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Plantain (Plantago spp.)

Used for centuries as a panacea, a medicinal cure-all, The leaves, seeds, and roots have been used as an antibacterial, antidote, antitoxin, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antitussive, cardiac, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, haemostatic, laxative, ophthalmic, poultice, refrigerant, and vermifuge. One Native American name for the plant translates to "life medicine". Plantain was even mentioned in Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

There are two main active ingredients in this "wonder drug" One is Allantoin, while the other is the glycoside Aucubin. Allantoin is a natural cell proliferant which helps our bodies regenerate damaged tissue. Aucubin has been reported in the Journal Of Toxicology as a powerful anti-toxin. Aucubin is a defensive compound commonly found in many plants. It is thought to reduce the growth rate of many generalist herbivores.

I have long hypothesized it is this ability to decrease cellular growth rate which is behind the performance of Plantago spp. as an excellent antitoxin, and antibacterial agent. Recent clinical studies have shown that Aucubin removes the ability of bacteria and viruses to replicate their DNA. These organisms have a short life span. Their virulence is a direct result of their ability to quickly split into new organism, thereby perpetuating the infection.

Regardless of the reasons for Plantain's medicinal effects, I have experienced first hand the magical healing properties of this wonderful plant. I feel it is the first and perhaps the most important medicinal plant a person can and should learn.

Other Names:

Common plantain, great plantain, english plantain, narrow leaf plantain



Plantaginaceae Plantain family

Identifying characteristics:

Growth Type:

Plantago major: A perennial herbaceous plant growing in a basal rosette.

Plantago lanceolata: A perennial herbaceous plant that prefers to grow amongst a variety of other plants, usually in fields and meadows


Can reach 12-18 inches in height.


Plantago major: Broad, ovate, with prominent raised veins that run parallel to one another along the length of the underside of the leaf. The base of the leaf stem may be purple in color.

Plantago lanceolata: As the name implies, the leaves are lance shaped, or grass-like, and prefer to grow amongst a variety of other plants, usually in fields and meadows




Leafstalks emanate from a fibrous root mass.





Plantago major: The plant puts forth a densely clustered, green flowered stalk, which later bears numerous seeds.

Plantago lanceolata: The summer flower stalk of this variety rises a couple of feet from the ground and is capped by a tiny, green cattail-like "cob", from which little tiny flowers sparsely bloom in a halo.



Miscellaneous characteristics:

While there are no poisonous look alikes, if you slowly break the stem of the plantain leaf and pull apart slowly, you will notice the veins remain attached. This is a simple test to verify you have the correct plant.


Compacted disturbed soils. lawns, pastures, meadows, cracks in sidewalks, waste places and disturbed habitats throughout the United States.

Parts Used:

Leaves, seeds, roots.


Wild Food Uses:

Add leaves to salads, or use as a cooked vegetable.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:

Used for centuries as a panacea (a medicinal cure-all), plantain contains Allantoin, a natural cell proliferant, which has been shown to speed up the natural replacement of cells. This explains the almost miraculous healing benefits I have experienced with this plant. I mix plantain and comfrey in a healing ointment that is positively amazing. Follow this link for photographic evidence of the amazing healing benefits of this ointment.

I have had wonderful effect using the leaves to treat insect bites and stings, as well as treating blisters, cuts, scrapes, and dry itchy skin. I have also used it to soothe the rashes associated with poison ivy and poison oak. My son came home from his mother's house covered in mosquito bites. He was itching himself crazy. I applied some plantain ointment I had made, and he stopped itching almost instantly. The next day, there was no swelling or inflammation, and most of the bites were completely gone. My son had to undergo allergy testing. As picture #1 shows, his skin reacted almost immediately. Once the doctor evaluated his reaction, I immediately applied an ointment of Plantain and Jewelweed. As you can see by picture #2, the reaction was gone a short time later.

Picture #1

This picture was taken just after allergens were applied

Picture #2

This picture was taken a little while after applying the Plantain and Jewelweed ointment.

Here is a link to the recipe for my Plantain and Jewelweed Ointment


There is even anecdotal evidence of a woman chewing plantain leaves into a paste, and applying it to a brown recluse sting. Here is a link to Linda's brown recluse story. Caution, the pictures are quite graphic.

To treat a bite or sting, simply chew a few leaves into a paste, and apply it directly to the sting. It may be necessary to hold it in place with a bandage, piece of gauze, or tape. When the paste dries simply reapply. For use during the off season, you may want to make an oil, or ointment to keep around the house in case of bites or stings.  Here is a link to the preparation of a highly effective Plantain Ointment that I use to treat insect bites and stings, as well as cuts and scrapes that were obtained under less than sterile conditions. I carry a small tin of Plantain and Jewelweed Ointment with me at all times. It is an excellent treatment for just about any bite, sting, cut, abrasion, or any itchy skin irritation.

Medicinal Actions:

Alterative, Antibacterial, Astringent, Anti-Inflammatory, Antifungal, Antimicrobial, Antiseptic, Antitussive, Antitoxin, Antiviral, Demulcent, Diuretic, Expectorant, Haemostatic, Laxative, Tonic - Sexual Male, Vulnerary

Plantago major

Common plantain, broad leaf plantain

The above picture shows how I have carefully pulled the stem apart, revealing the 5 still attached parallel veins.

This is the best way to ensure you have the correct plant. Also note the purple color at the base of the leafstem.

Plantago lanceolata

English Plantain, narrow leaf plantain

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Revised: 05/12/17 Living Afield