It’s common to feel that more exotic remedies will be more effective. People lust after rare powders, extracts and herbals from the Amazon rainforest or the Dead Sea. But what if you could gain some incredible health benefits from a common, lowly plant found growing in your backyard and along the sidewalks of your town.
The common plantain plant, officially known as Plantago major, has been used for centuries all over the world to support wound healing and for treating various diseases. Its use has been widespread in Western cultures as well as in traditional Chinese medicine. Plantain is one of the most abundant medicinal plants and is commonly found on every continent. Similarly to other “weeds,” such as dandelion, plantain is able to thrive in ecologically disturbed urban and suburban areas. It is also nutritious as a wild edible, offering up a good dose of vitamins A, C and K!
Plantain can be used to treat many conditions including skin irritations, colds and respiratory afflictions, digestive discomfort, hormone balance, and for general pain and infection relief. It can also prevent the development of cancerous cells. This wide range of beneficial effects is thanks to a number of natural medicinal compounds contained within the plant. Studies have shown that the main active phenols, or plant medicinals, found in plantain are caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid. Other biologically active constituents include the following:
• Aucubin—an antimicrobial agent and kidney stimulant, which may be useful in treating gout.
• Allantoin—stimulates cell growth and tissue regeneration.
• Polysaccharides—facilitate digestion and stabilize blood sugar.
• Flavonoids—plant pigments, which are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
• Ursolic acid—stops the proliferation of cancer cells and increases muscle and tissue growth.
• Terpenoids—aromatic compounds which are protective to cells and help form healthy hormones.
• Astringents—helps treat diarrhea and soothe intestinal membranes.
So how can we use all of these amazing effects to our benefit? There are a number of simple DIY recipes you can make at home using plantain. It’s a good idea to incorporate these for daily health maintenance, and also keep them on hand for first aid.
DIY plantain first aid salve
Keep this salve on hand to use for bug bites, bee stings, rashes, cuts and scrapes, eczema or psoriasis, sunburn or diaper rash.
It’s worth noting that if you have an emergency, such as a painful bite or reaction to poison ivy, you can simply pick a couple of leaves from the plant, chew it for a few moments, and smear it directly over the afflicted site. This is a great rapid remedy in a pinch, especially with children around!
(Makes about 1 cup of salve)
• 1 cup fresh plantain leaves gathered from an area that has not been sprayed with chemicals, chopped
(If you cannot find leaves that are free of pesticides, you can buy dried organic plantain leaves online or from health food stores.)
• 1 1/2 cups olive oil or melted coconut oil
• 1 tbsp + 1 tsp grated beeswax, tightly packed
• 1/2 – 1 tsp rosemary or tea tree essential oil OR vitamin E oil, optional
1. Harvest your leaves on a dry, sunny day. Pull off any parts that look sick or diseased and brush off dirt with a dry cloth if needed.
2. Chop leaves or grind them in a food processor.
3. Place ground leaves in a clean, dry pint mason jar and cover with oil. The oil should completely cover the leaves (with room for the leaves to expand a bit) and go all the way to the top of the jar.
4. Allow jar to sit for 4–6 weeks at room temperature.
5. Strain the oil through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve.
6. Now that your plantain oil is ready, gently heat the beeswax in a double boiler. When it is melted, add the plantain oil while taking care not to pour in any water that may have collected at the bottom of the jar. Stir until thoroughly mixed. If you’re adding essential oils, wait until the mixture has cooled a bit and then stir them in.
7. Pour your salve into a clean, dry container and allow to cool. Now you’re ready for the next bug attack, bee sting, or brush with poison ivy!
Plantain herb-infused oil
This oil is excellent as a massage oil to be used on sore muscles or with any injuries or swelling.
