July Herb Of The Month: Plantain

To sooth summers burns, bites, and stings


Last year I spent two weeks in New Mexico with my Maestra attending the University Of New Mexico Traditional Medicine With Out Boarders class. In the evenings I was lucky to be able to volunteer my time with a local Temescalara. Mosquitoes in the high desert can be very bad this time of year and last year they did not disappoint, between the mosquitoes and the ants I was a red itchy mess but, plantain was all over in the grass at UNM. I was grateful when I found it peaking up through the grass at me one morning!


Plantain or Plantago is bitter herb that likes to grow in cool, wet, shaded areas. You can often find it growing in small clumps together, so once you find one plant there are bound to be more. Traditionally this plant is used reduce inflammation both internally and externally. Particularly plantain is drawn to inflammation in the epithelial tissue of our respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems. The leaves can be used both externally and internally.


Internally the leaves ca be used in salads as a bitter green. I prefer the smaller leaves as they are crisper, bitter but not much, and tend to be less fibrous. They can also be cooked or sauteed like spinach, dandelion greens or collards.


Internally this plant was used by traditional healers to:

  • ease painful periods and slow extreme bleeding

  • relieve irritation in the lungs

  • sooth and cool the urinary system during infections

Externally the leaves can be used to alleviate the irritation of sunburns, stings and bits by simply macerating the leaves either with a mortar and pestal or by chewing them (make sure they are not treated chemically !!) and then applying to the irritated area. The fresh leaves may also be applied to hemorrhoids to ease the inflammation. Dried leaves can be used to make tea, infusions, and salves.


Externally plantain also helps to:

  • Reduce scaring

  • Relieve scalp irritation from infection

  • Reduces product build up in hair when used as a rinse

  • Alleviates burning and inflammation associated with acne

Plantain contains mucilage compounds which aid in it's ability to cool and support mucus membranes. The plant is high in vitamins A and C as well as calcium.


Currently there are on going studies hypothesizing the use of plantain to help lower blood sugar levels.


To make an infused oil with plantain:


Items:

1 12 oz mason jar

enough dried plantain to fill the jar half way

12 oz olive oil

small square of plastic wrap


Method:

Place the herb in the jar. Pour olive oil over the herb until the jar is filled just before the threads for the lid. The herb is going to absorb some of the oil so if there is some left over that's ok, I usually go back and add whats left a few hours later.


Once your jar is full place the plastic wrap over the top and then add the top and ring to close the jar.


Place the jar in a sunny window sill or on a counter for 4 to 6 weeks. Shake it each day.


Once you've hit your 4 - 6 week mark you can strain all the herb out of the oil. I like using a little cheese cloth in my strainer to make sure I get all the herb. Toss the herb or add it to your compost.


Now you have a base oil that you can use as is to help moisten skin or you can use it to make salve, lotion bars, lip moisturizer and many more items!


Disclaimer: The information here is for educational purposes only. It covers the traditional use of herbs and traditional medicine from a historical and folk lore standpoint only. The information here is not intended to be used in the place of medical services. Please consult a physician prior to using any herbs.


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