Plantago major, commonly known as plantain, faces an uphill battle in terms of respectability. Some people think it’s a backyard or roadside weed, when in reality, it’s an incredibly useful herb (not to be confused with the banana-like plantain fruit). This perennial plant grows in full- to part-sun locations in a wide range of soils. Oval or lancet-shaped leaves have five to seven prominent parallel veins resembling the veins in celery. In the late spring or summer, plantain plants produce one or more tall, slender flower shoots.
Herbalists believe it to be one of the best, most readily available herbs for a variety of first aid applications and chronic health problems. Plantain herb is also a nutritious edible full of calcium and high amounts of vitamins A, C and K. It can be prepared in myriad ways for medicinal use.
1. Ease tooth and mouth pain
A simple way to see quick relief from toothaches, canker sore pain and other oral discomforts is to pop a clean plantain leaf into your mouth and chew on it. Anti-inflammatory properties in the leaf help to reduce pain.
2. Skin irritation relief
To calm the sting of insect bites, crush a leaf with a mortar and pestle to create a poultice. Apply the poultice to the affected area to relieve the itch or irritation. No mortar and pestle? Chew the leaf and spit it onto the bug bite or scrape. According to Herb Rally, enzymes in human saliva convert aucubin into the stronger antimicrobial compound aucubigenin.
3. Antibiotic salve for wounds
Using plantain leaves, coconut oil (or other carrier oil) and beeswax, you can make a homemade salve to use as an antibiotic ointment. Add a few drops of lavender oil to increase its effectiveness and produce an appealing fragrance.
4. Gastrointestinal discomfort
Plantain herb is also beneficial when taken internally as a tea. A combination of its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and cooling properties relieve stomachaches, acid indigestion, diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
5. Soothe kidney and bladder ailments
Ingesting a plantain tincture or tea is useful in treating kidney and urinary tract problems, as its properties help to flush bacteria out of your body, ridding it of the infection.
6. Skin cleanser and brightener
Make a facial astringent by bruising several fresh, clean plantain leaves and placing them in a jar. Cover with boiling water and steep the leaves for at least 30 minutes. Strain the solution and apply to your skin in the morning using a cotton ball.
7. Stop or slow bleeding
To slow or staunch bleeding from a cut, crack open a clean plantain leaf to expose the internal juice, or make a poultice and apply directly to the wound. Compounds within the leaves act as a natural styptic, slowing blood flow or halting it completely.
8. Draw unwanted items out of the skin
One of the plantain’s unique abilities is how quickly and effectively it draws unwanted items out of the skin. A poultice can bring a pimple or abscess to a head, draw out a bee stinger or extract a deeply embedded splinter.
If you’re suffering from bronchitis or another upper respiratory infection, a cup of plantain tea will help you feel better. The leaf’s natural expectorant properties loosen and expel mucus; its anti-inflammatory properties calm irritated tissues.
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