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Plantain: The Ugly Little Edible ‘Weed’ That Heals And Soothes

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If you do not chemically treat your yard, chances are very good that you have some plantain growing there. Plantain – not to be confused with the banana-like fruit of the same name – is a common weed found throughout North America.

Native Americans have called plantain “Whiteman’s Foot” because it seems to spring up everywhere. Although many consider plantain to be a noxious weed, it has been used for centuries by many cultures throughout the world, with the Saxons calling it one of their nine sacred herbs.

You can recognize plantain as a low, short plant with wide and round leaves that have parallel veins. There are many photos and videos online to help you identify plantain. What you may not know is that it is a very useful plant. In fact, it contains anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. So, instead of yanking out these common weeds in frustration, you can learn to cultivate them for all kinds of purposes.

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Here are some common uses for plantain:

1. In a salad. Plantain leaves are completely edible, and they taste a little like spinach. Plantain is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, beta-carotene and calcium and is milder tasting when the leaves are small. Harvest young leaves for best taste. You can eat them raw in salads or sautéed with some olive oil and garlic.

2. As a tea. Dry, crush and then steep plantain leaves in steaming water to make a nourishing tea. Plantain tea is known to help to alleviate heartburn and indigestion in addition to it being an excellent source of iron and vitamins.

Plantain tea also soothes sore throats and coughs due to colds and flu. It helps clear phlegm from the lungs and nasal passages. You also can gargle with plantain tea to help heal and prevent mouth sores.

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3. As a poultice. Plantain is a handy and effective way to ease the pain of insect bites and stings as well as boils, rashes, cuts and scrapes. The weed works as a “drawing herb,” meaning it can pull out toxins and foreign substances from the body. To make a poultice, crush up some leaves or chew them. Then apply them to the affected area. You can cover the poultice with a Band-Aid to hold the poultice in place. Many people experience instant pain relief.

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4. In bathwater. Adding dried plantain to your bathwater can be soothing and relaxing. Its anti-inflammatory properties can be especially helpful to a mother recuperating from childbirth or to someone who has overexerted himself or herself with work or exercise.

If you would like to use plantain year-round, your best bet is to make a salve. Here is a recipe: Place one pound of fresh cut-up plantain leaves in a large non-metallic pan. Add one cup of olive oil or raw coconut oil. Put the lid on the pot and cook on low until all the leaves are soft and mushy and the oil looks green.

Then strain the mixture while the oil is still warm and store it in an airtight container. Add a drop or two of essential oil after the mixture has cooled, if you wish. You can use the salve on bug bites, skin conditions, burns and wounds. You also can use it as a moisturizer cream.

And here is a recipe for plantain tea: Bring two cups of water to a boil and then add two tablespoons of cut-up, fresh plantain leaves. Cover and steep for five minutes. You can add honey as a sweetener if desired. Sip the tea throughout the day to help fight congestion and other symptoms of cold and flu.

When you cultivate any weeds, it is important that you make sure they have not been treated with any chemicals. Plantain is generally considered a safe herb, but it is a good idea to consult your doctor before using it if you are pregnant or if you have any kind of medical condition.

How do you use plantain? Share your tips in the section below:

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  1. Similar with the bitter taste of dandelion leaves, bring water to a boil & drop in the leaves for 20-30 seconds (called blanching).
    That gets rid of the bitter taste. The resulting green water can be used as tea. Tastes similar to green tea.

  2. Plaintain is not ugly. To me all plants are beautiful, I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder.

  3. Katherine Albrecht mentioned this one on her radio program today. She had incessant itching from a cancer drug so she made her own ointment from plantain, almond oil and beeswax. And what do you know, it worked like a charm! Check out her weekday afternoon program at Maybe she will share the recipe she made on her website? Also, we have a plant growing in our yard with similar properties, called dead nettle or arcangel. Got it from my brother as a ground cover. Keep spreading the word about God’s good green herbs!

    • If she was itching all the time after using a drug, she may have had an allergic reaction OR the cancer drug is affecting her liver (removes toxins from the body) and causing it to shut down. I’m not trying to say the plantain did not work, but hopefully she saw her oncologist as well. Interestingly, plants are sometimes used to create chemotherapy drugs as well, such as vinca and yew. But if you are on meds, especially chemo drugs, you should always tell your physician what alternative substances you take–say if you are on a protocol or clinical trial–as by using them you may negate the terms of the study protocol.

  4. I use it to heal rabbits. I healed with UTI and it is also known to be the first greens for baby rabbits.

  5. Very interesting article on plantain, thx a lot!

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