Powerful Plantain: Nature's Bandage Draws Out What Ails You
I have been privileged to participate in multiple instances of wound care, a few traumatic, where the potent and superior healing properties of plantain have been revealed...often to the amazement and delight of the care recipient. Nothing in the synthetic medical realm rivals plantain's topical healing abilities. How I wish people understood that they had such an unparalleled healing wonder growing, free, in their backyards. Sadly, plantain is on Chemlawn's top ten list. If enough people come to understand and use this fabulous medicine, we might put a stop to that tragedy.
(Plantago Major) Plantain's Actions:
astringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-venemous, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, mucilant, parasiticide, styptic, vulnerary. [See terms defined below]
Medicinal parts: The entire plant. (Particularly the whole fresh leaves of the broadleaf variety for wound care.)
Plantain is used internally and externally; it excells at soothing and healing both fresh and chronic wounds or open sores.
The Anglo-Saxons called plantain the "Mother of Herbs;" the Navahos called it "Life Medicine." Historically, plantain was used successfully to cure the bite of rattlesnakes and other venomous creatures. It was used internally to treat rheumatic conditions, ulcers, respiratory illness, jaundice and other maladies.
Plantain has a phenomenal ability to draw out infection and toxins; it is quite effective with cleansing and healing putrid wounds. Plantain is useful for insect and snake bites/stings. Applying bruised fresh leaves or juice directly to the site will begin to draw out the venom and bring relief. It has a similar soothing effect on poison ivy and any other skin exposure to toxins. Plantain rapidly extracts poisons.
An application of fresh leaves over wounds (open or closed), boils, sores, animal bites, scrapes, burns, rashes, eczema, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, etc, will draw out infection, reduce inflammation and pain, help staunch bleeding, and speed tissue healing. People are often amazed at the speedy recovery of wounded flesh after applications of plantain. Chemical and synthetic wound applications cannot compare. I've been told of more than one doctor saying, upon examination of a quickly healing flesh wound, "I don't know what you're doing, but keep doing it!"
To apply plantain leaves during the growing season, pick large, fresh leaves (preferably the broad-leaf variety) and briefly scald with boiling water to sterilize and soften the leaf (I just pour water from the tea kettle directly onto leaves in a bowl and remove the leaves after a few seconds). Apply directly to the skin, smooth side down (top side, not the ribbed veiny underside). You can tape on with skin tape, or wrap with a bandaging material (cloth, gauze, ace bandage). Refresh plantain bandages every hour or sooner if they are drying quickly. It is best to remove the leaf before it completely dries, adhering to the skin. If this does occur, you can remove the leaf by wetting the area with warm water and peeling away the leaf debris. When you remove plantain leaves from an infected wound or burn, you will see and smell its pulling action. The leaf will have drawn pus from the wound; it will present as dark slime on the leaf and will often smell putrid. If no sign of infection comes off with the leaf, there likely is no (more) infection present in the wound.
To store leaves for use during the off season, gather fresh leaves before the plant goes to seed. Dry leaves flat until the "leathery" stage. Do not over dry, or the leaves will crumble. Gently stack dried leaves in a large glass jar or in paper bags for storage. To use dried leaves as bandages, reconstitute by soaking in hot water. These revived dry leaves will not be as pliable and easy to use as fresh leaves, but are suitable in a pinch.
If you do not have access to leaves, use cut dry or powdered plantain (from a source like Mountain Rose Herbs) and mix into a poultice with other herbs or with bentonite clay. Apply to wound and wrap with cloth/gauze/bandage. Plantain can also be applied externally as a fomentation, which is a hot compress made by soaking a cloth in a strong herbal decoction (tea brewed for 8 hours or more, 2 oz. herb to 1 pint boiled water). Infused oil of plantain is also an excellent topical remedy. You can make infused oil with either fresh or dried leaves, and with assorted carrier oils (such as olive oil). Infusing methods vary, such as simmering, sun brewing, or cold infusing.
In addition to its fabulous external healing/drawing abilities, plantain can be used internally to remedy various ailments, such as:
- Irritated bowels/GI system
- Kidney/bladder inflammation and infections
- Mouth ulcers/canker sores
- Vaginal irritation/female disorders with discharge
- Phlegm reduction
- Parasitic infections
- High cholesterol
Plantain can be taken internally as a tincture, tea, decoction (really strong, long brewed tea), powedered, or encapsulated. Dosages will vary according to need.
General dosing for internal usage:
- Infusion (tea) = Steep up to 30 minutes, 1 tsp herb to 1 cup water; 2-4 cups daily adults
- Capsules = 3 to 10 caps, 2-3x/daily adults
- Tincture = 2 to 30 drops, 3-4x/daily adults
Plantain is a top ten botanical medicine. It is unrivaled by modern medicine and will never be obsolete. Learn to identify, cultivate and harvest plantain leaves. You will be so glad you did!
Astringent: has a tightening/contracting effect on tissue, a drying effect on fluid secretions
Antiseptic: destroys and prevents development of microbes
Demulcent: softens and soothes damaged/inflamed surfaces
Emollient: soothes inflamed tissue; softens and protects skin
Mucilant: protects/soothes mucous membranes/inflamed tissues
Styptic: contracts blood vessels, stops external bleeding by astringent action
Vulnerary: promotes wound healing or normalization of damaged tissue
For more information on this and other herbs and how to make remedies, see the herb books on my Library page and other reference articles on this site as they appear.