History, Identification, & Uses of Plantain

You’ve probably seen this plant growing in your yard and along the sidewalks but did you know this plant has medicinal properties?


Today the plantain is considered a weed but it was considered a sacred herb in the Anglo-Saxon medical text, Lacnunga. It is one of nine herbs used to treat poisonings and infections.

The Native Americans would keep powdered plantain root with them as a form of protection against rattlesnakes. They also gave the plantain the name “Englishman’s Foot” or “White Man’s Footprint” because the plant seemed to follow the colonist as they traveled throughout the Americas. This is one way they believe the plant was brought over to the Americas.

The plantain is often confused with the banana-like plant called the plantain. These plants are not related.


Common Name: Plantain, Common Plantain, Broadleaf Plantain
Scientific NamePlantago major
Leaves- 6-18inches, oval, wavy or toothed margins, ribbed
Flower- slender, elongated
Harvest Time: Leaves & Roots April-October, Seeds July-October
Parts Edible: Leaves, Roots, & Seeds
Found: Found throughout North America, most of Europe, and Northern-Central Asia, in yards, meadows, waste places

Common Plantain (Plantago major)

Common Name: Plantain, English Plantain, Ribwort Plantain, Narrowleaf Plantain
Scientific NamePlantago lanceolata
Leaves- 10-23inches, lanceolate shape, 3-ribbed
Flower- tiny, white, on a short cylindrical head
Harvest Time: Leaves April-November, Seeds June-September
Parts Edible: Leaves & Seeds
Found: Found throughout North America, most of Europe, Iceland, Spain, and Northern-Central Asia, in yards, meadows, waste places

English Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)

Historic Uses

Plantago major

-Latin American folk remedy for cancer
-Root was used as an astringent and used to treat  rattlesnake bites
-Bruised leaves used to treat small wounds, sores, insect bites, and burns
-Seeds used to treat parasitic worms
-Leaves used internally to treat diarrhea, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, asthma and hay fever
-Leaves used externally to treat cuts, skin inflammations, and stings

Plantago lanceolata

-Leaf tea has been used  to treat coughs, diarrhea, dysentery, and bronchitis
-Used in Europe to treat bronchitis and bronchial spasms
-Approved in Europe to treat catarrh in the upper respiratory tract as well as in the mouth and throat
-Leaves have been used to treat blisters, sores, ulcers, swelling, insect stings, and earaches
-Leaves have been used as an astringent, demulcent, and are a mild expectorant
-Leaves used internally to treat diarrhea, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, asthma and hay fever
-Heated wet leaves have been used to dress small wounds and swelling
-Seeds used to make a fabric stiffener
-The entire plant has been used to make golden to brown dyes


Vitamins, Minerals, & More

Leaf contains:

  • Vitamins A, C, K
  • Fiber
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Tannins

-Known antimicrobial, antioxidant, stimulant, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory
-Active compounds include mucilage and phenolic acids

Seed Contains:

  • Vitamin B1
Plantain seeds


-Leaves dried for tea
-Leaves used in salves & tinctures
-Leaves are eaten in salads, sometimes blanched first and fibrous strands removed
-Fresh leaves used to make poultices
-Seeds, when boiled, can be used like sago
-Seeds can be ground and added to flour


-May cause rare contact dermatitis


-Leaves are best harvested in the spring for eating
-Seeds best harvested in fall


Mint, Calendula & Plantain Herbal Bath Salts
How to make a plantain poultice, the right way
Cooling Aloe Plantain Cubes
Plantago Chips Recipe

Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting

  1. Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
  2. Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
  3. Do not harvest on private property without permission
  4. Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
  5. Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
  6. Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)

Plantain Profile (1)


Plants For A Future: Plantago lanceolata
Plants for a Future: Plantago major
USDA Plantago lanceolata
USDA Plantago major
The Health Benefits of the Plantain Leaf
The Five Healthiest Backyard Weeds
-Foster, Steven, and James Duke A. Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 100-102. Print.

Disclaimer: All information on Not Your Typical Hippie is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for every person. Please consult a doctor before making any health changes. I am not liable for any choices you make based on the information provided on this website. (Learn more here)