Plantain (Plantago major) is a common weed in the United States, and its medicinal and nutritional value makes it a popular herb. Some of its other names include English Footprint, Lance-leaf Plantain, Buckhorn, and its Chinese herbal name, Châ€™e-châ€™ien.
Externally, Plantain is excellent for many skin ailments. To sooth insect bites, chew or crush fresh leaves and apply to the affected area. Plantain oil can help with minor burns, sores, scratches, cuts, boils, shingles, and even ringworm.
The fresh juice may be pressed from the whole plant, or it may be made into an infusion or tea. Plantain leaves may also be dried for future use.
As a tea, plantain is good for all sorts of respiratory problems, such as bronchitis and asthma. It is a useful remedy for cough irritations, hoarseness, and mucous congestion. Plantain is also helpful for hay fever and allergic rhinitis.
Plantain weed can also be used as an appetite suppressant, or to make a healthy side dish. While the tough stems should be removed, the leaves can be pan fried in vegetable oil. Raw leaves can be eaten in a salad, although often people prefer to de-vein the leaves first. Young leaves are the most tender, so choose fresh shoots that pop up after mowing the lawn.
Plantain has been used throughout history. In the old days, plantain tea was sprinkled on cobwebs to kill spiders. Attesting to Plantainâ€™s topical benefits, an 18th century physician wrote that, â€œplantain leaves, placed upon the feet, will ease the pain and fatigue engendered by long walks.â€ This weed was native to Europe, but soon spread all over America. The common name, â€œEnglish Footprint,â€ actually came from the Native Americans. In their tradition the plantain was said to spring up wherever Englishmen step their foot.
This perennial plant can be found in backyards, fields, and waste places. It is a tall erect plant with well-veined leaves. Grooved flower stalks grow from 6 to 30 inches high. They are tipped with a short spike of tiny white flowers. The fruiting spike has many small, hard fruits. Flowering time is from April to November. Always make sure to gather plantain from pesticide-free areas.
Keep an eye out for this useful herb. Chances are you have already seen it growing in the lawn alongside dandelion.