This plant is so common, even city-dwellers can find it. When I taught Herbal Studies at Daemen College in Buffalo, one of the homework assignments was to go out and find this and 4 other plants (Red Clover, All-Heal, Dandelion and Mallow).
This is Broad leaf Plantain (Plantago major), but it’s just as easy to find Narrow leaf Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) if you know the characteristics of this plant. It’s super easy actually, just look for the plant with a rosette of leaves. If the leaf has 5 parallel lines on it, it’s plantain. It may be a little more difficult to identify after a lawn mowing, but I promise it is there.
And although the name is the same, those little bananas that are called Plantain are not in this family. Psyllium husk or seed is though, and is cultivated from Plantago psyllium.
Plantain is both an edible herb and botanical medicine. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and the seeds, like its sister psyllium, can be good as a fiber source to treat constipation.
Plantago’s physiologic actions are that it is alterative, styptic, inflammatory modulating, astringent, vulnerary, demulcent (seeds). Therefore it is good to use for insect bites, stings, eczema, small wounds, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, bladder infections, IBD, dry irritated coughs, mild bronchitis.
The easiest way to use it is to chew the leaves and then place the mashed poultice on any wound, bite or sting, if you are outside and don’t have quick access to a first aid kit. Nature is your first aid kit! I spent a few days with an herbalist in Arizona known as Peter Bigfoot and he said that in a pinch, just grab any plant and put it on a wound. I’m not that comfortable, because in a frenzy I’d be the one chewing on poison ivy. 😉 Truthfully though, I’ve never been anywhere where I couldn’t find plantain within a few feet.
Jen Williamson, ND is a native of Buffalo, New York who earned her Bachelor of Science at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania and a Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. While in medical school, she became very involved in the student community, most notably as the President of the Student Government Association. For her service, upon graduation she was given the Outstanding Leadership Award.
In the spirit of Docere, the Naturopathic principle of the doctor’s role as teacher, Dr. Williamson was an adjunct professor in the Complementary and Alternative Therapies program at Daemen College. She has had articles in a variety of publications, includingNaturopathic Doctor News and Review, SheKnows.com, local Buffalo magazines and papers, as well as her own newsletter, blog and website. While practicing in Buffalo, she also offered over 30 different classes to the public at various events and locations.
In 2012, Dr. Williamson moved to Vermont to expand her practice of Naturopathic Medicine as well as provide an atmosphere that resonates with her medicine for her son, Victor, and husband, David. As a Primary Care Physician at Avalon Natural Medicine, Dr. Williamson focuses on mental/emotional, gastrointestinal, and endocrine disorders. Most of her treatment plans include a combination of nutritional, herbal and homeopathic remedies, but she has also received additional training in Hair Trace Mineral Analysis and Bowel Nosodes.