plantain large Plantain

Plantain| Plantago lanceolata

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include ribwort plantain, narrowleaf plantain, ribgrass (P.lanceolata), broadleaf plantain, greater plantain (P.major)

Ribwort plantain is a very common perennial herb belonging to the Plantaginaceae family that has become naturalised around the world. The Native Americans named it 'white mans foot' as it popped up wherever the new settlers travelled. It grows in grasslands, pastures and lawns. P.major is commonly found on paths, roadsides and in cracks of pavement etc. and is noted for its ability to withstand repeated trampling.
The basal rosette of leaves produce a single flower stalk with a long thin brown flower cluster at the tip, opening from April through to the first frosts. The yellow stamens dance in the breeze as the flowers open. The leaves of both varieties have deep ribs running along their length.
Both P lanceolata and P.major have a very long history of medicinal use around the world.

Organic plantain leaf dried herb and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.

harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

The leaves can be picked throughout the summer. choose a dry sunny day and wait until any dew has evaporated. Young spring leaves are preferable.

Handle the leaves very carefully as they bruise easily. Dry as quickly as possible as they spoil easily, tell tale signs are dark blemishes on the leaves. Lay out on a tray over a radiator or in an airing cupboard, low heat rayburn, aga etc.

Fresh young leaves of both species are edible as are their seeds.

The seeds of Plantago ovata - psyllium seeds are used as a moisturising bulk laxative.

Organic plantain leaf dried herb and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.

therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

Plantain leaves are a remarkably versatile medicine, they possess so many deep healing powers that can be applied in many disease situations both chronic and acute. It can also be a potential life saver in first aid situations. The two species native to the UK, P. lanceolata and P. major are virtually interchangeable but the focus here is on P.lanceolata unless otherwise stated. Plantago ovata, otherwise known as psyllium seed will be discussed on its own page.

Plantain leaf is my go to herbal tea for anything red, hot, painful, inflamed and poisonous. They have a cooling, neutral/slightly salty/slightly bitter energetic and are rich in mucilage, tannins, silicic acid and antibiotic like substances - the juice of the fresh leaves will keep for long periods without spoiling.

Plantain leaves are my first choice for any conditions that result in blood poisoning, septicaemia, even gangrene and for removing toxins such as lead, mercury and other heavy metals from the body. I have seen the tea prevent blood poisoning that arose from a dodgy homemade tattoo session where hot red streaks were radiating form the tattoo site. Several strong cups of plantain leaf tea were consumed and a poultice applied, this cleared the problem overnight.

Drink strong plantain leaf tea in appendicitis or even burst appendix as an emergency first aid measure (whilst calling 999!).

The leaves possess immuno-stimulnt (increase antibody production), antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties, making them applicable in so many disease conditions.

Plantain leaves are a first rate herb for any kind of wound, cuts and grazes, skin rashes, itching and skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, ringworm, dermatitis. Include in washes to prevent wrinkles. P. major is slightly favoured skin health purposes.

The leaf has effective drawing qualities and can be applied to splinters or any pocket of poison or disease can be encouraged to the surface for removal. Abscess, boils, cysts (also polycystic ovaries) and ingrowing hairs will all benefit from a plantain leaf poultice. As a powder or used dried or fresh it is a great poultice herb used alone or in combination with other plants.

Use the leaf as a poultice and/or drink strong tea in mastitis to soothe pain, bring down inflammation and swelling, cool heat and clear poison.

The leaves used as a tea or poultice relieve insect bites and stings, snake bite, venomous bites (even black widow spider bites), nettle rash, poison ivy and other plant rashes. I can personally vouch for their effectiveness against unknown insect sting/bites - when moving vast bundles of meadow grass after mowing, I noticed 3 iitchy red spots (I assumed were insect bites) on my side under my armpit. After showering, the bites started burning and itching and began to ulcerate within a few hours, the skin dissolving almost. The next day, with 3 ever growing ulcers and now red streaks spreading into my armpit, breast and down my side and feeling pretty unwell, I decided to drink several strong cups of plantain leaf tea. Over the next couple of days the red streaks faded, the poison stopped spreading and the redness, inflammation and pain were soothed. The 3 ulcers healed perfectly within the week and left no scarring. I must confess I was pretty concerned in the beginning but plantain leaf saved the day!

