As I walked through the fields today I felt that the prolific ribwort or plantain (Plantago lanceolata) deserved some attention. Dark green, prominent ribbed leaves help you identify it. The stem has a brown flower head, surrounded by a corona of stamens.
Buttercups, red clover, dandelions, cleavers and plantago intersperse the green grass. The land is awash with medicinal plants that we take little notice of as we tramp along, mostly with our head full of thoughts and stories. Today I really noticed. I remember as children in Scotland we would play a game of soldiers with the flower heads, trying to knock each others off. The Scots know it as “a plant of healing.”
It is as useful as it is common. In Latin the name plantago refers to the sole of the foot, owing to the fact you have probably stepped on this plant.
We often prescribe it for upper respiratory issues but it would be a mistake to pigeonhole plantago. Interestingly a frog was observed eating the leaf after being bitten by a spider. In American Indian practice it is considered to be a snake or a frog medicine due to its special affinity for venom of all kinds. It is a Native America remedy for Bell’s palsy.
A ‘drawing’ agent, plantain can be useful for tooth abscesses and lingering infections. In 1962 Yadubir Sinha noted, “In pains of any kind in teeth and gums, apply this remedy 4 times a day with cotton and see the miracle.” The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism describes its actions as: “soothing and healing locally; taken internally a relaxing expectorant, toning the respiratory mucous membranes and checking excessive catarrh; calming urinary spasms and pains.”
A wonderful herb for bronchial spasms, allergic rhinitis, dry and nervous coughing and middle ear catarrhal conditions.
- Inflammation of the eyes; conjunctivitis, blepharitis, dry red eyes
- Facial neuralgia
- Tooth abscess
- Sore throat
- Skin boils and abscesses
- Itchy, burning skin
- Inflammation of the kidneys
‘Scientific studies have shown that Plantain extract has a wide range of biological effects including wound healing, anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-relieving), antioxidant, antibiotic and immuno modulating activity’, The Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2010.
Buy Plantain fresh juice here.