Journalling Natural Medicines: Plantain

What I adore about the study of plants is that it is largely a process of inquiry. Without a formal degree in herbalism, one must rely on careful identification and experimentation, and the reading of the research that others have done. But then, that’s what our ancestors have done for thousands of years. It’s what we love about the study of natural medicines – it’s an inheritance that has been passed down through generations of folk lore, poetry, literature, scientific study and anecdote.

The internet is both a curse and a blessing. Whilst it’s easy to find many references to a herb online, it’s either piecemeal, delivered via blogs and youtube videos, or it is scientific study, which is few and far between. There is no one definitive site that lists all known references of the plant in question, the minute details of how to prepare it and administer it, and it’s contra-indications. It’s easy to get lost.

I’ve taken to journals to record what I find out about herbs in journals, quick reference guides that do not need me to start up the internet and that I can take travelling too. I have two – one that sorts by the name of the plant, and one that is more an investigation into a remedy. For example, my husband wanted me to find out how to make a beard oil, and my sister was suffering severely cracked heels. It usually takes 2 – 3 pages of notes gleaned from a handful of books and from the internet to record all I need so that I can play with creams, tinctures and teas either that day, or at my leisure.

In the second journal, I sort by plant. Usually I spend a week or two studying it, recording it’s use. This winter plantain has stolen the show, as I have cultivated – or rather, not mown a patch of it growing proudly behind the rosemary bush. There has been a number of methods for the preparation of plantain that I have tried, although am yet to experiment with beyond a plantain drawing salve. Three jars sit on my bookshelf – a plantain oil, a plantain vinegar, and a plantain vodka tincture. The vinegar will be used for a facial toner as plantain is both an astringent and a mucilage – drying and moisturising. I cannot find much about this on the internet, so I will let you know how it goes. I don’t have flawless skin, and was interested in a toner that I could make myself.

The oil is to be made in another drawing salve or first aid cream. The first lot I made was a fast method – impatient as I made it by putting a jar of plantain and oil in hot water on the stovetop, a makeshift double boiler. It is reasonable, but I wouldn’t say wondrously effective. Leaving it for a good few months to infuse would probably be the better option.
Tea is easy and quick, and we can absolutely attest to the benefits. Having just gone through a nose operation for a deviated septum, my husband was suffering, especially in the cold air as we travelled in the van up the coast at the beginning of winter. Finding huge blades of plantain by the coast, I made him tea in the back of the van and we sipped it through the day. The days that he didn’t have the tea, he was in pain. The days he did have the tea, he wasn’t. If there’s any better proof than that, I’m not sure what it could be – it’s known to be anti-inflammatory and good for anywhere there is external or internal bleeding. Think bruises, piles, nose operations, urinary tract infections – or scrapes and cuts. In fact, it’s beginning to be clear to me that a tea might be the best way to ingest plantain altogether.

Plantain drying on the dashboard on our road trip.

Susan Weed calls it the bandaid plant, as well as it’s ability to bind to cholesterol in this video. We’ve been using a lot of plantain seeds – or psyllium – in a healthy vegan seedy loaf that we eat for breakfast every morning.

The tincture is a beautiful, magical dark green. My son’s daughter is currently experimenting with dropperfuls of the stuff as she has a cough and a bit of a throat infection. The internet lists that it is good for such things – as well as hayfever, asthma and sinusitis – but I’m yet to see if this tincture does the job. The proof is in the plantain pudding, so to speak. However, as I find out watching Susan Weed’s video above, it’s more effective or more convenient as a spit poultice (where you masticate the leaves and press them on the wound) if you put it in a spray bottle. Thus, could I investigate a first aid spray? What else would I put in it?

And so my study goes on. I am not an expert. I’m just doing as my ancestors have done – exploring, being curious, recording, observing, creating. It’s an important process, and one I encourage every one to do. As Susun Weed says, it takes seven lifetimes to be an herbalist, as there’s so many factors involved – what is available to you, how it is prepared, what part of the plants are used and so on. Journaling helps me retain the information I learn, and perhaps one day, I can pass it on to someone else.

