Herb Profile: Plantain

Plantain is a useful herb that is often considered a weed by most people.

It is native to Europe and parts of Asia, but was said to have been introduced to North America when the settlers came from Europe. It’s scientific name is Plantago Major, and it likely grows in your yard.

The leaves are actually edible and somewhat similar to spinach, though slightly more bitter. They can be used in salads or other culinary uses.

We dry and freeze plantain leaf from our yard and I also order it from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Herbal Uses:

The leaves can also be made into a tea or tincture, and this is said to help with indigestion, heartburn and ulcers when taking internally.

Externally, Plantain has been used for insect and snake bites, and as a remedy for rashes and cuts. I use it in making my Homemade Healing Salve, which we use as a natural antibiotic ointment on cuts and bruises.

The natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of plantain leaf make it great for healing wounds, and for itching or pain associated with skin problems. A tea made from Plantain leaf can be sprayed on mosquito bites to ease the itch.

From Mountain Rose Herbs:

Plantain has been used as a panacea in some Native American cultures and with some very good reasons. Many of its active constituents show antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, as well as being anti-inflammatory and antitoxic. The leaves, shredded or chewed, are a traditional treatment for insect and animal bites and the antibacterial action helps prevent infection and the anti-inflammatory helps to relieve pain, burning, and itching. There is some investigation ongoing to study its affects on lowering blood sugar.

When we are bitten by mosquitos, stung by bees, or come in contact with spiders or other insects, I use a salve containing plantain leaf (or just chew the leaves and apply to the bite) to help ease the reaction. I also used a plantain salve and poultice when my son was bitten by a brown recluse and continued this daily for about 2 weeks and his skin never decayed at the bite.

A tea, tincture or salve made with plantain also greatly eases the itch of poison ivy, oak, or sumac and I keep it on hand for this reason.

A tea or infusion of plantain leaf  can be poured into the ear for ear infections (as long as the ear drum has not burst) to east the pain and shorten duration of ear infections.

There is unconfirmed information that a plantain infusion, taken internally, can help protect the body from the effects of chemotherapy and that a plantain infusion can improve blood sugar. While taking plantain in these situations would generally be considered safe, one should still check with an attending physician before doing so.

I also make a lotion with plantain, calendula and coconut oil and it is extremely helpful for any skin irritation, including mosquito bites, eczema, psoriasis, chicken pox, rashes and sores.

Where to Find:

Most people are able to find plantain in their own yards. If you live in an area where your yard is sprayed with chemicals or fertilizer, dried plantain leaves can also be ordered online. If you prefer pre-made remedies, there are: plantain leaf first aid ointment for kids, plantain tincture, and plantain and goldenseal pre-made salve (natural Neosporin). If you can’t find Plantain in your area, you can actually order the seeds to plant Plantain (though your neighbors might think you are crazy!)

Precautions:

Plantain is good for injuries because of its coagulating properties, but those with blood disorders or prone to blood clots should not use Plantain internally. If harvesting it yourself, make sure to get from an area that has not been sprayed with any chemicals or pesticides and make sure that you have correctly identified the plant before consuming.

Ever used plantain or another herb that grows in your back yard? Tell me about it below!

Reader Comments

  1. Double O Seven says

    Oh yes, my good old friend plantain!
     – one time my mother(who lives in a big city and is *not* into any of the natural stuff/herbs ) was standing in our front yard when she got stung by a bee. So, naturally, i lean-down and frantically look for a plantain leaf and chew it up quickly -all while my mother looks on it horror thinking I’ve gone nuts….even more so when i start to say that if she puts the gooey chewed-up plantain on her bite it will get better…long-story short she put it on (and reluctantly) she admitted that it helped! lol
    One of only* many* times that good-old weed in my yard has been a life-saver!

