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The desire to learn about the healing properties of plants is closely connected to my own journey. As I heal, I appreciate more and more that plants play such a vital role in my health.
My garden is full of herbs that supply me with the makings for tea. However, I love foraging too, and discovering that plants I consider weeds are actually wild herbs. They are full of healing benefits as well.
The broadleaf plantain benefits are many. And yet, until last fall, I considered this common plant an annoying weed. I’ve been aware of plantain since childhood. Mowing over the broad leaves created a funny brrrr – up-up-up noise that reminded me of sound of playing cards attached to bicycle spokes.
My research of broadleaf plantain benefits inspires me to protect several plants in the garden area, keeping them for medicinal purposes.
History of the Broadleaf Plantain Plant
This herb is one of the most abundant and widely distributed medicinal plant in the world. In ancient times, broadleaf plantain, not to be confused with the banana like fruit also called plantain, treated digestive and female disorders along with snake and spider bites.
Native Americans used the herb for snake bites as well, earning the plant the name Snake Weed. They also applied the leaves to wounds.
Another name for broadleaf plantain is soldier’s herb because of its on-the-spot use as a first aid plant for injuries and illnesses.
Today broadleaf plantain is readily found in yards, along sidewalks and fencerows, and anywhere the soil has been disturbed. It thrives in high foot traffic areas as easily as it does nestled against a rocky outcropping. It tolerates poor soil conditions and doesn’t seem picky about the amount of sun that it receives.
Broadleaf plantain growing in my yard.
Broadleaf Plantain Characteristics
The plant’s leaves may be eaten raw, in salads, or steamed with other greens. Small leaves are the most flavorful and tender, although the larger leaves may be used for teas and tinctures. Plantain possesses a slightly bitter taste. The larger the leaves, the more bitter the taste.
The plant sends up stalks that produce tiny flowers and then even tinier light brown seeds. The seeds and stalks are edible as well.
The herb is high in iron and calcium, and vitamins A, C and K.
Broadleaf plantain is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antimicrobial, making it a great medicinal herb for “hot” conditions in the body such as fevers, infections, inflammation and irritations.
These hardy plants return after the lawn is mowed. The new leaves are perfect for salads and teas and first aid use. See the tiny white flowers opening on the stalks?
Broadleaf Plantain Benefits and Uses
For external use, plantain is the perfect first aid herb. Crush, or chew, one or two leaves and apply to the skin or brew a strong tea from the leaves and use in a spray bottle.
- soothes the pain, itching and swelling of insect bites and stings by calming the histamine response
- relieves irritation and discomfort of skin rashes, hives, eczema and psoriasis
- takes the heat out of burns and sunburns
- eases pain of cuts and scrapes and keeps them from getting infected
- calms poison ivy and relieves itching and swelling
- draws out embedded splinters
- also has a drawing effect on boils and soothes pain and swelling
Because this plant is found everywhere, it can quickly be utilized when first aid is needed. Suffering from a sudden wasp sting? Crush or chew the leaves until broken down and then spit the mass of leaves onto the bite. The relief is immediate. Yes, it sounds gross to chew up leaves and spit them out. Remember, however, that you are creating a poultice that is very healing and soothing.
As powerful as the broadleaf plantain benefits are for skin irritations and wounds, the wild herb is equally suitable for a host of symptoms and disorders within the body.
- lowers cholesterol
- helps control diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels
- reduces the pain, swelling and discomfort of hemorrhoids
- heals irritable bowel syndrome
- soothes the entire digestive tract and urinary tract
- treats bladder and kidney infections
- relieves indigestion, acid reflux and ulcers
- as a mouthwash heals canker sores and gum irritation
- acts as an expectorant
- calms a dry cough as well
- treats and helps to prevent seasonal allergies
Foraging for Broadleaf Plantain
As you mow the yard, watch for this amazing wild herb. Perhaps before the blades mow it down, you might collect a few of those healing leaves. Create a tea by steeping the leaves in very hot water for 15 minutes, for drinking. Steep the tea overnight to create a strong brew for topical use. Store in the refrigerator.
Or, in the manner of our wise and resourceful ancestors, chew up a leaf to apply to a bite, sting or scrape for soothing, cooling relief. The next time I slice into my hands and fingers as I’m pulling weeds in the garden, I’ll pluck a couple of leaves to make an on-the-spot poultice.
That simple act makes me feel like a healer.
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