tinyallotment

Growing as much food on as little land for as little money as possible

Know Thy Enemy. Weeds. Plantain

10 Comments

No not the bananas!
This is another weed that I can almost guarantee you will have on your allotment or in your garden. It grows well in compacted soil so is more often seen in lawns and paths than in your beds. It can put up with a lot of abuse and seems to simply shrug off being mowed or walked upon.

Although there are over 200 species of Plantain (Plantago) in the world  I will only be discussing the two main types of Plantain common in the UK and these are Ribwort and Rat’s Tail plantain.

Ribwort (Plantago Lanceolata) has long spear like leaves with tough raised ribs running along the length of the underside. The flowers are at the end of long leafless stems and form a bullet shaped seed head surrounded by a ring of small light coloured flowers.

 

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Plantago lanceolata

 

Rattail Plantain (Plantago Major) also known as Broad leaf or Greater Plantain produces a rosette of oval leaves with raised veins on the underside.  The flowers form along a leafless stem and look like a rat’s tail.

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Plantago major

Plantains are perennial, wind pollinated and are propagated by spreading seed. The seeds are often carried on the feet of animals and humans and this could explain why they spread along rights of way.

Plantain originated in Europe and Asia but because it is such an important healing plant it is now found all over the world. It was introduced to the Americas by the first European settlers  and quickly became established. It was so synonymous with the incomers that the indigenous  peoples called it ‘White man’s foot’ because wherever the white man walked, Plantain would soon follow. The native tribes quickly realised the benefits of Plantain and it was integrated into their own herbal traditions. Interestingly  the plant is known as ‘Englishman’s Foot’ in New Zealand. presumably for the same reason.

All parts of the Plantain are edible and the leaves and seeds have a mild mushroom taste but they are not renowned as a food although I like the taste and it does contain quite a few beneficial nutrients including Vitamins C and K, Calcium and Potassium.

Where Plantain really come into their own is as a herbal medicine.
The crushed leaves of the plantain have very good wound healing properties so are great for treating minor cuts and grazes.Tannins and Allantoin in Plantain speed up cell regeneration helping wound heal quickly.  Just chew up a couple of leaves to form a pulp poultice, place this on the wound and bandage loosely to hold poultice in place. Plantain is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. It also helps draw infection, poisons and foreign bodies from the wound so is great for treating insect bites, stings and splinters. Plantain is better than Dock leaves for  treating Stinging nettle rash and can also be used to calm sun burn.

I have used Plantain to relieve the pain of toothache and is great for treating gum infections and mouth ulcers. You can chew a couple of leaves and hold it in your mouth against the problem tooth or ulcer plus you can make an infusion of the leaves in hot water, allow it to cool and use it as a mouthwash. Powdered Plantain root is also useful for toothache but if you don’t have the powdered root handy you can just dig up the root, clean it and chew it to ease the pain.

An infusion of Plantain leaves can be used to treat sore throats and acts as both a decongestant and expectorant and due to it’s antibacterial properties is great for treating a wide range of respiratory complaints.

Another area where Plantain is effective is in the treatment of  digestive disorders. A teaspoon of dried leaves made into a tea or infusion is very good for treating Diarrhoea, inflammation of the colon, IBS, stomach ulcers and is said to kill worms in the stomach and intestines. Plantain is also very effective in the treatment of Haemorrhoids so next time you think all the weeds in your garden are a pain in the butt, think again.

Up until now I have mainly talked about the benefits of using the leaves of the plantain but the seed have their uses as well. The seeds can be dried and ground into flour for making gluten free flat breads and because Plantain is rich in mucilages it can be used to thicken soups etc.
The mucilages in Plantain relieves irritation of mucous membranes by forming a protective film so helps combat the symptoms of cold and flu. It also acts as a cough suppressant especially with dry coughs. The seeds are also used to treat constipation.

Plantain really is a very powerful plant that is literally growing right under your feet. It is very easy to identify and can be found all year round. I have only just touched on a few of the wonderful things Plantain can do and I hope I have sparked enough of an interest that you will do your own research into what plantain can do for you.
I am not an expert in any sort of medicine including herbal remedies so it is important that you use your own judgement on what will work for you and if you are in any doubt please consult your Health Care Professional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: tinyallotment

Dedicated to living a simple, independent, self reliant life where money is not the main factor. My dream is to engineer a life that requires very little from the outside world. I would like to provide my own shelter, collect my own water, grow, catch, hunt, forage my own food, create my own energy and deal with my own waste. This dream all starts in a tiny allotment in Cornwall where I will be experimenting in growing food, generating energy and dealing with waste.

10 thoughts on “Know Thy Enemy. Weeds. Plantain

  1. I seem to recall that Plantain (Both types) were used as salad leaves during WW2. IIRC this is also when Dandelion and Burdock made a reappearance!

    • I am not surprised. There are many beneficial wild herbs but many of them are an acquired taste. I like the taste of Plantain and we have started using it regularly in stews and stir-fry. I would love to make Dandelion and Burdock.

      • Dandelion is one of my favorites too! There is just so many things you can do with it. There is a book I have that is getting hard to find but you can still get one here and there. Its called Dandelion Medicine by Brigitte Mars. It is the BEST book Ive come across that deals only with Dandelions. I would suggest you get one while their still available.

      • Thanks for the tip. I will get a copy of that asap. I find it strange the way people think when it comes to gardening. There a perfectly good plants that just spring up through the ground without any effort on our parts. They want to be there and are perfectly adapted too our environment. We than spend time, effort and money trying to get rid of them and replace them with plants that really don’t want to be there and so we have to bend over backwards to get them to survive. And don’t get me started on lawns. I think there should be a lawn tax. (Not really, I don’t think there should be any tax) Don’t get me started on Tax!

      • Unfortunately if I don’t put something down to get rid of Dandelions every year I done hear the end of it from my wife and neighbors. That one of the reasons we might be moving in the next few years.

  2. I’ve been feeding mine to our tortoise…might give it a try myself, after reading your blog! Great info. Thanks for sharing 😆

  3. Finaly someone else who knows that Plantain was also called White Mans Foot. Thank you very much for this post.
    I made this video in June 2011. I think you’ll like it. Let me know what you think. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtl65nydm9I

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