Plantain (Plantago major): Why It’s an Herb and Not a Weed, Uses, Benefits and More

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Plantain (Plantago major): Herb and not a Weed
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Plantain is a common garden herb with healing properties. Although many people refer to plantain as a weed, it’s actually an edible medicinal herb with a number of health benefits. You can use plantain leaf as a poultice for insect bites, a plantain tea to improve digestion or soothe bronchitis, or a healing plantain salve for helping wounds to heal quickly.

Many of the benefits of plantain herb come from its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Plantain leaf is also a good source of antioxidants, vitamin c, beta-carotene, and minerals such as calcium and potassium.

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Far from being an unwelcome weed in your yard, plantain herb should be prized for its medicinal uses.

In this article, you will learn about the many health benefits of plantain. You will also learn how to use plantain as a medicinal herb.

Why Plantain Is an Herb and Not a Weed

Plantain is called a weed because it is an invasive plant that can quickly take over a garden. However, plantain should be regarded as an herb due to its many health benefits. Plantain is among the edible weeds that are good for you.

You shouldn’t confuse plantain with a type of cooking banana that has the same name.

Broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows in most areas of the world. Other names for broadleaf plantain include common plantain, greater plantain and wild plantain. The ribwort plantain is related to the Plantago major. It has narrower leaves and sometimes called narrowleaf plantain.

The plantain plant has broad leaves that grow to around 2-4 inches wide. It is mostly the plantain leaf that contains many of its therapeutic benefits. However, plantain seeds are also used medicinally. (1, 2)

People say that plantain leaves taste similar to spinach or asparagus but with a slightly more bitter taste. Young plantain leaves are said to be the tastiest; whereas the broader and older plantain leaves taste bitter and have a fibrous texture.

Images of Plantain Plant (Plantago major)

plantain weed pictures

Nutritional Benefits of Plantain Herb

Broadleaf plantain is an extremely nutritious wild herb that contains a number of bioactive compounds.

The journal Ecology of Food and Nutrition reports that plantain leaf is a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Plantain leaves also have calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and manganese. (3)

One of the reasons why plantain is a medicinal herb is that all parts of the plant – the leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and seeds – contain a lot of antioxidants. Flavonoids, polysaccharides, and caffeic acid are just a few of the phytochemicals in plantain. (4)

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Researchers say that plantain compounds are good for wound healing, reducing inflammation, managing diabetes, treating diarrhea, and killing germs. (4)

Benefits and Uses of Plantain Herb

Let’s look in more detail at how to use common plantain for its many health benefits.

Plantain Weed Can Boost Your Immunity

Wild plantain is an amazingly useful herb that can help in strengthening your immunity.

Various studies have shown that plantain compounds have immune-strengthening properties to fight infection. For example, plantain leaf extract can help boost the number of white blood cells. (5)

One study in the lab found that hot water extracts of plantain leaves have antiviral properties. (6)

You can take a few young plantain leaves to make a medicinal herb tea. Roughly chop the fresh leaves and put in a cup of boiling water, cover, and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and add a teaspoon of raw honey when the tea has cooled down to increase the antimicrobial properties.

Consume the plantain tea to help fight infection whenever you have a cold or the flu.

Find out about more herbs and supplements to boost your immune system’s health naturally.

Plantain Herb has Antimicrobial Properties

Studies have found that plantain leaf extracts have good antimicrobial action. Tests in the lab have shown that compounds in plantain leaves can help to kill off various bacterial and viral pathogens. (7, 8)

You can drink plantain tea as a health tonic to improve your digestive health. Or, you can use plantain leaf tea as a cleansing skin tonic.

Plantain Herb Benefits Your Gastrointestinal Health Due to its Anti-Inflammatory Properties

One of the most popular uses for taking plantain leaf tea is to treat gastrointestinal disorders.

A 2017 survey found that herbal weeds such as plantain are good for digestion. Herbal digestive remedies can help to soothe intestinal pain and treat other symptoms of gastric upset. (9)

The astringent and cleansing effect of compounds in common plantain also helps resolve symptoms of diarrhea. (10)

Drink a cup of plantain leaf tea every day if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, or heartburn.

Studies have shown that if you have abdominal pain from a peptic ulcer, then taking plantain tincture could help treat your ulcer. It is best to use leaf extract for gastric ulcers rather than seed extract. (11, 12)

Find out about more foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect and can help prevent the development of chronic disease. Or you can try these teas for better digestive health.

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Plantain Weed Promotes Good Liver Health

You can use plantain leaf to help protect the health and function of your liver.

The anti-inflammatory compounds in Plantago major (plantain) have many protective benefits for your liver. Lab tests have found that administering plantain extracts has many benefits as a liver tonic. (13)

Other studies involving rats found that plantain extracts may protect the liver from injury caused by painkillers. (14)

The best way to help improve your liver function is to consume 1 or 2 glasses of plantain leaf tea every day. At the end of the article, you can find out an easy recipe on how to make plantain tea.

You could also make plantain leaf juice by putting fresh plantain leaves through a juicer, or you could add a few leaves to your green smoothie recipe to get plantain’s protective properties that way.

