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Plantain {Plantago Major} Monograph


Plantago Major, Plantago Lanceolata

Common Name

Broad-leaved plantain, Narrow-leaved plantain, Ribwort



Parts Used


Native To


Geographic Distribution


Botanical Description

Narrow-leaved plantain has long, lance-shapes leaves, while broad-leaved

plantain has wide, spoon-shaped or egg-shaped leaves. Both have

prominent, deep parallel ribs running the length of the leaf. The leaves

grow in a basal arrangement, close to the ground, and are somewhat wooly

with tiny, fine hairs. Stalks shoot up from the center of the plant and are

topped with cone-shaped or oblong spikes made up of rings of flowers with

many stamens. These ripen into seeds that are dispersed by the wind.

Key Constituents

The leaves are edible and nutritious containing calcium and vitamins A, C,

and K. The active chemical constituents that give plantain its healing

actions are its:

  • Mucilage (moistening, soothing)

  • Tannins (astringent/tightening, wound healing)

  • Iridoid glycosides (bitter tonic, stimulates digestive system, cooling, diuretic, anti-microbial)

  • Flavonoids (inflammation moderating, anti-allergic, anti-microbial, anti- fungal, anti-viral and antioxidant actions)

  • Polysaccharides (stimulate and strengthen the immune system)

Harvesting Guidelines

Leaf: Gather leaves throughout the growing season anywhere you can find

clean plants. Avoid parking lots and places where dogs urinate!


Astringent (dries, tightens, puckers, tones tissues)

Diuretic (reduces swelling by expelling excess water from the body through

the kidneys and urinary tract)

Alterative (gradually brings the body back into optimal health and wellness

with regular use)

Inflammation-modulating (regulates and reduces inflammation)

Styptic (stops bleeding)

Demulcent (soothing and moistening)

Vulnerary (wound healing)

Drawing (can draw toxins from a wound to the surface of the skin)

Taste & Energetics

Slightly Sweet/mucilaginous





Best known as a topical first-aid treatment, plantain leaves can be applied

fresh or poulticed and placed directly on cuts and abrasions. The leaves

stop bleeding, draw together tissues to seal wounds, prevent infection and

are soothing to dry, damaged skin. Plantain also has a drawing effect,

meaning that it can draw out infectious material such as puss from an

infected cut, sting, or venom from a bite. The leaves will both draw out the

toxin and soothe/heal the site of the injury. The leaves can be processed as

a fresh plant oil infusion by gently warming the oil over low heat for a week,

allowing moisture to evaporate so that the oil will not mold. The infused oil

then be turned into a salve for first aid use. This week’s salve recipe will go

into detail about this process.

Though most commonly thought of for topical treatments, plantain tincture

or tea can be taken internally to soothe mucous membranes, especially

those of the digestive, respiratory, and urinary tracts. It can also be taken to

strengthen the immune system. It does this through its polysaccharides,

which the body’s immune system responds to in the same way that it

responds to invading pathogens. When a foreign pathogen or virus invades the body, your immune system is able to read the pathogen, determine that it is foreign, and mobilize to fight off the virus. Polysaccharides, such as those in Plantain, cannot make you ill like a virus, but they do trigger your immune system to respond in the same way that it would respond to a virus. It’s kind of like a workout for your immune


Modern science has now been able to study and prove what traditional

healers throughout the world have known for centuries, that the humble

plantain plant is a treasure trove of medicinal power!


In general, plantain is a very safe herb to consume. The seeds have been

used as a bulk laxative because of their fiber content, but caution should be

used because they can cause severe constipation if not taken with copious

amounts of fluids. For this reason, I have not addressed use of the seeds in

this monograph.

**The content of this monograph is for educational purposes only. The author disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information. Ingesting wild plants is inherently risky. Plants can easily be

mistaken and every individual will vary in their physiological response to a plant that is touched or consumed. Please do not attempt self-treatment of a medical problem without consulting a qualified health practitioner.


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