Plantain: A Healing Herb in Your Backyard

Plantain is one herb that I literally would not be without. It grows in abundance in our yard so we use it fresh during the warm seasons and dry and freeze for use in the winter. I make salves with it for calming bug bites, rashes and burns and it works wonders.

What is Plantain?

Plantain (or Plantago Major) is a common backyard herb with broad leafs. Most people think of it as a weed, though it is an incredibly useful herb. According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

“Legend has it that Alexander the Great discovered it and brought it with him back to Europe in 327 BCE. It has been referred to as the Whiteman’s Foot by Native Americans, as wherever they went, it seemed to spring up. and in some places, it is seen as a noxious, invasive weed. It is, however, a useful little plant. It has been used by many cultures the world over, and the Saxons considered it one of their nine sacred herbs.

It was considered an early Christian symbol of the path followed by the devout and many cultures today refer to it as an aphrodisiac. The leaves are quite edible, and often used raw in salads and cooked as greens. Older leaves have a stronger, sometimes objectionable flavor, and can be tough and stringy, but can be used to make tea.

Plantain is very high in vitamins A and C and in calcium. Medicinally, Native Americans used plantain leaves to relieve the pain of bee stings and insect bites, stop the itching of poison ivy and other allergic rashes, and promote healing in sores and bruises. Plantain tea can be used as a mouthwash to help heal and prevent sores in the mouth, and as an expectorant. Most recently, plantain is being marketed as a stop smoking aid, adding one more use to the list of ways that this versatile herb is useful.”

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.

 The Many Uses of Plantain:

Plantain leaf can be made into a tea, tincture or infusion and used internally (according to Practical Herbalism):

  • To help get Cholesterol to healthy Levels
  • To aid those with Diabetes
  • For Hemorrhoid relief
  • To help relieve Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • To help calm the bowels during Constipation or Diarrhea
  • To sooth kidney and bladder problems and to aid with Bladder infection, ITIs and similar problems. Safe for children
  • For indigestion and ulcers

Plantain Leaf is also very soothing on external  inflammation:

  • Bites
  • Stings
  • Rashes
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Burns
  • Cuts
  • Yeast
  • Varicose Veins

 How to Use Plantain:

If fresh plantain grows in your yard, you can make sure it has not been sprayed by pesticides or pets and use in teas or the young leaves in salads.

For stings and bites,  make a poultice of fresh plantain leaf and bentonite clay with water to form a paste. It will take away the pain immediately when placed on the bite or sting. If you don’t have the other ingredients nearby, just chew up a leaf of plantain and spit on the bite. It sounds gross but greatly relieves the pain.

An infusion or strong tea of plantain leaf (dried or fresh) sprayed on a sunburn will cool the burn and relieve the pain. This will also help sooth rashes and reactions from Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac. To make an even stronger remedy, steep plantain leaf (fresh or dried) in apple cider vinegar for a few weeks and then strain. The infused vinegar will sooth itching, burning and pain on the skin very quickly.

A cup of plantain tea from fresh or dried leaves will sooth indigestion, heartburn or IBS. It is calming on all types of digestive disturbances. It is also helpful for UTIs, Bladder infections or kidney infections.

I make a salve of Plantain and other herbs to speed healing of wounds and use in place of antibiotic cream. Recipe soon.

You can also get pre-made Plantain tincture, tea, or healing salve to have in your  purse or first aid kit when needed.

NOTE: Plantain is generally considered a safe herb but as with anything, consult your doctor before using if you have any kind of medical condition. It should not be used in place of medical attention when needed.

Ever used Plantain? Seen it in your yard and thought it was a weed? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Maloree Munn says

    It seems to have so many healing properties, I wonder if it would work well as an acne mask, or thrown into a natural face wash?? It would be worth trying!

  2. says

    I was looking at that near my garden yesterday thinking “I wonder if that’s something useful or should I just pull it…”  Now I’m glad I was distracted and didn’t lean over and pull it. You said the young leaves can be used in salads, but are the older leaves used for teas or ingesting, or are they too strong or bitter?

  3. says

    I’ve used plantain on numerous occasions to treat poison ivy. I just take a plantain leaf and cut it about the same size as the bandage on a bandaid and put the bandage with the plantain over the itchy area. It will burn a little bit for a few minutes, then it will stop burning  or itching. Repeat the process every day, usually for 4 days. Poison ivy typically lasts around a month and ends up spreading if it gets to the weeping phase. Plantain will stop it in it’s tracks if you put it on the spot soon after contracting the poison ivy.