  2. MtnHarmony says

    I have seen this applied to someone who is allerguc to ant bites so bad the person carries an epi-pen and after immediately applying a mushed up leaf the person was fine, with no reaction. Totally amazing “weed”!  I have also seen it work on scorpion bites when oral and external antihistamines did nothing to halt the pain, itching, and spread of poison up the limb. Kept cold in the fridge it brings a very welcome cooling sensation to bites. Apply (use tape to secure it needed) and remove and reapply a new leaf when pain/itching/etc returns until symptoms disappear permantly.

  3. Erin says

    My yard is COVERED in this stuff. I am so happy to hear that it has a practical use. Now I will be able to tolerate looking at it. I plan on harvesting it this summer.

  4. says

    Here in Hillbilly Hollow we use Jewel Weed for insect bites, poison ivy, etc. It’s an old Native cure. You just cut open the stem and apply. We’ve used it on mosquito bites in the evening after sitting outside and it relieves the itch right away. Then in the morning, there are no bumps…the mosquito bite is gone! Last summer, at a party, a girl got bit on the face by a mosquito and her cheek blew up (she was allergic). I found some jewel weed and she applied it to the bite. An hour later the swelling had gone down and the redness was gone…the bite was almost gone. I cut up jewel weed, put it in a pot and cover with water and boil, then freeze in ice cube trays for use over the winter. This year, I’ll be making it into a salve! :)

  5. Stephanie Anderson Evans says

    My husband use to spray our backyard with chemicals to kill spiders ticks flees and such. I had him stop this practice beginning this year. How long do you believe i will have to wait before i can harvest the weeds and plants in my yard without the influence of the chemicals? Ever?

    • bob says

      do not eat it. topical is good enough. plantain and jewel weed are gifts from god, but you do not know who sprayed what.

    • stefanie says

      I think you will need to wait several years. One way to cleanse the soil is to plant sunflowers and they will draw up the toxins in the soil. Depending on how heavy the contamination will determine how quickly it will clean the soil. I would think within two or three years of growing sunflowers or other plants that draw out toxins, you should be good to go. You could also bring in some fresh topsoil (from a good source) with some organic manure and redo the lawn. Make sure when the sunflowers die you fully remove them and bag them as contaminated waste. Do not work back into the soil. They used sunflowers to clean the soil after Chernobyl. Amazing plants, others work too. Good reason to buy organic sunflower seeds and oil when consuming since they suck up the junk. You can research cleaning soil with plants and find lots of info out there. A lot of work I know, but if you want to use the soil to grow food or harvest naturally growing herbs, you might want to consider it.

    • Terre says

      a field is considered organic after it has been treated organically (no non-organic chemicals used) for 7 years. certainly after 7 years you could do as you wish, but i think the new plants that have sprung up are probably fine… (what do i know)

  6. Sarah says

    Oh wow! I lived in Pennsylvania most of my life and plantain grew wild and free! Now I live in Utah and, well… not so much. I have been harvesting yellow yarrow and juniper from a friend’s yard. Do you have any thoughts on a yarrow/plantain/avocado oil infusion for skin? Living here for a while my eczema pretty much runs the show.

  7. Alan blackhorse says

    I have used plantain to heal deep open wounds wounds that normally need tobe stitched in the modern world butwhenyour in the mountains andthe nearest modern doctor is 50 miles away and you don’t have transportation you have to return to God’s natural ways and use these powerfull gifts you boil water chop up young leaves and steep 30 minutes use to to cleanse wound then pull wound together place steeped leaves on wound and bandage in place wait at least 6 to 12 hours better if you wait till leaves dry then your guaranteed that when leaves are removed usually 24 hours your wound will be almost fully healed with amazing skin ggrowth in most cases the scar disappears 6 months dependingonhow soon the herb was applied it istruly GGod’s golden thread .by, Alan Blackhorse

  8. Ralph says

    Hi Katie,
    Just found your sight and am looking forward to drenching myself with your knowledge. Can you tell me how long does an ointment made using Plantain & Yarrow would last on the shelf if jarred and stored in a dark cool area.

