First Aid,  Foraging

Plantain: Natures Bandaid

As a Mom, plantain is going to become one of your favorite backyard medicines once you learn how to identify it and use it. When I discovered plantain and began using it with my family, I was skeptical at first but soon realized the amazing benefits and the simplicity of using this herb. 

How Does Plantain Work?

Plantain has drawing properties that pull things like toxins, poisons, etc from the skin.  Plantain works perfectly for infected cuts that need the infection drawn out. 

Plantain Uses Externally:

Narrow-leaf plantain

I have used it successfully on infected wounds, wasp stings, mosquito bites, hives, and even poison ivy. Plantain has even been used for snake bites with great success. It works safely on any age and any condition of the person you are dealing with. Plantain is antibacterial and works better than the triple antibiotic cream, Neosporin which is non-selective so it kills out good and bad bacteria. With plantain, it just starts healing immediately. To apply to a wound or insect bite you mash up the leaves or chew them (if you are hiking) and apply to the affected area and cover with a bandaid. When the plantain turns dark, it has absorbed as much as it can so apply a new plantain leaf. If the leaf sticks to the wound don’t panic, just get off as much as possible and apply a fresh crushed leaf over top and rebandage. For wounds, fresh plantain works best because it has active enzymes. When dried or tinctured, although still a good product,  you do lose some of the value of the plant. 

Plantain Uses Internally:

Narrow-leaf plantain

Plantain also works internally, it can be used as a tea, powdered and put in capsules, or taken in tincture form. Internally, plantain helps things like urinary tract infections, kidney problems, bed wetting, hemorrhoids, bowel issues, and toothaches. It has even been used in cases of blood poisoning to pull the infection out externally and taken internally to reverse the poisoning. 

Preserving Plantain:

Plantain likes cooler weather and goes to seed when it gets hot. As soon as I see plantain in the spring, I start gathering it to preserve it for my family for the rest of the year.  I make a tincture, an ointment, dry some leaves and freeze the rest. I try to keep a bag of fresh leaves in my refrigerator during the growing season for immediate use. It lasts in the fridge close to a month, then it starts to deteriorate. Plantain can also be eaten fresh in salads, stir-fried or added to soups as a thickener. It gets bitter as it gets older so make sure you pick young leaves for the best flavor. The broad leaf is more enjoyable raw than the narrow leaf, but either can be used. You can also powderize the leaves after you dry them and use the powder on cuts, wounds or rashes when you are away from the house or plantain is out of season.  

Identifying Plantain:

Broad Leaf Plantain

There are two types of plantain, broad-leafed (which has round, wide leaves) and narrow-leafed (long, skinny leaves). Both are edible and have medicinal properties. In Texas, the narrow-leafed plantain is the one that I forage and use. In more northern

Fibrous strings that help identify plantain

states, the broadleaf is more prevalent. The leaves are solid green and have very defined parallel veins  that run lengthwise. Plantain flowers resemble a princess tiara. When you rip a plantain leaf width wise, you will notice fibrous threads. This is a great way to identify plantain, the threads almost feel springy like elastic. All parts of the plant can be used, including the seeds. 

Plantain is the cousin plant of psyllium (the bowel herb, the famous active ingredient in Metamucil) so if eating the seeds, you need to drink plenty of water because it is very mucilaginous. Eating plantain seeds is an easy way to keep the bowels moving. 

Regrowing Plantain:

Plantain’s head

Many people consider plantain a weed and spend a lot of money and time trying to kill it. If you are like me and want some plantain in your yard for readily available use then this is how you can get it growing. Transplanting plantain doesn’t work, but if you collect the mature seeds (the brown ones) and sprinkle them in your garden in early spring, you will be able to have your very own plantain plantation. It grows pretty much everywhere in USDA zones 3-9, grows in full sun, or partial shade and in nearly any type of soil. 



Plantain Recipes

Plantain Ointment:

This is a two part process and will take about 2 weeks or more, so start ahead so you have it available for your family. Put dried plantain leaves in a mason jar and cover with any organic oil. (Olive, Almond, Jojoba, Coconut) and let it sit in the sun for two weeks. I find olive oil to be a more stable oil for longer storage. Strain and bottle in an amber jar out of direct sunlight.

To finish your ointment, heat the infused oil on very low heat, add unbleached beeswax, stir occasionally until the beeswax completely melts. When it is melted, pour immediately into glass jars and allow to cool completely. Apply to bug bites, etc. Other herbs may be added such as marigold, chickweed, the sky’s the limit. There’s no wrong way, just try it, if it doesn’t turn out, try again!

A good rule of thumb for ointments is to add ¼ cup of beeswax for each cup of finished (infused) herbal oil. 

Don’t forget to label your jars to avoid “that mystery jar” in the back of your cabinet.

Plantain as Tea:

Dry leaves in a dehydrator (I dry mine at 110° for about 3-4 hours). When the leaves are dehydrated you can make tea. Use distilled water so you get the most properties out of the plant. To make an infusion (a stronger, larger amount of tea for medicinal uses) put ⅓ cup of dried plantain in a mason jar and fill with boiling distilled water, let it sit for about 2 hours and then drink. Refrigerate any that’s left so it doesn’t spoil. (see my Herbal Infusions page for more detail)

Plantain Tincture:

For home use, I would do the folk method of making a tincture. It’s been done this way for centuries and is completely safe and effective for home use. The bad news is, your plants get to drink the vodka, not you! Fill a mason jar (any size you want) halfway full with dried plantain leaves. Then use (40 proof) quality grain vodka as nice as you can afford (no added flavors or preservatives) and fill the jar up to the top. Make sure the plant matter is submerged under the liquid and put a lid on the jar. Add vodka if needed to keep the leaves submerged under the vodka. Shake the jar a few seconds everyday. After two weeks, strain the plant matter out and put the liquid in an amber glass jar, label it, and keep it out of direct sunlight. 

This may be used internally or externally when plantain is out of season. I carry a bottle of plantain in my backpack when hiking in case of a snake bite (since I’m always foraging and hiking in tall grass). You can also use this tincture to put in tea to help correct any of the internal issues that you are dealing with.

Dosage: 1 dropper/ 3 times a day

Check out our youtube video on foraging plantain, here. 

Also, If you only enjoy reading about herbs and foraging but don’t actually enjoy or don’t want to make your own DIY plant projects then you can buy the finished product on my website. Plantain is in my itch-ease ointment which works great for insect bites, stings, rashes, etc.  

Properties of Plantain:

Antiseptic: helps inhibit infection

Alterative: Improves overall health by providing nutrition to every cell

Antidote: counteracts a poison

Demulcent: relieves irritation and inflammation

Vulnerary: treats and heals wounds

Happy Foraging!

Before plantain

1-day after plantain

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