Monday, July 29, 2013

Plantain: Eight Uses for the Weed Every Mom Should Know

Granted he's not the child most known in this house for enduring any amount of pain patiently, but even I could tell the morning's shrieking from outside meant something really did hurt. Thank God it was just a wasp sting. He was crying something fierce, though. I first tried some raw honey but without effect. Then it was some ice with still no relief. Then I thought to have my oldest run out to the yard for some plantain.  

What is plantain? Well, if you have a yard that is not chemically treated, you would probably recognize it and you more than likely have a lot of it right in your very own yard. Plantain is a common weed but a very VERY handy weed. It looks like this:

My oldest brought in a large leaf of it and I crushed it up enough to get a tiny bit of the juice inside released. (You can also chew it a little bit to help but I didn't do that this time.) Then as my little guy still wailed, I put it directly on the sting site.  Immediate silence.  I kept the little poultice on the wound and covered it with a bandaid. There wasn't a peep from then on. Plantain is SUCH a useful plant and it's helped us so many times for scrapes and stings. The fact that it can be found so easily makes it a hugely helpful tool at the playground or baseball diamond. It can be found in nearly every unsprayed lawn and playground and due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties, it can be a very handy weed to know, especially for moms. Not only do you provide relief for someone in pain but you get to look like a super crunchy Ma Ingalls type and impress the heck out of your friends. Or just give them another reason to think you're ding-a-ling crazy.

Eight Uses for Plantain:

-Relief for insect or spider bites and stings (even mosquitoes!)  
This is its most common, well known use.  Simply crush or chew the leaf and apply right to the site.  Sprays can also be made to keep on hand.
-Any type of skin rash or irritation
I'll be using a plantain infusion in my next batch of herbal healing salve but you can use it directly, the same way as you would a bite or sting.
-Poison ivy/oak/sumac treatment
Used in salves or spray form to alleviate the burn and itch of these obnoxious ailments.
The leaves are completely edible and supposedly taste like spinach but a bit more bitter.  Disclaimer:  Haven't tried this yet!  Like spinach, plantain is high in vitamin C, iron, and calcium and is milder tasting when the leaves are small. 
Dried plantain can be used as a tea and is purported to alleviate heartburn and indigestion, as well as being a source for iron and extra vitamins.  Simply dry, crush and steep in steaming water!**
-In the bath
I've seen plantain as an ingredient in postpartum herb bath recipes and I plan to dry some to use in my postpartum herbal bath tea next time I make it for someone.  The anti-inflammatory properties would be helpful for a sore postpartum mama!
-Treatment for Colds?
WebMD says that plantain can be taken for colds as it decreases mucous production.  (Hmm...that might have a secondary use for those whose NFP charts are a bit NFP people know what I'm talkin' about...)  
-Other Possible Uses...
WebMD also states it can be used to treat bronchitis, bladder infections, hemorrhoids, and eye irritation.  Huh.  Who knew?

**Be careful taking it in concentrated form (i.e. tea or in pill form) if you are pregnant.  Some sites are saying it can stimulate the uterus...check with your care provider, please!

Baby plantain leaves recently chopped by the mower.

Our excuse to let our lawn go feral.  Also:  Lazy.

Can you spot it?
And now you know the way that a common lawn weed can help you make friends and influence people as well as have a totally valid excuse for being That Lawn in the neighborhood. Now if only I could find a use for all those dandelions...  Oh, wait!


  1. Thanks for the tip! I know we have some out there, too. It might be nice to have a little patch of it. I'm sure if I would try to dig it up and grow it neatly it would all die! ;-)

    PS A weed is only a plant growing where you don't want it. They are all created for some purpose!

  2. Excellent! I was thinking about plantain this morning as I weeded my pumpkin patch. (Okay, gross self-serving here, but somebody might be interested: I have broadleaf and spearleaf plantain, although my Roger Tory Peterson Field Guide to Wildflowers makes even more distinctions than that, so I should probably do the same. Anyway, I wonder if the spearleaf variety (see works as well as the broadleaf one. Do you know?

    A friend of mine just gave me a good name for weeds, by the way: "easy perennial." LOL! Or maybe "easy reseeding annual."

    Thanks very much for this post and the dandelion one! I've bookmarked both!

    1. Oh, you have a pumpkin patch! How fun! We had our first little pumpkin patch last year but this year's is looking like it may be a bust... From what I've read the different types of plantain are all pretty similar in their benefits and can be used interchangeably. I'm definitely not an expert, though, so it would be interesting to hear if others know more on that!

  3. I read in another article that anyone with blood disorders or clotting issues, should avoid using plantain internally as it promotes coagulation. Just an FYI!

    1. Very interesting, thank you! I wonder if it could be or has been used to help with clotting, then, due to injury or hemophilia? So much we haven't tapped into yet!

    2. It does have astringent properties which encourages the little blood vessels to clamp down. In WWI plantain and horsetail were used as primitive clotting bandages! It's amazing what we have so recently lost to history!

  4. thank you for leaving this trail of breadcrumbs...we heard recently about the "weed" ahem "herb" that might help with indigestion and tummy It was neat to read about your adventure too. hugs and God continue to bless you. keep writing, you have a neat way of speak/writing and a good sense of humor. HUGS.

  5. A weed is but an unloved flower.....

  6. This is awesome thank you! What is the purpose to the beeswax in the recipe though? Is it necessary?

    1. For the salve? It's protective, keeps in moisture, and it provides a base for the salve (if you've ever used beeswax lip balm, it's very similar). Otherwise it would just be oil and very messy and hard to apply. You could still use it that way, I suppose, but I wouldn't like the mess and I think it would be too oily for most people's skin. Hope that helps!

  7. Replies
    1. It should! Though if you are using cloth diapers, you may want to put a liner in or something to protect them from the oils.

  8. hello there, my son has a very serious eye problem that I don't even know what to do... I gone through many hospitals but same drugs they gave me to put in his eyes. Still when he wakes up in the morning his eyes still got stuck. I've used aloe verra and it helps a little could I try this weed on a child of 8 years old and which way to use it please. he got a sort of inflammation from birth and his eyes remains red( figuratively)

    1. I'm not sure plantain would help with something like that. You could try but I think some drops of breastmilk would be more effective. I would try that first. I hope you can find a solution!

  9. My nephew made, bottled and sold plantain based healing salve. It really works! My brother-in-law told of the same story of a wasp sting. He went outside and grabbed a plantain leaf and told her to chew it. She looked at him oddly but did it. The stinging stopped immediately.

    1. Just curious did she just chew or chew then apply to sting site?

    2. I'm pretty sure it would need to then be applied to the site. I don't *think* it's strong enough as is for just chewing it to work. But I could be wrong!


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