Plantain, (genus Plantago), is a common weed that originated in Europe but has naturalized throughout the U.S. Common plantain (Plantago major) has rounded leaves, while English plantain, or Narrowleaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata) has elongated lance-shaped leaves. Plantain has a vast history of medicinal use and has long been considered an important herb. Emerging in early spring, it may be harvested and used until freezing weather kills it.
Plantain was used traditionally both externally and internally. Used as a "spit poultice" (chewed thouroughly) it's used to treat snake bites, insect bites, cuts and rashes. Naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, plantain makes an excellent component in healing salve.
Plantain has historically been used internally to treat a number of conditions:
- kidney disease
- kidney stones
- gall stones
- urinary tract infections
- liver disorders
Plantain leaves and seed heads may be dried for tea or used fresh. To make tea, shred leaves and pour boiling water over. Tea may be frozen for later use. Young plantain leaves may also be eaten in salads before they get big and tough.
Plantain occurs in yards and fields throughout the United States. To harvest, simply cut leaves and seed heads or dig roots.