PLANTAIN – Skin Healer in your Garden
I know for many, Plantain is considered a weed. A few years ago, I used to think that too, until recently.
With the knowledge that I’ve gained from my herbal studies, I’ve completely changed my mind.
For the first time, I’m actually really pleased to see these ‘weeds’ growing in my garden! There’s also other ‘weeds’ that I’ve changed my judgement about too. I now nurture and respect these plants and have areas in my garden dedicated to growing them. For me, the more the better!
Plantain is actually a very medicinal and beneficial plant to have around and has long been revered through history for being an effective healing remedy for the skin.
As I’ve got older my skin has become more sensitive. My skin is very fair (blame my English and Scottish ancestry) and can be prone to irritations as well as sunburn. So I’m grateful I’ve found a plant ally in plantain since discovering how healing and soothing her leaves are. I’m making the most of having her in my garden and I’m now regularly making batches of infused plantain oil.
This infused oil soothes like magic and within a few minutes my skin has calmed down and the itchiness has been relieved. (If you want to make your own plantain infused oil, I’ve written a post here. It’s really easy).
Plantain is also known for drawing out toxins or impurities that may be cause irritation, making it effective when used on insect bites, stings, acne and drawing out splinters.
What does plantain look like?
Firstly, there are two main types which are differentiated by the shape of the leaves.
- Plantain (Plantago major) also known as Broad-leaf Plantain as she has thick stemmed leaves
- Plantain (Plantago lanceolate) also known as Narrow-leaf or Ribwort Plantain. Her stems are longer and narrower.
Both species feature a rosette of smooth-edged green leaves ribbed with long, parallel veins that are especially prominent on the leaf’s underside. In late spring or summer, the plant develops one or more quite tall and narrow flower stalks.
If you’re wondering which one would be best to have in your garden, there seems to be a consensus among herbalist that both species are equally beneficial bringing excellent results. In my garden it is Plantain Narrow-leaf that seems to have made herself at home.
Here’s a pic of Plantain Narrow-leaf in my garden
Plantain is healing to the skin, respiratory, digestive, urinary and immune system.
Her leaves contain astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, demulcent, detoxifying, haemostatic and vulnerary properties. Her seeds and root can also be used for other healing purposes but my focus is on her wonderful healing ability for the skin.
It is because plantain is rich in mucilage making her very soothing and effective at relieving irritation, itchy skin and insect bites.
She has a lovely cooling nature and takes the heat out of an irritation and minor burn.
How to use plantain leaves
This is a very effective way at soothing the skin.
To make a poultice …
- pick fresh young leaves from the plant (making sure you leave some behind so it can continue to flourish);
- chop and mash the leaves then place directly over the problem area e.g. itchy skin, irritation or sunburn;
- wrap a cloth or small bandage around to help hold the leaves in place and leave for 30 – 45 minutes.
- You can change the wrap if necessary and then discard the herbs when finished.
You can also use a plantain poultice to staunch minor bleeding by placing the poultice over a fresh cut.
Whenever you have a splinter in your finger that just won’t budge. Pick a couple of young plantain leaves and make a poultice. Because of her excellent drawing capabilities, a plantain poultice is effective at drawing out a splinter. Just place mashed plantain leaf over the area containing the splinter and tape it in place. Think of it as a ‘green’ bandage 😊.
- Make a strong infusion aka tea, using plantain leaves.
- Let the tea cool.
- Soak a cloth e.g. muslin cloth in the tea then place over irritated skin or sunburn to help soothe, cool and heal.
I’ve been making a lot of plantain infused oil over the last few weeks, making the most of the spring and summer months.
Combing the skin healing properties of plantain leaves with the moisturising goodness of a base oil is a wonderful treat for the skin. Having a bottle of plantain infused oil on hand is a godsend especially during the winter months when the harsh weather can dry and irritate your skin.
I find utilising the warmer months and harvesting plantain when its abundant and making infused oils is not only fun to do but helps us to connect with nature within our own garden. An infused oil is easy to make especially if you have an abundance of plantain in your garden or lawn. Just be careful that you pick plants that are free from chemical sprays!
Check out my post on how to make plantain infused oil. This healing oil is perfect to use on its own or in recipes to soothe skin irritations.
We really are very fortunate to have this plant growing freely in our gardens and our lawns. Her healing abilities are there for us to use. Because plantain is so common and perhaps, not the best-looking lady in the garden (although I think she’s pretty special now) means she can get quite overlooked.
As Rosemary Gladstar, a renowned herbal practitioner wrote …
“If plantain put a fancy name, donned an exotic blossom, and hailed form anywhere other than our own back yards and empty fields, we’d call it a super food, extol its virtues, and put a hefty price tag on it”.
Did you know?
Native Americans referred to it as the ‘Indians Band-Aid’ for her many uses. She is also known as the ‘White Man’s Foot Print’ as her seeds were carried on the heals of shoes and sprouted up where Europeans settled.
Safety note – plantain is generally considered a safe, edible plant. However, people who take blood thinners or are prone to excessive blood clotting should avoid plantain. If you are pregnant or nursing, it is best to consult a qualified practitioner before using plantain. As with any plant or substance, allergic reactions are possible.
– Gladstar, R. (2012). Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing
– Bennett, R R. (2014). The Gift of Healing Herbs: Plant Medicines and Home Remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life. California: North Atlantic Books
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Published on January 15, 2019