Ingredients and equipment:
• About 1 cup of plantain leaves, preferably freshly picked
• 1.5 – 2 cups of olive oil
• A small jar
• Knife, scissors or food processor
1. Pick a few plantain plants, roots and all, from an area nearby that has not been treated with chemicals.
2. Wash them and let dry.
3. Chop or rip up the leaves using whatever tool you have handy, and place them in your jar.
4. Fill up the jar with olive oil and leave in a warm dark place, such as on top of the refrigerator.
5. Let sit for two weeks, then strain out the solids using a sieve.
6. Use the oil for a soothing massage oil or skin treatment.
Natural acne treatment with plantain
Plantain contains astringent, antibacterial and tissue regenerative properties, which are the perfect arsenal for the natural treatment of acne. Be warned, your skin may look worse before it begins to look better, since plantain will draw out toxins that have settled in the skin from the use of commercial skin products.
Ingredients and equipment:
• Mason jar
• Freshly picked or dried plantain
• Raw apple cider vinegar
1. If you are using fresh plantain, brush any dirt off the leaves and squeeze the leaves with your hands to “bruise” them. This releases the medicinal juices.
2. Grab your jar and stuff nearly full with the fresh plantain. If you are using dried plantain, fill it halfway.
3. Fill the jar with raw apple cider vinegar and seal.
4. Leave the jar in a cool, dark place for about six weeks. Give the jar a shake whenever you remember to help disperse the herb and allow for the most extraction.
5. After the extraction period, the treatment is ready to use! Following cleansing, apply a small amount to the skin on a wet cloth or cotton ball. You can either leave this on without rinsing, or let it sit for a minute and then rinse off. This depends on what is best for your individual skin type.
Herbal plantain leaf body scrub
Use this scrub in the shower to exfoliate and nourish the skin with healing vitamins and minerals!
• Large handful of fresh plantain leaves, or 5–6 tbsp of dried leaves
• 75g coarse sea salt
• 5 tbsp organic coconut oil
• 5 tbsp organic olive oil
1. Pour the olive oil and the coconut oil into a double boiler and warm them gently over a pan of warm water. The coconut oil should melt and blend together with the olive oil.
2. In the meantime, roughly chop the plantain leaves that you have collected, washed and left to dry. These leaves are going to infuse your oil and form the botanical base for your salt scrub.
3. Add the plantain leaves to the oils and continue to gently heat the oils for 30 minutes until the plantain has completely infused the oils. Allow the oils to cool completely, then strain and discard the plantain leaves. The resulting infused oils will now be a yellow-greeny colour and smell herby.
4. Fill a small clean jar three-quarters of the way to the top with coarse sea salt. Pour the cooled oil infusion over the top until it almost reaches the top of the jar.
5. Use this body scrub in the bath and shower and enjoy the botanical healing properties of plantain on your skin.
6. The scrub will store for about 1 month. It’s best to make a small batch so you use it up in this time.
DIY plantain tincture
Use this medicinal tincture for infections, phlegm and mucus. It will help soothe and heal sore throats and sinus problems.
Ingredients and equipment:
• 2 handfuls of fresh plantain leaves, or several tablespoons of dried leaves
• 2–3 cups of brandy or vodka
• Small jar
1. Fill a jar with cut up fresh plantain leaves, leaving about 1 inch at the top.
2. Completely fill the jar with brandy or 100 proof vodka. Put the lid on and shake.
3. Label and date the jar, then put in a dark cupboard for six weeks, shaking every few days.
4. The medicine can be stored for two to three years.
Directions for use: Put 10 drops of the tincture under your tongue and hold it there for 20 to 45 seconds. Then swish it around in the mouth, and finally swallow. Holding the tincture in the mouth allows the vapors to be breathed into the sinuses. Swishing it around lets some of the medicinals absorb into the bloodstream via the thin tissues of the mouth. Swallowing lets the treatment enter the digestive system where it will do further therapeutic work!
Now that you’ve lined up a holistic medicine cabinet of plantain remedies, you can feel confident in treating a wide range of family ailments safely and effectively. Plus, you will have saved some money, too!