The plantain plant is a handy medicinal herb that might be growing unnoticed in your backyard or field. This common wild plant is not only an edible plant, but it can also work powerfully to heal wounds and infections.
By the way, these plants shouldn't be confused with the plantain that looks like a banana and has to be cooked. What I am talking about here is the Plantago, a leafy plant with oval leaves and short stems that lies close to the ground.
These plants originated in Europe and were likely brought over by early explorers. It's easy to grow just about anywhere, so by the early 1700s, the plantago was considered a native plant. Like the dandelion, these are hardy little plants that can survive even in poor soils with little moisture, and like the dandelion, they'll crop up anywhere, including sidewalk cracks and backyards and open, sunny meadows.
Like most leafy greens, the plantain plant gets bitter as it gets older and bigger, so if you are looking for a salad green, you will want to harvest these plants when they are small with young leaves. You can harvest and eat the older plants, but you will need to boil them to get the bitter taste out. Make a soup out of them instead along with potatoes, onions and herbs.
Plantain plants are high in Vitamin A and contain beta carotene and calcium and fiber that can help reduce cholesterol.
Can't find plantain plants on your property. You can grow it with seeds you can find here.
The plantago contains saponins (think soap that cleans your insides) that can fight against the bacteria that can cause skin infections, strep throat and tetanus. Gather a handful of fresh leaves, crush them a bit and then place them in a cup and pour boiling water over them.
Allow the mixture to steep for 10 minutes and sweeten with honey or stevia. Drink this tea to fight a sore throat or other infection. Or forget the sweeteners and allow the infusion to cool completely before applying at a rinse to a wound.
According to the book, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, if you have a rash or insect bite, shred the leaf with your fingernails and repeatedly rub it on the trouble spot. You should have relief within 15 minutes.
Because it does contain fiber, plantago can also work as a gentle laxative and will help with appetite control. Also, chewing on the fresh leaves will help sweeten your breath.