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Herb Spotlight - Plantain

Updated: Jun 26

Herb Spotlight - Plantain

Welcome to a new edition of our Herb Spotlight Series. Plantain was the very first plant I learned to work with when I began my herbalist journey. I had just finished my first course with Dr. Patrick Jones of The Homegrown Herbalist and was ready to dive whole hog into herbalism. Who could have known at the time how one little plant would change the course of my life? So, as one of the nearest and dearest herbs to my heart, let's learn all about Plantain!

Making first Aid Salve

What is Plantain?

It’s a banana, it’s a weed, no. It’s the Plantain plant, and it may just be one of the most valuable “weeds” in your backyard. Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) and Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major) are leafy plants in the Plantaginaceae family. Plants are typically made up of all basal, alternate, or opposite leaves with singular upright flower stalks and are often considered invasive. It is also known as Soldiers Herb, Bandaid Plant, Broadleaf Plantain, White Man's Footprint, Waybread, or Great Plantain, and even though there is a banana-like fruit of the same name, they are unrelated.

Plantain Weed Flower

Harvesting and Storing Plantain

The ideal season for harvesting Plantain is in the spring or early summer before the plant begins to flower. That being said, if you have a need for it, don’t hesitate to harvest the leaves at any time, even if it’s not peak season! As always, harvest using sustainable practices and never take more than fifty percent of a single plant. Always leave the flower stalk intact, and never disturb the roots. Plantain leaves are what you are after with this plant. Simply trim the leaves individually near the base.  

To store Plantain, you will first need to dry it. You can tie the leaves in bundles and hang them to dry, or place the leaves flat on screens. Discard any leaves that turn black during the drying process. Once thoroughly dried, you can store Plantain in an airtight container for 9-12 months or until it begins to lose color. 

History and Folklore of Plantain

Plantain has a history of usage dating back to almost prehistoric times and has been referenced from the Anglo-Saxons to Chaucer and Shakespeare. The Anglo-Saxons, like the Romans and Celts before them, relied heavily on herbs for their medicinal properties. In the tenth century CE, an herbal anthology known as the Lacnunga was created. In it is a list of ‘Nine Sacred Herbs.’ These herbs were Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), Nettle (Urtica dioica), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris), Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), Watercress (Nasturtium officinale), Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium), Betony (Stachys officinalis).  and you guessed it, Plantain (Plantago major), referred to as ‘waybread’ in the text. One excerpt reads, “And you, Waybread, mother of herbs, Open from the east, mighty inside. Over you, chariots creaked, over you queens rode, over you, brides cried out, over you bulls snorted. You withstood all of them; you dashed against them. May you likewise withstand poison and infection.” 

To the indigenous tribes of America, Plantain gained the nickname “white man’s footprint” because it was said to sprout up in the footprints of the settlers. The classic Latin name Plantago even comes from the word planta, meaning sole or foot. During early American settlement, Plantain was noted to have been used topically for skin healing and to halt bleeding wounds.

Plantain was known as the “Soldier’s Herb” during wars dating back to Alexander the Great due to its use as a field dressing. It was prized for its ability to induce clotting, heal damaged tissue, and promote cell regeneration.

Constituents of Plantain

Plantain contains iridoids, mucilages, and flavonoids, including luteolein and apigenin, as well as coumarins, tannins, minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium), and vitamins (A, B, C, K).

Herbal Actions of Plantain

Astringent, Anti-inflammatory, Antiseptic, Alterative, Hepatoprotective, Hemostatic, Vulnerary, Expectorant, Diuretic, and Demulcent. 

Herbal Energies of Plantain

Cooling, Moistening, Drying (seeds)

Precautions, Contra-indications, and Interactions of Plantain

There are no known contraindications for Plantain, though it may interact poorly with Warfarin (Cumadin) due to its high concentration of vitamin K.

Typical Usage of Plantain

Plantain has been used in preparations for asthma, emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, and rheumatism. It is also said to help control blood sugar levels and manage digestive tract problems and tobacco addiction. Its primary use, however, is topical for the ease of minor cuts, scrapes, wounds, and burns. It truly shines in reducing the itch from bug bites, stings, and minor rashes. For this reason, Plantain is the primary active ingredient in our Sting Stick!

Sting Stick

Wrapping Up

Though generally considered a weed, as you can see, there’s more to Plantain than meets the eye. Particularly if you’re an avid outdoor lover, learning to identify Plantain is an essential skill. Often, stings, bites, and scratches occur when out in the woods. When they do, all you have to do to harness the healing power of Plantain is collect a few leaves, chew them to a paste, and apply it directly to the affected area.  

If you already use Plantain, what is your favorite way to use it? Tell us in the comments below, and we would love to see your recipes as well! Until next time, 

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Herb Spotlight - Plantain


Content from is meant to be informational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Remember that just because something is “natural” does not always mean it is safe for every person. When it comes to herbal medicine, many plants should be avoided when pregnant or nursing, and some can cause extreme interactions with prescription and over-the-counter medicine. 

While we strive to be 100% accurate, utilizing information from scientific studies, trusted sources, and verified publications, we are not health professionals, medical doctors, or nutritionists. It is solely up to the reader to verify nutritional information and health benefits with qualified professionals for all edible plants listed on this website and to ensure proper plant identification. 

The information provided by this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Before using herbal preparations, always research, speak to a professional regarding any significant concerns, and never fail to seek medical advice when needed.

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