    Thanks again,
    Ralph

  9. Gail Erickson says

    I have psoriasis and have spent thousands on creams i would like to know how to make the lotion with plantain, calendula and coconut oil.

    • Kris says

      I have made Plantain oil for 2 years now. I harvest the leaves in the morning, wash and dry them, loosely fill a sterilized quart mason jar about 3/4 full of leaves then add pure olive oil to cover all leaves completely. cover the jar with a coffee filter and ring or rubber band. Set it on the counter in your kitchen, shake it daily and keep the leaves under the level of the oil, adding more oil if needed. After at least 2 weeks the oil should start smelling a bit like pepperoni. At that point, it has steeped enough, but it could steep longer if you wish. I strain the mixture through a sieve and again through a coffee filter and store it in dark glass jars at room temperature, pouring it into smaller bottles as my friends and family need it. I label clearly. The oil will be ‘good’ for at least one year stored in this manner. Often I add a few drops of tea tree oil to each bottle. I recommend this oil be used ONLY externally for skin issues, including sunburn, bug bites, poison ivy, rashes, eczema, etc. My parents call it ‘hoo-doo oil’ and tease me about it, but use it religiously!

  10. Berniece Abduli says

    I have Crohn’s Disease. Would this help taken internally? Our yard is covered with it.

  11. CB says

    Thanks for the info! I’ve been wanting to try plantain externally for the middle-aged, hormonal acne I’m plagued by.
    As for other weeds I use for food / medicinal purposes, they are purple dead nettle, cleavers and dandelions. All of these grow in my yard and I don’t spray any pesticides or herbicides. Of course, my neighbors think I’m crazy, but I just don’t care. Lol

  12. Ree says

    My mom (who was the daughter of immigrant Polish farmers) used to put plantain on our bruises and scrapes. This was in the days before everybody poured chemicals onto their lawns. My dad kept the front yard weed-free by pulling weeds (except for dandelions, which my mom harvested young and fixed as “greens”), but the narrow side yard was allowed to grow whatever weeds wished to be there.

    Also, if a mosquito bite is itching and you can’t get to any sort of salve or spray, put a little saliva on it (as long as the skin isn’t broken). My mom taught us to do this, but , even though it seemed to work, I always thought it was a silly notion…until I learned that our saliva has enzymes that help break down the protein int the saliva mosquitoes inject in order to keep our blood from clotting (so they can suck some out). The protein causes the mild allergic reaction when the body’s immune system sends out histamines to counter it. The histamines cause the swelling and itching. Not every old wives’ tale is true, but a lot have a scientific basis.

    • cheryl says

      were your leaves dry? You should let them dry a couple days, then cut them up before putting them in the oil.

  13. Sue Mills says

    I have used plantain for poison ivy for years. I’m not allergic to poison ivy myself but the kids were. My daughter’s best friend got poison ivy on her face the day before senior prom. She was hysterical ! I pulled up some plantain leaves, washed them and cut them up (that releases the juices in the leaves) You then apply the leaves to the affected area and cover with damp paper towels. If possible (on an arm or leg) wrap plastic wrap around the whole poultice and leave undisturbed for twenty four hours. There won’t be any evidence of the poison ivy when the poultice is removed. (In the case of Renee’s face, we had to cover the affected area and secure the plastic with some medical tape to keep it in place.)

  14. Judy says

    I have been suffering from chronic hives for the past 2 years. Its horrible. I refused to take steroids and I have found that making a ‘tea’ out of plantain and spraying it using a spray bottle on my hives is THE best way to get rid of them temporarily.

    I do have a question: How can I freeze the plantain so I can use it in the winter months? I live in Michigan so I want to harvest as much of it as I can so I won’t be in misery again this coming winter.