    If you don’t reapply it daily it will start to itch again. I beat or crumple the leaf a little first before putting it on. I’ve also used dried plantain when I couldn’t find any fresh and it works too, but not quite as good, in my opinion.  I will try to make some of the plantain concoctions listed in the article now that I know about them.

  4. Jessa T says

    Seriously??? Have you any idea how many times I would use this as “medicine” when I was a child playing in my gr’ma’s backyard??? Little did I know…thanks for this…Will it work for wasp stings as well??? The few times I’ve been stung it swelled bad and was soooo painful…

  5. Melisa Anderson says

    I have both broadleaf plantain and buckhorn plantain (I think it is anyway, has much narrower leaves) in my yard. Is one better to use than the other?

  6. Valjean says

    I burned my hand yesterday on the oven rack and applied some plantain soon there after. I bruised the plant and taped it over the burn. Today it is one of the least inflamed burns I’ve ever had and there is zero pain. Thanks for posting about this!

  7. celesta says

    a few days after reading this article I went to go sit in the grass and was stung by some unidentified plant, It felt like five bee stings in spots on my arms and legs but i looked around and saw plantain. I grabbed some and crushed the leaves with my hands and rubbed it on the areas. The sting was there but the pain of it was gone. THIS PLANT IS AWESOME.

  8. Joann Lewis says

    I got plantain for my feet, I am wearing it my shoes for nyropathy…I am really hoping it takes the tingling and sore feeling out of them…a bit of arthritis too. Diabeties and a kidney transplant and on alot of anti-rejection medication for the last 12 years. I just remember my grandmother saying to do this she was Native Canadian. How do you make a sauve with plantain?

    • Dee says

      I have peripheral Neuropathy in both legs below the knees, and hands. Been taking medications for years……NEURONTIN (GABAPENTIN), AND PROPRANALOL EVERY DAY.



    • Rich says

      As with most large leaf herbs, you can use Olive oil as a carrier and beeswax to give it body.

      1/2 cup Olive oil
      1/3 cup pulverized plantain
      1/2 ounce grated beeswax
      3 vitamin E capsules

      Place the plantain and olive oil in a heavy duty saucepan and warm on the lowest heat setting available on your range for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cover for an additional 15 minutes. Next, strain the infused oil through cheesecloth. When all of the oil has been strained, fold up the cheesecloth and squeeze the plantain to get any leftover oil out as well. Last step is to put the beeswax in a saucepan and slowly bring to a melting point. As soon as the wax begins to melt, add the infused oil and mix continually. Remove from heat immediately when all the wax is melted. Puncture vitamin E capsules and squeeze oil into the saucepan. Mix the entire concoction and pour into clean glass jar to cool. Once cool, salve should be stored in refrigerator.

  9. Lena says

    I’ve heard that plantain is very effective to clear bad acne, especially on the face. Do you have a recipe for that? Do you know if rosacea could be treated this way as well? Thanks so much for your help! I totally love your site!!!

  10. Anita says

    I was bitten by a Brown Recluse 3 weeks ago, it was getting worse by the hour! (Gross Part)…… It started to really eat away at the skin on my ankle all around the bite, lots of blisters and they were getting bigger, puss, pain, burning and itching ALL SEVERE!! ….. we were told about the plantain weed, 24 hours later IT WAS GONE!!!!
    Still a dark spot where the original bite occurred, otherwise every symptom is GONE!!!
    I used a mortar and pedestal to crush it, placed it on the area, covered it with gauze and taped it to my ankle, I did this 5 times for about 30 minutes each time………… AMAZING!!!!!!!

  11. Peggy says

    I was floating on the Sandy River in Oregon one summer, when a bee stung me on the hand. I had read that Plantain was good for stings. So, we pulled to the side of the river and with a little hunting we found some plantain. I removed the stinger and then placed some crushed leaves of the plantain plant on the sting site. Voila! Within 10 to 15 minutes, no more stinging.
    There is nothing like God’s medicine chest. I was so happy that I knew what to look for.