To help keep your liver healthy, find out about the worst habits that damage your liver’s health. Avoiding these habits and consuming these proven foods to cleanse your liver will promote good liver health.

Plantain Leaf Is Good for Your Skin

Because plantain is an incredibly useful herb, you can also use plantain tea to cleanse and tone your skin.

Studies have shown that the skin benefits of plantain come from a number of antioxidant compounds. Plantain extracts contain anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and healing properties that are good for your skin. (15)

Ribwort plantain (narrowleaf plantain) is also classed as an herb that is good for the skin. Applying plantain to the skin also has astringent, soothing, and moisturizing properties. (16)

Here are a number of ways how plantain can benefit your skin:

Plantain for eczema. Soak some plantain leaves in water until soft and then mash into a pulp. Put the plantain pulp on your itchy red skin to help soothe pain, stop itching, and relieve inflammation.

Further reading: Natural eczema remedies that you can make at home.

Plantain for sunburn. Make a cup of plantain tea. Once the liquid has cooled, pour into a spray bottle. Spray the plantain remedy liberally over the irritated skin to help cool skin and relieve pain.

Further reading: Other ways to cure sunburn naturally.

Plantain for acne. Cleanse your skin regularly with plantain tea to help kill off germs and remove grime. Or, you could apply a little plantain tincture directly on the pustule or pimple to help reduce redness and speed up healing.

Further reading: The most effective acne face masks you can make at home

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Plantain for poison ivy or allergic skin reactions. Make a poultice (recipe at end of this article) and apply to the itchy hives or swollen skin until you get relief. Use plantain tea to cleanse the skin after removing the poultice to benefit your skin.

Plantain for spider bites and other insect bites. Make a plantain pulp with mashed up leaves and water. Apply the plantain poultice directly to the spider bite to relieve irritation, pain, and swelling.

Plantain Weed May Help Wounds Heal Faster

One of the benefits of using healing herbs such as plantain on your skin is to help promote wound healing.

Studies have shown that plantain leaves are good for speeding up the healing of wounds. Plantain leaves help regenerate skin tissue, reduce inflammation, and have antibacterial properties. (17, 18)

One study on rats found that combining plantain tincture and aloe vera enhanced wounds healing. (17)

You could apply fresh plantain leaves to minor cuts or wounds to promote healing. Crush a washed plantain leaf to help release the healing compounds. Place over the minor cut for 10-15 minutes and repeat 3 or 4 times a day. Use the plantain remedy daily until the small wound has healed.

To treat small cuts, grazes, or wounds, you can also buy plantain healing salve from online stores (like this one) or health stores. Apply the plantain salve 3 times a day to encourage healthy wound healing.

You can also use plantain tea to wash and cleanse wounds in between changing dressings.

Learn how to care for wounds to minimize the risk of scars forming.

Use Plantain Herb to Improve Dental Health

Plantain weed is an herb that is extremely versatile and can help to keep your mouth free from plaque and bacteria.

Scientific studies indicate that using plantain leaf tea could help to promote good oral health. Some compounds in medicinal herbs such as plantain have antibacterial activity against plaque-forming bacteria. (18)

Other studies have shown that plantain herb benefits dental health because it can help to reduce the number of tooth cavities due to its anti-bacterial effect. (19)

Because some of the medicinal uses of plantain include killing off microbes, you can use a plantain tea mouth rinse to help treat gum inflammation, toothache, and mouth ulcers.

Swish plantain tea around your mouth for 1-2 minutes to help kill off bacteria before spitting out.

You can also use plantain tea as a gargle to help treat a sore throat. Add a few drops of oregano oil to the plantain gargle to help boost its antimicrobial power and reduce painful inflammation. Gargle for 30 seconds and spit out. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day to help eliminate throat infections.

Learn how to remove dental plaque naturally to lower your risk of gum inflammation and gum disease.

Plantain Can Help Reduce Cholesterol

Some scientific studies on animal subjects have suggested that extracts from the plantain plant may have a cholesterol-lowering effect. Plantain leaf and plantain seed extracts help to bring down cholesterol levels. (20, 21)

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If you need to address issues of cholesterol, find out about simple and effective ways to bring down your cholesterol levels to improve your cardiovascular health.

Plantain May Help Treat Kidney Stones

Apart from helping to improve kidney function, regularly drinking plantain tea could help prevent kidney stones from forming.

Some studies suggest that extracts from plantain leaf are better than some traditional kidney stone remedies. (22)

Because plantain extracts also help to lower levels of uric acids, taking plantain seed extracts could help to reduce instances of gout. (23)

To help flush out kidney stones and increase urine output, drink 1-2 glasses of plantain tea daily.

Learn more about why apple cider vinegar is also a good natural remedy for kidney stones.

Plantain May Be Good for Parasite Infections

The results of some laboratory experiments have shown that plantain extracts could help get rid of parasites.

One test in the lab showed that plantain extracts have anti-parasitic activity against the Giardia parasite. Plantain extracts are also used in traditional medicine for treating parasite infections. (24, 25)

While there are no studies showing if common plantain can eradicate parasites in humans, there are still a number of health benefits of regularly consuming plantain leaf tea.