Wash a deep puncture wound with the tea and drink several strong cups of leaf tea daily over a week to help prevent tetanus.

The leaves can be used to help strengthen gums, ease gingivitis, ease the pain of toothache. calm inflammations and infections in the mouth, mouth ulcers and prevent teeth from falling out when taken as a tea or a gargle. Chewing up a fresh leaf and wrapping around the affected area will bring speedy relief to tooth abscess, pull out poison and pus, help resolve the infection and bring pain relief. Stuff a clean crushed leaf in the cavity after a tooth extraction to prevent infection and speed up healing.

Plantain leaves have an astringent and styptic action and can staunch bleeding and stop haemorrhage anywhere in the body, externally and internally. They will also  dry out mucous secretion if in excess and can be useful against vaginal discharge in vaginitis and similar.

Conversely, they can provide lubrication to the tissues due to their mucilage content which forms a protective healing barrier on the mucosa. This ability to balance fluids in the tissues is highly useful.

They are an effective pro-coagulant - they encourage the clotting of blood near wound sites. The leaves of both P.lanceolata and P.major are rich in vitamain K, the clotting vitamin.

Long traditional use in digestive complaints, to help cleanse a toxic liver, ease gastritis and gastro-enteritis. and to eliminate poisons and toxins from the colon and diverticula. It may be useful added to formulas for inflammation in the intestines and internal digestive ulcers. It also acts as a balnacing agent to remedy both diarhhoea and constipation. Well worth a try in Crohns disease.

Plantain leaves are also anti-catarrhal and work well on upper respiratory infections, earache and otitis media, strengthen and support lung function, useful addition to formulas for emphysema, long standing remedy for bronchitis, sinusitis, the common cold and coughs, especially dry spasmodic coughs such as whooping cough or asthma.

They can also be useful for easing the symptoms of hayfever and seasonal allergies where they improve and balance the immune response, act as an anti-histamine and can dry out excessive mucous secretions yet  also stimulate mucous productiona and lubricate when needed.

The leaves also exert a relaxing and soothing action on the nerves particularly those of the face and head.

Place fresh leaves in the shoes to help prevent sore and tired feet when walking, place fresh leaves over blisters.

Urinary tract infections such as cystitis can be eased as can kidney inflammation and water retention. Enlarged prostate has been helped with broad leaf plantain. It also increases the quantity of uric acid exctreted via the kidneys so should be useful in gout.

The fresh juice form the leaves can be dropped into the eyes in eye infections such as conjunctivitis and styes.

Leaf tea has shown to be an effective anti-bacterial against Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus Streptococcus β-hemolyticus, Shigella, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Bacillus subtilis.

Can be used in formulas against worms.

Soften and bring healing to an enlarged spleen.

Plantain leaf has been and continues to be used as an anti-cancer plant in the traditional medicine of many cultures. The leaves have a very long history of use against malignant skin cancers.

** The humble plantain is truly a treasure at our feet and I have had several magical experiences involving the plant, including dreams and visits in meditations and shamanic journeying. I strongly feel that it works not just on a physical level for drawing out bodily poisons but also on an emotional and/or spiritual level for drawing out and resolving trauma and emotional poisons.


Here is an excellent article on the history of plantain and its use as medicine.



dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions.

* Plantain leaves are very safe to use and have no known side effects.

* Pollen form the flowers is a common allergen.


Tincture: 2-4 mls up to 3 times daily.

Dried herb in tea form: 1 heaped teaspoon per cup, stand for 15 minutes, drink 3-4 cups daily. For serious infection or acute poisoning increase to 2 heaped teaspoons and take a cup every hour or so. Larger doses are well tolerated too.

* The leaves are just as easy to use fresh as a poultice or tea. Crush (or chew the leaves if out in the field) and apply directly to wounds, ulcers, abscesses etc The fresh leaves can be juiced and used as a poultice to clean, draw infection and heal wounds rapidly.

* Powdered dry leaf has excellent drawing qualities, add to other powders or use alone as an effective poultice for drawing out material from the skin.

Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.

Child watering plants




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