When I mention plantain, a lot of people nod their heads and say they are familiar with the banana-like fruit. This is not the plant I am referring to. I am referring to the plant with the botanical name: Plantago major, Plantago lanceolata, Plantago rugelii, Plantago rhodosperma, or Plantago virginica. Some people might recognize the plant by the common names: white man’s footstep, ribwort, or fleawort.
This plant is commonly mistaken for a weed and thus decided it must be eradicated. But plantain is a most useful plant to use in fairly common first aid situations.
Bug Bites or Bee Stings
A good friend was bit by something, we think probably a spider, and the bite became irritated and swollen. My friend combined powdered plantain and water to make a poultice (a wet mudcake type consistency) out of it. He then put it on the bite and covered it with a breathable material (think cotton gauze, do not think saran wrap). He changed it fairly often the first few days, then as the toxins were pulled out, he stretched changing the poultices less and less often. He ended up not needing to go to the doctor and was able to successfully draw the toxins out.
My youngest daughter was stung by a bee while our family was at the park. We looked around for plantain and successfully located it in a matter of a minute or so. A few leaves were picked, rinsed off, then quickly chewed to make a fresh mash of the plant. The mash was then placed on the bee sting with an intact leaf to hold it in place. Within about a minute or two of application, relief was felt and the tears stopped. Once the wet mash dried up, the plantain was done and a new fresh mash was applied. After a few fresh plantain poultices were applied, the wet mash began to not dry up so fast. It was at this time that a new mash was applied and a bandaid was put over it to hold in place. When we got home from the park and removed the mash, you couldn’t even tell that she had been stung.
Another daughter of mine had been riding a scooter down her friend’s sloped driveway. After awhile, a car came and my daughter frantically tried to slow her descent down by dragging her bare foot. She was able to safely stop in time, but her big toe was shredded and bloody. Comfrey is a great plant to help wounds to heal, but at certain times we don’t want to initially use it because it can cause the wounds to close too quickly and things to become trapped. There was gravel and stuff in my daughter’s toe that I did not want to get trapped, so we made a plantain poultice with the dried, powdered plantain mixed with water. We applied a thick amount to her toe and also used fresh plantain on the next layer. We bandaged up the toe with cotton gauze. The next morning, you could see where all the cuts were, but they had come together while simultaneously pulling out any of the foreign particles. We then applied comfrey ointment to her toe and watched with amazement at how quickly her toe healed from the trauma.
My sister had gotten a splinter stuck in her hand that she could not get out. After a couple of days with an increasingly sensitive hand, she called me right before going to the Urgent Care to see if I had any suggestions. I told her about the power of plantain and explained how to make a poultice. She put an application on her hand and changed it out a few times over the course of the day. Her hand became less and less sensitive, and then on the second day she realized she no longer needed the plantain. The splinter had been removed.
My son had gotten a staph infection in his knee while playing football. It was a highly aggressive infection and we needed to be even more aggressive to knock the infection out. I made plantain poultices with the dried, powdered plantain, changing them hourly. I also had him taking copious amounts of garlic and staying away from any and all sugar (which weakens our immune system). It took us about five days of constant plantain poultices on it before he started to complain that it was itchy and not feeling good to have the poultice on anymore, it was then that I felt we had successfully drawn the infection all out. I kept an eye on it for another day or two, just to make sure it didn’t flare back up, but it never did.
As the example 5 examples have shown, a common weed known as plantain can be a powerful plant to help with numerous first aid situations. Take the time to recognize this plant so when you have a need you will also have an answer.
written by Beth Davis
Master Herbalist and Footzonology Practitioner
She loves empowering others to take control of their health by
teaching numerous classes on topics ranging from
Kitchen Medicine to Immune System Health.
Currently, her family is traveling around America exploring its many wonders.
If you would like to have her teach a class or two in your area,
email her at email@example.com