Greater or broadleaf plantain (Plantago major)
I had to complete an herbal practicum for my Master Herbalist certification and part of it was Wildcrafting. I had to choose several plants that grow wild in my area and type up a full herbal profile. I had to also include the type of remedy I would use as well as the dosing and botanical name. The first one I knew I would choose was Plantain.
This beauty pops up everywhere and most will call it a weed, but allow me to fill you in on the health benefits of Plantain. This plant is very common in NE Ohio and you have probably seen it many times not realizing what it is. It is a free food source and quite likely to be growing in your own yard!
Plantain is low growing with basal leaves, meaning the leaves occur in a tight cluster or rosette at the base of the plant. The central flower spike has numerous tiny flowers. Since we cut our lawn, what grows in our yard only grows to be about 3″-4″ tall, but when I am in the park, such as Frohring Meadows, it looks monstrous compared to ours! Please be aware of where you do your foraging. You want to make sure there are no harmful chemicals that have been sprayed on them.
What to do with Plantain
Plantain leaves are highly nutritious as a good source of protein, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Vitamin E. You can use the leaves raw in salad, or substitute the larger leaves for kale in any kale chip recipe. Older leaves or even the larger ones are better boiled for a highly nutritious stock. A tea can also be made from the leaves. The seeds are edible and can be added to crackers, breads, and muffins or ground into flour. They are good for digestion, appetite control, and serve as a mild laxative.
Plantain has anti-bacterial,anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and astringent properties. The leaves are an herbal remedy that works fantastic on mosquito bites, bee stings, and minor cuts and scrapes. The easiest way to use them is to crush up a leaf and rub it on the sting/bite or scrape. You can also turn the leaves into an herbal poultice. If you are camping or in the wilderness and need it in a pinch, you can make a spit poultice by simply chewing up the leaves and place them directly on bug bites, rashes, or minor scrapes for instant relief!
Although the quickest way to make the plantain poultice is to chew up a leaf or two and apply it directly to bite/sting, scrape or cut, making the poultice at home is good to know as well. It allows you to make it in bigger batches so you can freeze in smaller portions for individual use.
1-2 cups fresh plantain leaves, roughly chopped
Use a mortar and pestle to grind the plantain leaves into a pulp. You can also use a food processor or blender to do this.
To use, apply the plantain pulp to the affected area and wrap it up with gauze to hold in place. Any extra plantain pulp can be frozen in ice cube trays for later use. Once frozen, pop out the cubes and keep in a zip lock bag or storage container in the freezer.