Plantain: A Common Yet Uniquely Special Plant

I LOVE learning new things.  And I’ve recently been learning a lot about common plants that have a history of being used for healing.  Since I’m not a big fan of using pharmaceutical drugs for every little ailment, I have a keen interest in this. 

My neighbor brought me over a plant and told me her mother used to use it all the time when she was a child for wound treatment and told me it was a plantain.  This is a plant that everyone will recognize, but I never knew that it had any use.  A quick google search reveals that the plantain plant is historically known as a plant that has strong healing properties.

Research shows that there are 2 varieties of this plant.  Both varieties seem to have equally the same properties and one is not necessarily preferred over the other. This plant likes to grow in compacted soils, so look for it along paths, and road beds, but it can grow anywhere.  I have both varieties growing around my property.  There’s a broad leaf variety called Plantago major and a narrow leaf variety called Ribwort Plantain or Plantago lanceolata.

I decided to try it out when I tore my hand open on a nail sticking out from the barn wall.  It was deep enough that it was bleeding and required a bandage.  I put some Bacitracin on it (I’m allergic to Neosporin) and a bandage, but the next day it was very sore and not healing.  I went outside and found a plantain plant.  I pulled off a leaf and chewed it up to make a spit poultice, put the wad onto my hand and put a bandage over the top to hold it in place.  I was very surprised to notice that after about 2 hours the soreness of the wound had gone away.  When I replaced the bandage and spit poultice with a fresh one the next day there was clearly visible healing happening.  I was very impressed. 

I’ve since done a fair amount of research and learning about herbal plants that have healing properties.  There are 4 main methods of using these plants. 

1. Make a spit poultice as I described above and apply directly to the wound. 

2. Dry the plants in a food dehydrator and then make a tea and drink the tea, or

3. you can extract the chemicals in the plants by filling a jar with the dried crumbled plants and then covering with an oil, and either letting it naturally extract over several months’ time or gently heating the oil & plant mixture for a few hours. 

4. Lastly you can make an alcohol extract called a tincture.

I’ve been experimenting with the oil extraction method and then making a salve. I collected the plants and dried them in my food dehydrator.  I used avocado oil for my oil because after researching different oil properties and watching numerous videos, it seems some people believe that olive oil has a tendency to go rancid,  suggested better oils to use are grape seed oil and avocado oil.  To make a salve you must first soak the dry herb in the oil until the oil uptakes the compounds of the herb which can be hurried along by gentle heat and indicated by the green color the oil takes on. I also added about half as much Yarrow and a little bit of Comfrey into mine. Then strain out the used up herb and then add beeswax to the oil.  I haven’t had the opportunity to use this salve yet, but I’m hopeful it will work as well as the spit poultice.  It’s a great way to preserve  the healing properties of the plants for out of season use. 

Finished Salve

I’m now motivated and curious to see what else is growing around the farm and what types of uses some of the other common plants have.