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Written by Deborah on January 4, 2013 – -
by Heather Gardner
Regarded as a weed by most and generally trampled underfoot without any thought, plantain is a wonder herb and far from being a pesky weed. It is an unassuming little plant that easy blends into the greenery until you know what it looks like and then you will start to see it everywhere. The leaves are bitter but make an excellent salad ingredient, infusion, or in green smoothies or juices and are best eaten young, as they grow more bitter with age. To use it as a first aid remedy in the field, just chew up the leaves to soften them and extract the properties and apply to the affected area. Perfect for scratches scrapes and cuts.
There are 2 types of plantain, greater plantain with a larger broad leaf and ribwort with a long narrow leaf; both have very similar healing properties. You can identify it by the strings running through each leaf. Plantain has a tall seed pod, with up to 15,000 seeds and is coated with tiny husks. These husks are collected and ground up into the psyllium husk that you see in the health store.
Plantain can be found all year round, though for making herbal salves and preserving, its best to collect during the summer.
Ribwort plantain is also good for coughs, bronchitis, irritable (not dry) coughs and as an expectorant. Something I know very well, as a teen I was researching solutions to my asthma and creating herbal potions for relief. The ribwort plantain growing outside the door was very much on the menu for me!
Native American Indians used the larger great plantain leaves to soothe weary feet and would keep a leaf in their show until it dried out and they would replace it with another one.
Plantain is a first rate first aid remedy for cuts, bites and stings when you’re out in nature’s garden! It can clear heat and inflammation in the body.
It can be chewed up and used as a mouth poultice for infections of the teeth or gums, even toothache.
It can be chewed and used as a poultice on bee and insect stings to help reduce inflammation and painful swelling.
Plantain is very soothing to the digestive system and can be used for inflammation, heartburn, ulcers, bleeding and colitis.
You may be familiar with plantain already as the husk of the seed heads are collected and sold as psyllium husk, which is used as a dietary fibre and intestinal broom.
Bug bites & stings
Scratches and scrapes
First aid for bites and wounds
Hay fever & allergies
Put 1 teaspoon of each dried herb or a few sprigs each of fresh herb into a mug or teapot. Pour on boiled water and infuse for 10-15 minutes. If you are using a mug then if you add a lid to stop the volatile oils in the plants from escaping.
For scratches, skin grazes, heat, swelling and minor burns. Juice some fresh plantain and mix with slippery elm powder. If you are in a hurry you can chew the plantain and spit it back into the slippery elm powder, but beware of squeamish bystanders!
Juice some fresh plantain leaves and mix with an equal amount of honey. Pour into a glass jar that has been well washed, rinsed and dried in a warm place. Store in a cool place and take a teaspoon as needed for coughs and stomach problems, or externally for first aid.
1 cup of plantain infused olive oil
1 oz cacao butter or beeswax
Gather fresh plantain and fill a glass jar with it. Cover with olive oil or any other liquid oil you would like to use (not flax), but make sure it is organic and cold pressed. Label and date the jar.
Leave it out in a spot you will see it and for about 2 weeks stir t daily with a bamboo skewer or spoon to release any air bubbles. If it begins to smell a little this is ok just make sure the lid of not completely tight, use a kilner jar with a paper towel placed between the jar and the lid. Remove this once the odour is gone.
After 2 weeks of daily stirring, store for another 4 weeks and strain through a nut milk bag or several layers of cheesecloth to remove any plant matter. Then decant into a glass bottle, label and date.
This healing oil can be used plain on rashes, scrapes, bug bites and stings. It is safe for animals and children.
To make the salve, use 1 cup of oil to 1 ounce of cacao butter or beeswax. Melt the butter or wax over warm water in a bain marie, add the plantain oil, stir well and allow to cool before stirring in a few drops of lavender essential oil. Pour into a completely clean and dry glass jar; allow to cool completely before adding the lid, labeling and dating. You can even keep a little pot of this in your handbag for first aid or for around the house.
You can add 1 teaspoon of vitamin e oil and or up to 10 drops of rosemary essential oil for their antioxidant boosting preservation properties.
You can also add some chickweed and comfrey to your oil to infuse with the plantain if you have it growing near you; these are also wonderful skin healing herbs.
Lavender oil is very healing for the skin, for bites, stings and burns. If you want it to have antiseptic properties add a few drops of tea tree oil. Rosemary essential oil helps to preserve the salve. Choose what essential oils you want to use and add up to 15 drops in total per 1 cup of oil used. Add the oils when the salve has cooled down a little and gently stir them in.
Learn a lot more about herbs and wild edibles through Tera Warner’s Women’s Wellness University. Enrollment is now taking place for next session’s programs on Herbal Medicine for Women’s Health (Where you’ll discover the power of plants & start using herbs to relieve the most common health concerns for women) and Introduction to Wild Edibles (where you discover the skills and experience you need to feed your family for free, live a sustainable lifestyle and eat the healthiest foods on the planet!)
Heather Gardner is the program support coach for the Wild Edible and Herbal Health programs with the Women’s Wellness University. As a lifelong 3rd generation vegetarian Heather began learning about herbs and wild foods at a young age from her herbalist mother while growing up on a remote mountainside in Ireland. Due to numerous health challenges at a young age, she began delving into the world of foraging, potion making, herbs, nutrition, and raw & living foods as a teenager searching for solutions. She went on to study many different healing modalities and work as a health & beauty manager in London for 10 years. Now she lives in the west of Ireland, devising raw recipes, making beauty potions, foraging, writing, teaching and running her business www.consciousearthcompany.com as well as running after her feisty little toddler! Connect with Heather on facebook www.facebook.com/therawteacher