If you are showing signs of a parasite infection, find out some of the best ways to eradicate worms from your body.

Plantain is Good for Treating Respiratory Tract Infections

You can also use wild plantain herb to treat infections such as bronchitis, tonsillitis, the common cold, and sinusitis.

Researchers have found that using plantain for upper respiratory tract infections can help to soothe coughing, boost immunity, and reduce inflammatory responses. (26)

You can also drink plantain tea to help manage the symptoms of chronic bronchitis. (27)

When you need to clear sinuses, get rid of a cough, or get relief from the flu, consume a cup of warm plantain tea. Put 1 teaspoon of dried plantain herb in a cup of boiling water, cover, and allow to infuse for 15 minutes. Add a spoon of raw honey to help get rid of your infection quicker and consume 3 times a day.

Find out what else you can do to clear up a chest infection quickly.

Plantain Weed Might Have Anticancer Properties

Although more research on plantain weed is required, there is some evidence that this healing herb has potential in treating cancer.

A 2017 study found that extracts from plantain seed may have anticancer and anti-inflammatory activity. (28)

Another test tube study in laboratory conditions found that extracts from various species of Plantago plants have potential use in cancer treatment. (6)

Further reading: The Anti-Cancer Diet: Cancer Fighting Foods to Help Prevent Cancer (Evidence Based).

How to Use Plantain Herb for Healing

It is very easy to make your own plantain leaf tea from this medicinal herb. Because common plantain grows wild in many places, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find fresh leaves.

How to make plantain tea

To make your own health-boosting plantain leaf infusion, this is what you should do:

  • Wash and roughly chop 1 cup of fresh plantain leaves.
  • Put in a heatproof bowl that has a lid.
  • Pour over 4 cups of boiling water, cover, and leave until cold.
  • Strain the liquid and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

You can drink 1-2 cups of plantain tea daily to benefit from its healing power. You can also use this tea topically to cleanse your skin, help clear up acne breakouts, and promote healthy wound healing.

You can also use the leftover leaves from the plantain tea to apply to pimples, wounds, insect bites, and sunburn to help your skin heal without scarring.

How to make a plantain poultice

A poultice made from crushed plantain leaves can help to soothe pain and reduce inflammation caused by bites, allergic skin reactions, or irritated skin.

To make a healing plantain poultice, this is what you should do:

  • Pick and wash a few fresh plantain leaves.
  • Crush them between your palms or chop the leaves to create a mash.
  • Place the plantain poultice on the inflamed bite, pustule, or cut and loosely cover with a bandage.
  • The enzymes in the plantain leaves should help to soothe pain, reduce inflammation, and start the healing process.
  • Reapply the healing poultice when the remedy has dried out.

Precautions When Using Plantain Leaf

It is generally safe to use plantain leaf tea or a plantain leaf poultice for medicinal purposes.

Doctors from WebMD advise that people with a pollen or melon allergy should avoid using remedies made from plantain. Also, plantain tea, tinctures, or tonics may not be safe to take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. (29)

When picking wild plantain leaves, always ensure that no chemicals or pesticides have been used on them. Always thoroughly wash the leaves before using them to make tea or a poultice.

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12 Responses to Plantain (Plantago major): Why It’s an Herb and Not a Weed, Uses, Benefits and More

  1. Jackie says:

    Will plantain lose it’s potency if frozen?

    • Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer says:

      From what I’ve read, freezing is a good way to preserve the nutritional value of many food items, and many of the nutrients will keep quite well when frozen. According to this study, which compared the nutritional values of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables, vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) continues to degrade during prolonged storage of frozen products.

  2. Rachelle Lanthier says:

    Hello,

    Very informative, my question, can I take the washed leaves of plantain and put it my dehydrater machine. Since I live in Quebec Canada, it could use it all year round. Thank you

  3. Joe Bayless says:

    All these articles talk about tea and poltice. I eat a lot green leaves from turnips, swiss chard, mustard plant leaves etc in a stir fry. Can the leaves of this plant also be eaten?

    • Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer says:

      Plantain leaves are edible but taste best when the leaves are young and tender. Bigger leaves are tougher and bitter.

  4. Barbara Boyce says:

    This is a great article! I’ve been making salve with Plantain and it is THE best skin care product to use yet! Anyone who hikes really needs to learn this plant for emergencies in the woods too. I also use the narrow blade leaf variety.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Wow great article I really enjoy reading it. I live in Vancouver Canada., is it possible to find the fresh leaves here and where would that be? I’m very interested about it. I would love to know more. I will definitely check at my local organic stores if they carry it.

  6. Janet says:

    They grow in my yard! I think I will try the tea.

  7. Janet R Mergener says:

    We sure have a lot of plaintain growing in on lawn.I guess I have my own pharmacy.

  8. Mk says:

    Thought plantains were related to banana

    • Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer says:

      There are 2 kinds of plantain: the herb plantain (plantago major), which the article talks about, and plantain (Musa paradisiaca) which is a type of cooking banana – see more about it in my article about types of bananas.

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