Broadleaf Plantain, Plantago major
Plantain has about 200 species. We will be focusing on the Broadleaf Plantain. Plantain is native to Europe but is found almost worldwide. It is hard to step onto forest path, field or unpaved roadside without coming across this plant.
Greater plantain, White man’s foot, Soldier’s herb
This herbaceous perennial has rosette leaves. Each leaf can be 15-30 in diameter and are oval in shape. The leaves are smooth with 5-9 stringy veins. The fruit are usually brown but can be greenish to purple. The fruiting head sit onto of a strong upright stem. This plant can be found in compact and disturbed soil. It’s a tough plant that stands up to be being trampled by foot traffic.
Leaves and seeds
The young leaves are tender and can be eating in salad, however they quickly because tough and fibrous. Once they have become tough, they can be cooked and used in stews. The leaves contain calcium along with other minerals and have roughly the same amount of beta-carotene as a large carrot. The seeds can be ground down and used a flour substitute or a fiber substitute for psyllium.
Plantain in a vulnerary herb, which means it speeds healing of a wound. The leaves can be chewed to make a spit poultice for minor skin wounds, sores and stings.
For all you soap makers out there, Plantain infused oil is an excellent addition to your soap recipe. The oil is also excellent in lip balm, lotion and salves.
Plantain is said to be one of the nine sacred herbs "waybread”, however this appears to be due to its medicinal properties not its magical properties like the other herbs. In Devon this grain was referred to as “Cuckoo Bread” and it was believed that every seven years the plant would turn into a cuckoo and fly away. It was believed that if you carried plantain with you, it would protect you against snake-bites. This is an old herb and has been referenced in Chaucer and Shakespeare
Individuals taken blood thinners should avoid internal use of plantain.