  15. Gale says

    I make soap and often use Jewelweed as an additive in soap meant to sooth poison ivy. Last year I gathered Jewelweed seeds and spread them under my air-conditioner units which drip water on the hottest days. Now this year I have nice patches of Jewelweed to use in my soap recipe. Until now I did not know about the healing properties of the plantain herb; I see several plants of it in my lawn which I will harvest seed from. I will plant it next to my dandelion patch.

  16. Julie says

    What’s the best way to preserve plantain? Frozen leafs or in an oil? I would like to harvest some this summer and learn to use it (I only learned about it a couple of weeks ago and my yard is full of it)!

  17. Janice says

    Had read about plantain’s healing properties. Picked about 6 leaves that I found in a neighbors yard, dried them and stored them in a container in the kitchen. The next week while out weeding I got 6 ‘fire ant’ bites. By the time I walked up the driveway to the house my hand was swelling and the pain/itch was so bad I could hardly think clearly. I took 3 leaves, chewed them for about 1 min, spread green poultice and greenish saliva all over the affected area. Within 5 minutes the pain/itch was gone (I could think) and the swelling gradually went down. I was amazed at how fast and affective the plantain was ! ! !

  18. Everette says

    After my septo/rhinoplasty for deviated septum/ inflamed turbinates, I’ve been left with soreness at both side of my nose( reduction of my nostril) Am wondering if plantain oil could help in the healing of the soreness/ itching before my reversion.thanks

  19. Martha says

    Hey so last year i was getting bitten by sooo many mosquitoes, and they were bad, so i grabbed some plantain leaves and chewed them up and put them on the bites, and in a couple of hours the bites were gone, i love plantain now.
    But i would like to know how it works, can anyone help please?

  20. Sarwiz says

    Them ain’t weeds, them r crops. I have used many “weeds” from the yard for medicine, etc for many years love your site.

  21. A. Zyl says

    My family has long used plantain for bee stings. When we moved to a 34 acre farm, i started ‘finding’ hornets nests… sometimes daily… while working around the farm or repairing buildings, etc. I always remember bees being a bit scary when I was a kid, and I’ll admit, I don’t exactly ‘love’ them now… but with a quick poultice of narrow-leaf plantain, the pain is gone so quick, I am relegating my fear of bees to distant childhood memory. If I get the plantain on.. no swelling, pain gone within 60 sec, and no sign of the sting later! I just keep working like nothing happened. These are hornets and paper wasps! Absolutely amazing plant, and truly awesome that it grows almost everywhere.

  22. Michelle says

    Thank you for this excellent Primer on Plantain! I’m going to make Plantain tea, tincture, oil, salve & anything else I can think of!

    Another amazing use for this incredible plant, the only one I knew of prior to reading your article actually, is for diarrhoea.
    .
    Several years ago I took a guided wild-harvest course. This involved spending 2 full days & nights in the bush without food or shelter, eating only what I could forage for. One of my favourite foraged-foods was the Plantain ‘spire’. The spire, which has astringent properties, looks like a green, mini corn-on-the cob, is delicious on it’s own but is apparently highly effective at treating diarrhoea.

  23. Jackie says

    I had a terrible deer fly bite on the side of my face and suffered burning and itching for two days and topical Benadryl did not work that well. Then I remembered to use the plantain. I macerated the plantain and combined with coconut oil as a polstice. Left it on my skin for 15 minutes then took off the leaves but rubbed in the rest of the oil into my skin. The next morning the bite’s burning and itching was gone. Amazing!!

  24. Denis knoll says

    read your article on plantain weed, becuse it’s been a regular part of my diet latly! I was told by my doctors that I’m type one diabetic, since I’ve started eating plantain my need for insulin has dramatically decreased form 4 shots a day to one very small shot of long term insulin and none with meals!!!!! So yes I can voutch that plantain most definatly helps control blood sugars! Expesualy when combined with fire weed, witch is good for liver and kidney problems associated with diabetes!

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