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Apr 08

Plantain

Plantain has some pretty amazing features. Sadly most homes consider this a weed and spray to get rid of them. As a food source the young leaves are edible raw older leaves can be cooked. The taste is similar to chard. The seeds are also edible when ground into flour although considering the size of the seeds it might be a challenge to collect enough.

On Green Med Info it lists Plantain as being rich in magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K.

As a medicinal it’s good against stings, bites and most minor skin issues. Again, as listed on Green Med Info, Plantain is good for:

Treat sunburns, stings, insect bites, snakebites, poison ivy breakouts, rashes, burns, blisters, and cuts. When heated, the leaves are used topically on swollen joints, sore muscles, sprains, and sore feet. In addition, there are uses for treating sore throats, coughs, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and mouth sores.

Studies have shown that plantain has anti-inflammatory effects, and it is also rich in tannin (which helps draw tissues together to stop bleeding) and allantoin (a compound that promotes healing of injured skin cells). Further studies have indicated that plantain may also reduce blood pressure, and that the seeds of the plant may reduce blood cholesterol levels. Plantain seeds were also widely used as a natural laxative, given their high source of fibre. Teas made from the plant, were used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, intestinal worms, and bleeding mucous membranes. The roots were also recommended for relieving toothaches and headaches as well as healing poor gums.

What does Plantain look like?

Plantain1

A patch of Plantain.

Plantain2

Detail on a leaf.

Plantain3

Seed stalks.

Where does it grow?

Almost anywhere! This is a very common plant that will grow almost anywhere. Side walk cracks, lawns, empty lots, parks, fields and literally almost anywhere else you look.  Be sure not to confuse this with the banana shaped fruit also called plantain.

 

How have we used it?

First the leaf alone is a quick remedy to mosquito bites. When in the yard, if I get bit and it starts to itch I grab a leaf, smash it up until it’s juicy, and smear it around on the bite. Within a few seconds the itch goes away and stays away.

Second, a salve made from Plantain leaves works well for dry hands and lips. Use it as a lip balm. Rub it into dry cracked fingers. It promotes healing and what would be days of painful fingers we can now cure and heal almost literally overnight.

A batch, poured into an old jar we had, looks like this:

Plantain4

Actually one batch filled two jars like this. I then transfer small quantities to little containers that are easy to keep with you for use throughout the day.

The recipe I use is:

1/2 Cup infused Olive Oil (see below)
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1 oz Bees Wax, grated
3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil

To make the infused oil, start with at least a half cup of dried and crumbled plantain leaves. Drying the leaves is fairly easy. Pick and leave in a bowl on the counter, turning every day or so for a few weeks. They should be dry and crumbly after a few weeks. Pour olive oil over the leaves and bottle. Allow the bottle to sit for at least a few more weeks giving it a quick shake every day or so. Strain out the leaves and you’re left with Plantain infused Olive Oil.

To make the salve, mix the Olive Oil, Bees Wax and Coconut Oil in a double boiler over low heat. When all is melted together, stir in the Plantain infused Olive Oil.

Optionally you can add essential oils at this stage. The original recipe called for 8 drops of Lavender and 8 drops of Peppermint essential oils. I did not use these in my version.

Pour the mixture into jar(s) and allow to cool.

We used this salve all winter and just the other day found a new use for it. While getting some pots out of the shed in preparation for starting some early spring plants, my wife was stung by a bee that had overwintered in there. I immediately looked for the plantain on the ground but nothing was growing yet. As a backup I grabbed the salve and she applied some to the sting. Within a few moments the pain subsided.

This led us to a valuable lesson. While we might rely on a plant during certain seasons, knowing how to convert it to a different format for use in other seasons is a valuable skill.

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