Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Learn an Herb: Plantain

Today I will be talking about the herb plantain (plantago major), not the banana-like plant that grows in Central America. You may not recognize this plan by name, but you have probably seen this plant before. It is a common weed that has naturalized itself around the United States, and once I started looking for it, it seemed to be everywhere.
Plantain is one of those herbs that seems to be a cure for every ailment, a panacea if you will. This leaves of this plant can be eaten in salads (I have not yet tried) and are rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. This plant is an anti-toxin and has antibacterial and astringent properties. It has been used to treat asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, fever, blood sugar problems, and hypertension. The roots has been found to help all sorts of stomach issues (from diarrhea to IBS), hemorrhoids, asthma and allergies. The seeds have been used to treat parasitic worms. The plant can also be used as a dressing to treat wounds, ulcers, cuts, splinters and inflammation. A woman who leads many field trips for my classes calls it "nature's band-aid". If you get a cut in the woods, you can wrap a piece of plantain around it to help stop the bleeding and heal the wound. She said she has actually done trials and found that plantain-dressed cuts healed faster than cuts dressed with neosporin. Sweet!
Plantain has also been used to help people quite smoking (it curbs the desire for nicotine) and as an anti-venom for rattlesnake bites (hope I never need to test that one out!).
The entire plant is edible and leave can be cooked or enjoyed in a salad. To make a tea, use about 1 Tbl. of plantain (leaves, stems or roots) per 1 cup of boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes. A salve can also be made to apply to wounds. I give instructions on making a calendula salve here, but you could easily do the same with plantain. Plantain can also be made into a poultice to apply directly to wounds. This herb is definitely safe to use topically while breastfeeding, but I can't find much information on taking it internally while breastfeeding or while pregnant. Pin It Now!


  1. I am so inspired by these herb posts you are doing. I think I may soon have a bed of "weeds" growing in my garden on purpose. :) My kids love blowing dandylions so in the last 2 years we've had a MAJOR outbreak of dandylions. I mean like a complete carpet of them in my garden. I haven't gotten brave enough to add them to the salad, which I know is so silly, but I HAVE been pulling them up and laying them right back onto the soil as you suggested in your post on them, to add nutrients back into the soil. I'm pretty sure I have plantain in my yard and would be super interested in making a salve from them so I think I may do a bit of research to make sure I can correctly identify them.

  2. Ok, I just read how easy it is to make your salve and now I want to rush to town to buy calendula seeds!!! A few quick questions. 1) how long does the salve last in a lidded container? 2) do you have to refridgerate it? and 3) ok, lame, but what, technically, is a salve? Meaning, can I use it like a lotion to smooth over my poor daughter's extremly dry skin? Or is it more of a spot solution for bites and hurts? B/c I think what I'm really looking for is something I can slather her up with....something natural....that will actually WORK! :)

  3. Salve is really easy to make. It will keep for a long time, although I think the herbs start to loose their effectiveness over time. I still have some salve I made 2 years ago, which I still use, but I don't think it's healing powers are quite as effective as they used to be. No, it doesn't have to be refrigerated (just don't keep it in a sunny window or anywhere really hot). And yes, you can use it for just about anything! Cuts, cracked skin, lip balm. I had some eczema during pregnancy and I would slather it on my itchy spots. the only downside is that it is made from oil, so try not to get it on clothes or it could leave an oil stain. But otherwise, I use my salves for just about anything!

  4. I googled some additional pictures and I definitely have seen this growing around. I never knew what it was called or that it was such a wunderplant. Thanks!

  5. Plantain was a big help when Col got stung by a bee recently. Chew up the leaves and slap 'em on the sting. Voila!