out on dehydrator trays and let dry until crisp.
If you live in an especially dry climate, there’s no need to turn the dehydrator on as they will likely dry in just a few days at room temperature.
In more humid areas, turn the dehydrator on to the lowest temperature setting and let dry a few hours until crisp and completely dry.
Alternatively, tie the leaves in bunches by their stems. Hang them stems from a hook or line out of direct sunlight. Let them hang until completely dry and crispy.
Store dry leaves in an airtight container, like a glass canning jar, in a dark place.
Plantain for Bee Stings
Plantain is great at removing the sting, pain, and itch from bee stings and other bug bites. And it’s ready to use pretty much on the spot.
If you’re hiking or camping and need some right away, simply make a spit poultice by washing fresh plantain leaves with a bit of water and then chewing them on a bit to soften up. Place those slightly chewed and moistened leaves, your fresh plantain poultice, directly on the bee sting and rest or cover it with a cloth for a bit. It generally works pretty quickly at soothing those stings and itches.
Herbal infused oils are a great way to make topical use of many different herbs and especially plantain.
To make an herbal oil from the fresh plants:
Simply place 1/4 cup chopped fresh leaves and ½ cup olive oil (or other oil like almond, avocado, etc.) in a bowl.
Use this bowl as the ‘top’ of a double boiler. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and let it infuse for at least 30 minutes. Just keep the herbs and oil warm, not frying.
Strain the herbs from the oil and store in a glass jar.
To make an infused oil from the dried leaves:
Place 2 Tablespoons dried plantain leaves in a jar. Cover with ¼ cup oil of choice. Place the lid on the jar and place it on a sunny windowsill. Let infuse for 3 to 4 weeks.
Strain the leaves from the oil and put the infused oil in a clean, labeled jar to store.
Once you have the infused oil, you can use it as is to rub into dry skin or use it to make lip balm or salve.
Herbal infused oils have a shelf life of about a year – all oils can go rancid, definitely toss if smells bad.
Make a Healing Salve
Plantain is great for itch and wound healing. Make our plantain salve recipe by adding some beeswax to the infused oil and heating until the beeswax melts. Then pour into a container and let harden.
Keep this salve in your first aid kit and use on minor cuts, bug bites, and random itches.
Herbal teas are perhaps some of the oldest herbal recipes and remedies known to humankind. They are easy to use and take and while perhaps not as ‘sexy’ as making tinctures or other herbal remedy types they are effective and incredibly use to make for their various health benefits.
Admittedly, plantain tea isn’t one that most folks will drink just for enjoyment but it is a great way to get the benefits of plantain simply inside the body.
Plantain leaf tea has a number of medicinal properties especially for the gut. It is often used as a support for conditions that involve the gastrointestinal system like leaky gut and ulcers. (As always seek trained medical advice before using any herb to treat conditions and check for allergies and medication contraindications.)
Make a tea by putting 1 teaspoon of crumbled dried leaves (or 1 Tablespoon of fresh) in a tea ball. Cover the leaves with 8 ounces of boiling water and let steep 10 minutes. Strain out the leaves and sip. You can sweeten some, as desired.
Make a Bath Tea
Put a handful of dried leaves in a muslin bag and toss into warm bath water.
Use this a simple soak to cool hot or itchy skin. Feel free to add Epsom salts or a bath bomb for an even more relaxing bath experience.