No, we’re not talking about the starchy cousin of the banana (which has its own health benefits, but that’s for another article), we’re talking about Plantago major, a common leafy plant you have probably seen growing all over your backyard or along the sidewalks. While this little plant is often disregarded as a weed, it actually has some notable health properties.
Plantain, also sometimes known as snakeweed, waybread, Patrick’s dock, ripple grass and Englishman’s foot, originated in Europe and Asia in ancient times. Nowadays, it grows wild all over the United States as well, in both sunny and partially shaded areas, and can be easily spotted in the spring and summer months, once you know what to look for. The plant is fully edible, non-toxic, and when young, has a mild, slightly nutty flavor.
Some of the benefits of keeping these small, broad leaves around include:
Easing the irritation of minor cuts, scrapes, bites, rashes and sunburn
The most common use of plantain leaves is to apply them externally to scrapes, bruises, bee stings, bug bites, minor rashes and sunburn. They may also help to calm the inflammation of other skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. The leaf itself can be applied as a poultice to the affected area, or it can be crushed up and combined with coconut oil or bentonite clay to cover larger areas.
One traditionally-known remedy for small wounds and stings while out camping is to simply chew up a leaf, spit it out, and apply it to the area. Plantain has antibacterial properties, so doing so will help to keep the wound from infection, as well. Plantain leaf tea can also be used as a mouthwash, both to soothe small cuts and canker sores, and to kill mouth bacteria after you brush.
Soothing digestive distress
Steeping plantain leaves into a tea has been used for generations to relieve digestive discomfort, such as constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), indigestion and even heartburn. Young or older leaves can be made into a tea for this purpose. Older leaves have a more bitter and pungent flavor than young leaves, however, add a bit of raw honey to transform it into a delicious and soothing tea.
Supporting immune system, eye and bone health
Plantain leaves are high in vitamin C, which is crucial to supporting optimal immune system health, and keeping seasonal colds and flus at bay. Vitamin C also supports skin and hair health, and helps to fight the wear and tear of aging on the body.
These leaves also contain high amounts of vitamin A, which supports eye health, including night vision, and helps to prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.
On top of that, plantain leaves are a good source of calcium, which is key to keeping bones strong, and helping to prevent osteoporosis. To enjoy these nutritional benefits of plantain, serve the young leaves in salads, or you may choose to saute or steam them alone or with other greens.
Relieving upper respiratory irritation
Drinking a plantain leaf tea, or using plantain infusions in a steam treatment, have been done for generations to help break up mucus and soothe the inflammation of coughs and upper respiratory infections. In Germany, these leaves are an approved remedy for helping to alleviate minorly inflamed oral and nasal mucus membranes.
The truly wonderful thing about plantain leaves is you can often find them right in your own backyard. However, make sure that the leaves you pick have not been exposed to any pesticides or herbicides, and that the soil does not contain any other harmful chemicals.
If your soil is not fit to pick these leaves from, perhaps tell a friend who has better soil quality around this versatile little leaf – you can share the harvest!
Note: While plantain leaves are considered safe, it is always best to talk to a natural health professional before using it if you suffer from a health condition, just to make sure it is right for your individual health needs.
-The Alternative Daily