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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.
Here are some common uses for plantain:
Plantain Leaves 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.
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.
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.
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.