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!

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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.

    • Leann Hughes says

      So to claify, you just pull up the weed and appy it to bite? Or do you wet it, or what to use for bites?

      • bryan says

        I used the plaintain plant on a tick bite that was starting to show signs of infection. It worked wonderfully. I applied the plant twice a day for three days, and all the infection and redness is gone. The only thing that is there now is a small bump with a scab.

  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.

    • Judy Blower says

      Just pick the leaves. Wash them and spread them out to dry and then put them in freezer bags in your freezer. That’s what I did last summer and I had them to use all winter on my chronic hives. They have been my savior!!!

  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 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

    • Cheryl Bianchi says

      My son has been in a wheelchair for 3+ years, T6 complete paraplegic (avoid motorcycles, people)…he has several areas that are quite susceptible to pressure sores (back, butt, tailbone…he’s very thin below his line of injury) …has never had a full blown one but it is a constant threat. Would these plantain leaves be useful for that? …not quite an open wound but very, very inflamed, swollen, angry red, sometimes a little puss… i’ve been trying to find out about black walnut hull for this situation, as well. Any advice? If this stuff works would impact a whole community.

      • Will says

        Yes I have used the leaves fresh on an open ulcer on my leg and was very effective. I just rinsed them under the tap, and dried them off and placed them smooth or under surface of the leaf over the wound, covered with a dressing and left it on for 24 hrs. When you take the dressing off the wound should start to look at lot healthier and cleaner. Just keep applying it daily till the wound has healed.

  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.

    • Pam Broekemeier says

      Yes, you always want your leaves completely dry when making oils because any moisture left in will cause the oil to go rancid.

  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. Sara 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. Zylvardos 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!

  25. D. Sharp says

    I found that plantain tincture works wonders on my acne. I started taking it internally for tendonitis and it cleared it up my acne instead lol. I think it cleaned out my liver really well because my PMS symptoms have drastically decreased too. But I wonder if it also helped my skin issues because it regulated my blood sugar? I have terrible trouble controlling my sweet tooth and have to be careful about what I eat or I get headaches.

  26. Jamie Fellrath says

    My daughter was just bitten by a yellow jacket on her foot. I had literally just been finding plantains in my yard after starting a new interest in foraging, so I chewed some up and have it on her foot now after icing it for a bit. Will let you know how it works.

  27. Freema says

    I have just made a healing salve with plantain, I have also kept some back to go into my anti inflammatory cream too. Wonderful plant

  28. Pam Broekemeier says

    I’ve read that plantain can also help with weight loss. It’s an appetite suppressant, so you are supposed to take before eating. Has anyone else heard this?

  29. Sharon Donelow says

    This herb sounds like a winner, but how are people going to identify it if you don’t show us a picture? Please post one. Thank you!

  30. Dawn says

    This herb is very versatile apparently, and I thank God for it. I know it to be used in two ways, one of them I personally experienced. My sister’s father- in -law had cataracts of the eyes and his vision was almost gone. He used plantain to wash the eyes daily. His wife put one leaf( size does not matter but big is good), in a big glass and poured boiling water on it, covered it and let it steep for no less than an hour. The liquid without the leaf was put in an open container in the dew at night and then used to wash the eye in the morning. An eye glass or placing the liquid in the hand and opening the eye in it can be used. If a considerable amount of liquid remained it was placed in the refrigerator and used again later on in the day, at room temperature. After some weeks of this his vision was clear, cataracts gone without surgery.
    I once was developing a kidney problem due to being ill and using lots of medication over a long period, in addition to what I had used since growing up as a sickly person. Long story short…. my ankles and calves began to be a bit swollen and my urine flow had greatly decreased. One night I dreamt this plant and how to use it. I got a very very young plant and cut off the baby leaves.
    I very gently washed the tiny roots attached to the lower stems (just below where the leaves were cut off) to rinse off the dirt. Put the ‘root stock’ it in my coffee mug and poured some hot/boiling water on it . Covered it for maybe 45 mins and then drank the liquid. I had to rush to the bathroom after a while as my urine flowed freely and the problem disappeared.

  31. Sherie says

    I had radiation therapy to my neck and mouth 17 years ago for tongue base cancer. After 17 years my mouth is still very sensitive (seems like it gets worse with time). I can’t eat most fruit and spices. I so want to try plantain as a mouthwash to see if it will ease some of the pain, and hopefully remove the toxins from my body from this awful stuff. With all the wonderful reports on the properties of this wonderful God-given plant, I am hopeful. Any recommendations on making the tea – do I need to dry the leaves first, or can I just steep them in hot water? I too would like to harvest these so I could use them in the winter.

  32. Judy Blower says

    Sherie, I have been battling chronic hives for over 2 years and have been using the plantain weed to help with the itch.

    I just use the leaves without drying them. Wash them first. Get a pot of water (about 2 cups) to boil on the stove. Cut up about 20 leaves (I have scissors that I use for this) and let them slowly boil for about 15 minutes. Let them sit in the pan until they cool. Strain them and then use the ‘tea’. I put it in a spray bottle and spray my hives.

    Also, I picked them over the summer last year to freeze them for winter use. All I did was wash them, spread them out on paper towels so they could dry and put them in freezer bags. This works great!!! No need to make a bunch of tea and then freeze the tea. I just cut them frozen like I did when they were fresh. I hope this helps you! It has been a Godsend for me and my hives.

  33. Sherie says

    Thank you so much, Judy
    That is exactly what I was looking for. I am so anxious to find plantain in my driveway and lawn again this year (so far, I haven’t seen any) and making tea. I am hopeful that with all the I’ve read here and elsewhere about Plantain, I will see (feel) some relief from my continual mouth discomfort. Many things affect it from toothpaste to fruit to spices. If you know what it’s like to burn your tongue on hot soup or beverage, that is how my whole mouth feels, most of the time. Water and cold, non carbonated beverages soothe it, but only very short term. I will post any progress that is made. Again, thanks.
    Sherie

    • Judy Blower says

      Sherie, I sure hope the plantain helps you. I can’t imagine having that feeling in my mouth constantly.

      I know that without my plantain tea that I would probably go insane from the itching. It seems like pressure against my skin brings them out: from my bra, legbands of my underwear, waistbands of jeans, tight leggings will produce them on the backs of my legs, but then I get them in random places too….the back of my neck, in my scalp, my shins, my underarms and down my sides. Its not just a couple of hives but big patches of them.

      Let us know how the plantain works for you! I live in Michigan and its still too early for the plantain to be growing but luckily I have my frozen stuff!

  34. Judy Blower says

    Sherie,
    Just wondering if the plantain is working for you. I hope you are finding some good plants to use. You should see my yard. I have the most beautiful ‘weeds’ growing in it!! I’m so proud of my plantain! LOL

  35. Katie O says

    Thank you for the great article Katie! I learn so much from you! I just needed some clarification before I started chowing down on some of the plantain I found: can you use Ribwort (or narrow leaf) plantain the same as broadleaf? Thanks a ton!

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