Plantain (Plantago major) is a weed commonly found in the wild and (much to suburbanites’ dismay) the lawns of almost everyone living in temperate climates. It is traditionally used to treat minor cuts and a wide range of skin disorders, including dandruff, eczema, sunburn, and bug bites.
This herb is also said to be good for soothing inflamed bronchial passages and sore throat. European research supports the use of plantain as a treatment for bronchitis, sore throat, and cold symptoms.
Studies have demonstrated that the juice of the plantain plant is both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Plantain contains allantoin, an anti-inflammatory phytochemical that kills germs, speeds wound healing, and stimulates the growth of new skin cells (many commercial cosmetic creams and lotions list allantoin as an active ingredient).
The best thing about the herb plantain is that it is easy to find and easy to use (there are over 200 species!). Unless you live in the desert or the tundra, there’s a good chance you have plantain growing right in your own backyard. It is readily identified by the green, nubby spikes, which stick up out of a cluster of round leaves.
To soothe bug bites, eczema, poison ivy, or other minor skin irritations, rub fresh plantain leaves on the affected area. You can also make a soothing poultice of fresh, mashed leaves and a little cool water (this one feels good on sunburns). Plantain is also available as a supplement in liquid extract and capsule form at most health food stores—the usual dosage is 1 teaspoon of liquid extract three times a day, or up to 6,000 milligrams in capsules per day for treatment of bronchial symptoms.
There have been no toxic reactions reported with the use of plantain. Be sure to follow the directions on commercial preparations—consuming extremely large amounts could cause diarrhea, skin rash, or other allergic reaction.