Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Plantain: When a Weed is Not A Weed

With the change of seasons comes gardening, weed pulling, and lawn care, if you are lucky enough to be a person who has a lawn or garden to look after. Occasionally, when I was a kid, I would help my mom weed her flower gardens, but I'd more likely be found playing in the freshly turned soil of the vegetable garden. The day wasn't finished until my feet were so covered in dirt it seemed like it would never come off. There is one particular 'weed' that I remember though...

Plantain by Wikimediaimages via Pixabay
This is plantain. I always thought it was a weed. A pesky thing that grew in the driveway and in the lawn that my dad would use weed killer on.

Then, one day, my eyes were opened by Kris and Tammi from Heartstone Herbal School in Van Etten, NY. I decided to take their Lotions and Potions: Herbal Creams and Salves Workshop one winter day, and they completely flipped my perception of this plant around. It turns out this 'weed' was not a weed but a helpful herb. 

Plantain or Plantago major is found in temperate zones all over the world, first originating in Europe. The Swedish and Norwegian name for the plant translates to "healing leaves." Plantain had been used by the Vikings, Dutch, Arabic, and Greek people for its wound healing properties for centuries. There are references stating that the herb has been used for bee stings, bruises, burns, acne, cuts, dermatitis, colds, bronchitis, digestive distress, tumors, pain, and many more health related issues.

That's a whole lot of things for one tiny plant to be responsible for!

Plantain Flower. By gaidele via Flickr. Creative Commons.
Today, I'm only going to explore functions of plantain that apply to uses of my products. I use plantain in my Soothing Hand Salve because it is wound healing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial.

Plantain contains two compounds, oleanolic acid and ursolic acid. Many studies have been conducted demonstrating the anti-inflammatory effects of oleanolic and ursolic acid. It has been reported that these acids prevent swelling (inflammation) and arthritis in test subjects when they have been exposed to inflammation inducing compounds. 

Plantain has been shown to be an effective anti-microbial against some types of infectious organisms. This effect could be due to the oleanolic and ursolic acids in combination with the other chemical constituents present in the plant. One study compared the use of plantain and standard bandages for burn injuries. Interestingly, the plantain treatment was as effective of an anti-microbial as the standard treatment, but did not have the same dangerous side effects. That's a huge plus in my book!

It is thought that the anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties of plantain come together to create this healing effect. We do not know the process by which the chemicals in plantain work to heal wounds and prevent inflammation, but centuries of traditional use and the research available today provide a reasonable amount of evidence in support of  using this plant to heal wounds and  for general skin care.

Personally, I use plantain to heal the small cuts, burns, and scrapes I receive on a regular basis at my day job. I've also found it to be very helpful in healing dry winter skin and preventing dry hands when I have to wash them almost constantly throughout the day.

Close up of plantain. By Alice Anderson via Flickr. Creative Commons

Did you know plantain could be so useful? What is your experience with plantain?

💗 Courtney

Blog advisement and editing by adreamingone.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not meant to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any disease. This article is meant to be for educational use only. 


Amini, M. et al. "Effect Of Plantago Major on Burn Wound Healing in Rat". Journal of Applied Animal Research 37.1 (2010): 53-56 Web. 16 Apr. 2017.

Liu, Jie. "Pharmacology of Oleanolic Acid and Ursolic Acid".  Journal of Ethnopharmacology 49.2 (1995): 57-68. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.

Nazarizadeh, Ali et al. "Therapeutic Uses and Pharmacological Properties of Plantago Major L. and Its Active Constituents". Journal of Basic and Applied Scientific Research 3.9 (2013): n. pag. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.

Samuelsen, Anne Berit. "The Traditional Uses, Chemical Constituents and Biological Activities of Plantago Major L. A Review". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 71.1-2 (2000): 1-21. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.

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