|Broad Leaf Plantain: Photo by the UofA Cooperative Extension Service|
(This is one variety of Plantain, do some research to find what verities grow in your area.)
When I first learned about plantain several years ago, I was living in the rural South and learned to use the leaves in the old backwoods tradition. To ease the pain and swelling of a insect bite or sting pop a fresh plucked leaf into your mouth, chew it up into a bright green blob, and then slap that sucker onto the affected area. It may sound a bit nasty and seem primitive, but it really works. Plantain leaf is a well know antidote for skin aliments of all kinds ranging from snakebites to burns and abrasions. When used as a poultice it is also known to promote the healing of wounds, sooth the itchy rash caused by poison ivy, and prevent infection. Incorporated into a salve, it is an excellent all purpose ointment.
My recent plantain find moved me to do further research on the usefulness of this plant and I was pleasantly surprised. The seeds that grow in a tubal spray from the center of the plant, the arching growth top-center of the photograph, contain a mucinous sap that is used extensively for internal healing. One of the most exciting being for the maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels. The seeds themselves are used similarly to psyllium in treating irritation of the bowls. One source also suggested that plantain root can be chewed to ease the pain of a toothache.
Since many of these uses for plantain are new to me, there is very little I can do other than relate the findings of my research. As I continue to explore and learn about this herb, I will share more of my personal findings. For now, I can assure you that in skincare it sits right among slippery elm and aloe in my estimations.
Magically, I can find no mentions of plantain in a context that does not support or refer to it's known medicinal properties. Perhaps in healing this humble, intrusive weed finds it's own magic.