  12. Julia says

    Great blog. I discovered that broad leaf plantain is covering my backyard. I believe I may have an allergy to it. I found photos, and figured out what it was. So, if I’m having seasonal allergies due to plantain, does this mean I should not ingest. I’m sorry if that sounds like a dumb question. But…I’m not sure if it’s just the pollen I’m allergic too….or the whole leaf.

  13. Susan Rutherford says

    I had a book on wild harvest benefits that stated many values associated with plantain. The seeds are highly nutritious, and the roots can be dried and ground into flour. Apparently that flour has the highest protein of all flours in the world. All together this plant is valuable.

  14. Laila says

    OMG Thanks so much for posting this information! I have a skin condition called Granuloma Annulare, which is a series of raised, reddish bumps or lesions on different parts of the body. The lesions sometimes go away on their own, but mine have come and gone for over 30 years. I now have it on my legs, ankles, wrists, inside elbows, etc. It is so noticeable on my legs that I can’t wear shorts or a bathing suit in public because people think it’s ringworm. Some people have no symptoms, but mine itches quite frequently. Over the years I’ve tried numerous treatments but nothing will “cure” it. It totally disappeared once after I had a cortisone shot, but reappeared after a few months. After reading this blog about all of the many useful properties of Plantain, I am going to try using it on my skin and see if by some miracle it will help to clear it up. We have several species of it growing in our yard, so I’m going to experiment with using it just “chewed up” and also in the salve, and see what might work. I am praying it will make some of it go away! Everyone please cross your fingers and toes and pray for me to get some relief from this horrid condition! :-)

    • Bonnie says

      My husband was diagnosed with the Granuloma Annulare. The dermatolagists said there was not alot they could do and he would have it the rest of his life. He lived with it for about 6 years. Horrible stuff.
      We went gluten free, trying to lose the belly fat that exercise and diet would not shrink. After just a couple of weeks without gluten, his skin began clearing up. It did not take long, ( maybe a month), and the skin condition was completly gone. We have tested it several times to see if it was truley the gluten, anytime he has gluten more than once a week, a small patch will show up somewhere ( usually his arms). There are so many great recipes available for gluten free cooking, it is alot easier to make the choice to be gluten free. He is no longer embarassed by the ugly granuloma.

  15. elena chevs says

    I am amazed about all the properties of this plant. I have an allergie to a lot of foods. Now I have the left side of my face swollen for 4 days now. Would it help if I drink the tea?

  16. Chellach says

    what about urinary tract infections in children? would a lcrumpled wet leaf help placed on the outside of the bladder help or just drinking a tea?

  17. Joyce says

    When I was about 10 years old I punctured my foot with a garden fork. The whole foot turned red and then blue around the puncture. My mother took plantain leaves and nettle leaves, bruised them and applied them to my foot. Within 1/2 an hour it was all gone. I used it on my grandson for a wasp sting right between his eyes and he immediately stopped crying and there was no swelling. I have been an advocate of plantain for years but I recently had an abcessed tooth and had to have a root canal done. The pain after was worse and totally unbearable even with pain meds and antibiotics. After 3 days of agony I remembered plantain and bruised a leaf and placed it on the gum. Instant relief. I should have done it sooner and not sufferef so long. This is an amazing plant.

  18. Dee says

    My daughter (18 months) was diagnosed with glue ear at about 7 weeks. During her first winter she suffered with terrible mucus :( but as she was so small we could not do anything. She’s had a wonderful summer and has been hearing & speaking so well. However now winter is back she’s been ill. Coughs, cold and then tonsillitis :( so now we have a build up of mucus and glue ear is back :( someone suggested plantain. Anyone know why/how this might help our little one?

  19. Jodi says

    Hi I managed to get hold of dried plantain leaves for the salve as it is not in my garden
    I see it is good for yeast in the article. Can you use it topically for thrush and also for systemic candida and dysbiosis and if so how would u recommend this with dried herb?
    Ps the salve is lovely on my chapped hands thanks!

  20. Kristin says

    Hi Katie! Love your blog! Question on varicose veins, I have some on my thighs that continually are spreading – they’re not painful just ugly. I’ve radically changed my life in the last 3 years and don’t understand why they keep getting worse. I’m only 26 :-( Any thoughts?

  21. Judith says

    Whoa! those guys used to grow in my veggie garden by hundreds. I hated them and got ride of them till the last one.
    If I knew they were good for ezcema I would had keep them :(

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