Monday, July 1, 2013

The Miracle Herbs: Plantain

The Miracle Herbs: Plantain

Plantain (Plantago major) is another perennial herb found throughout lawns in the United States.   Yet Plantain is considered a common and noxious weed by some and a miracle plant by others.
(Please note: Consult your physician before using any herbal or alternative medicines.)

Native Americans carried powdered roots of Plantain as protection against snakebites or to ward off snakes. Plantain has been used as a panacea in some Native American cultures and with some very good reasons. Many of its active constituents show antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, as well as being anti-inflammatory and antitoxin. The leaves, shredded or chewed, are a traditional treatment for insect and animal bites and the antibacterial action helps prevent infection and the anti-inflammatory helps to relieve pain, burning, and itching. There is some investigation ongoing to study its affects on lowering blood sugar.

 Plantain is both edible and medicinal. The young leaves are edible raw in salad or cooked as a herbal additive and are very rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. The herb has a long history of use as an alternative medicine dating back to ancient times. Plantain contains the glycoside Aucubin. Aucubin has been reported in the Journal of Toxicology as a powerful anti-toxin. This chemical is found in many modern day components including: Ascorbic-acid (Vitamin C), Baicalein (an anti-inflammatory), Benzoic-acid (a food preservative), and Citric-acid (a natural preservative).

Plantain is easily cultivated and normally likes any soil and a sunny location.  It is an important food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies and many types of birds enjoy the seed heads.  Plantain grows from a short, tough rhizome and has a large number of long, yellowish roots. It grows in a rosette form and has large oval, dark green, leaves about 4 to 10 inch long with ribbed veins. The flower stalks are tall and slender with dense flower spikes.  Each tiny flower is brownish and bell-shaped with four stamens and purple anthers, and they bloom most of the summer.

Seeds: Plantain seeds contain up to 30% mucilage which swells in the intestines, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. The seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic worms. Distilled water made from the plant seeds makes an excellent eye lotion.

Leaves: The leaves and the seeds can be used medicinally as an antibacterial, antidote, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, and an ophthalmic. Medical evidence exists to confirm uses as an alternative medicine for asthma, emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, rheumatism and blood sugar control. 

Root uses: A tonic from the roots is used in the treatment of a wide range of complaints including diarrhea, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, sinusitis, coughs, asthma and hay fever. The root is said to be used as an anti-venom for rattlesnake bites

 Harvest: Gather fresh young edible leaves in spring. Gather Plantain after flower spike forms to dry for later herb use. Harvest roots in late summer or fall.

 Extracts of the plant have antibacterial activity and it is a safe and effective treatment for bleeding, it quickly stops blood flow and encourages the repair of damaged tissue. The heated leaves are used as a wet dressing for wounds, skin inflammations, cuts, stings and swellings and is said to promote healing without scars. Poultice of hot leaves is bound onto cuts and wounds to draw out thorns, splinters and inflammation. Plantain also causes a natural aversion to tobacco and is currently being used in stop smoking preparations.

Healing salve:  In large non-metallic pan place 1 pound of entire Plantain plant chopped, and 1 cup Coconut oil, cocoa butter, Shea Butter, palm oil or any other natural vegetable butter. Cover and cook down on low heat till all is mushy and green. Strain while hot, cool and use for burns, insect bites, rashes, and all sores.  This is great for mosquito bites. Note: Can be used as night cream for wrinkles, but I’ve never tried this.

 Plantain has been called Man's Foot because it grew wherever their feet touched the ground – there is a reference to this in Longfellow’s poem, “Hiawatha.”   

 Plantain is good for injuries because of its coagulating properties, (blood thickener), but those with blood disorders, those who are on blood thinner medications, or prone to blood clotting, should not use Plantain internally. If harvesting it yourself, make sure to get your plants from an area that has not been sprayed with any chemicals or pesticides, and make sure that you have correctly identified the plant before consuming.

The leaves are actually edible and somewhat similar to spinach, though slightly more bitter. They can also be used in salads or other culinary uses.

 Where to Find:
We dry and freeze and prepare plantain leaves from our Amen Ankh Urban farm.
Most people are able to find plantain in their own yards but if you live in an area where your yard is sprayed with chemicals or fertilizer, dried plantain leaves can also be ordered at the Amen Ankh Farm or online- . Our pre-made  remedies, are prepared right at the Amen Pr Ankh. We make a plantain leaf first aid ointment for Children, also Plantain tincture, and plantain and goldenseal pre-made salves (natural Neosporin). If you can’t find Plantain in your area, We have the seeds to plant Plantain (even though your neighbors might think you are crazy!)

Herbal Uses:

The leaves can also be made into a tea or tincture, and this is said to help with indigestion, heartburn and ulcers when taking internally.

Externally, Plantain has been used for insect and snake bites, and as a remedy for rashes and cuts. I use it in making my Homemade Healing Salve, which we use as a natural antibiotic ointment on cuts and bruises.

 The natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of plantain leaf make it great for healing wounds, and for itching or pain associated with skin problems. A tea made from Plantain leaf can be sprayed on mosquito bites to ease the itch.

I also make and use the Tea, salve and poultices for every day cuts, scrapes and bug bites.

When we are bitten by mosquitoes, stung by bees, or come in contact with spiders or other insects, I use a salve containing plantain leaf (or just chew the leaves and apply to the bite) to help ease the reaction. I also used a plantain salve and poultice when my son was bitten by a brown recluse and continued this daily for about 2 weeks and his skin never decayed at the bite.

 A tea, tincture or salve made with plantain also greatly eases the itch of poison ivy, oak or sumac and I keep it on hand for this reason.

 A tea or infusion of plantain leaf can be poured into the ear for ear infections (as long as the ear drum has not burst) to east the pain and shorten duration of ear infections.

 I also make a lotion with plantain, calendula and coconut oil and it is extremely helpful for any skin irritation, including mosquito bites, eczema, psoriasis, chicken pox, rashes and sores.

There is unconfirmed information that a plantain infusion, taken internally, it can help protect the body from the effects of chemotherapy and that a plantain infusion can improve blood sugar. While taking plantain in these situations would generally be considered safe, one should still check with an attending physician before doing so.

DISCLAIMER: The above statements are not from the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. We recommend that you consult with a physician from the American Medical Association especially when using prescribed medications or treatments. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Ever used plantain or another herb that grows in your back yard?

Pease Tell me about it in a comment below!

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