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I enjoy eating narrow-leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata), in salads when it's young and tender, and then in mixed cooked greens as it gets older. I freeze plenty of it, too, to eat during the off-season. It's a great plant, alright, especially because it's a perennial, so I can harvest a lot, and still it keeps producing. Enjoy your plantain seeds! That breakfast seed loaf sounds like a winner!

Oh yes I have been putting it in stews and soups too!! Great point. Freezing it is a great idea! Do you blanch it first? I was also thinking of drying it and making a wild supergreen powder!!

Yes, I blanch it. That means I lose a bit of the water-soluble nutrients in the blanching water. But there's so much goodness to start with, so I'm not bothered about it. Drying and powdering any of the great greens is a good way to go, too.

Exactly! Plus, you're also using an ingredient ready to hand, so if you lose some goodness, it doesn't matter. You haven't bought pasta. It's not wrapped in plastic. It doesn't have air miles. It's pure natural GOODNESS!

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Jealous of your plantain! Ours is long gone and seeded. I spread the seeds in places where I hope it'll take. We'll see how it goes after yours has dried up :)

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Thank you for this great post!

I am not an expert. I’m just doing as my ancestors have done – exploring, being curious, recording, observing, creating.

I like that! Our planet (and we) need new old ways ;-) You encourage me starting by myself... I have a new flat and there is a nearly wild part in the big garden where I found some herbs for cooking like spinach. Maybe I can experience with natural medicine too... Thank you. Greetings from Germany Kadna

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Oh you should! Come join @naturalmedicine and learn with me!

Thank you, i will have a look ;-)

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Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

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THANKS so much @hafizullah!

Love the in the plantain pudding!! I was saying to this Spring to myself, I really would love some plantain in my yard, and then lo and behold the nature spirits brought me a few growing betwixt the pavers in my back yard... I've yet to have a moment to transplant it, but it's thriving and would love to propagate and spread it. One of my favorite oil bases I make is with comfrey and olive oil, it would be a super power pack if I added some plantain. Thanks for the reminder and lovely post @riverflows!

Nature spirits are awesome! I have loved watching these grow all winter and observing where and why the really big blades grow. Last time i made comfrey oil it stank to high heaven. I didnt realise one must dry the leaves first. That indeed would be a power pack!!

Did you know fermented comfrey is one of the best fertilizers for your garden? Plants love it and yes it is stinky!! I always dry it then make the oil, and I like to put a tbs of tequila or whatever high proof alcohol on top so it won't mold.

There ARE some wonderful herbal communities online and I learn from, and share, with several. We are so blessed with the internet. The dashboard drying is sorta cute, but the direct sunlight will damage the healing properties. Quick fix? Put the plantain in a brown paper bag, and hang it in a cool spot. Linen cupboards are great. Anyhting over 50C (and behind glass can be 60C plus) gonna damage and diminish your lovely herbs.

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I can guarantee it was freezing and overcast..June holidays brrrr..... we kept warm with consrant teas of wild plants and hot water bottles at night...
. and we consumed this all before we got home! Great point though.... next time I am bringing paper bags on a road trip!

They double as motion sickness bags. LOL. we horde them when we get them. :)

I am wondering, if in all your research you came across anything indicating a difference in the properties of wide leaf plantain vs narrow leaf?

The reason I ask is that my hens won't touch narrow leaf, but scarf down wide leaf. So I no longer harvest narrow leaf, only wide leaf.

No, i have really not been able to find information on that and its not for want of looking!! Maybe i should buy some broad leaf seeds.. we dont have it here, just the broadleaf! I will add that observation to my journal though.

Havent seen my hens near the plantain. Those brown marans I got.. not the coppers... eat bloody everything!!!! Might get rid of them. They are less chilled than the barred and the coppers.

I love to walk along the fields to collect wild plants I can use for tea or to cook. My grand mother teached me some uses of them and everytime I pick up a wild plant that I know, I think about my childhood. ^_^

Oh this is exactly what I mean! Calendula reminds me of my grandmother. I hope my son learns a little too, though he looks bored every time I try to teach him something! I am sure he will remember though, and even last week he asked if sage tea was the right one for a sore throat, so he remembered something!

Natural medicine is something that interests me now. I am planning to read more of it because I prefer it over pharmaceutical drugs.❤️

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Yay!! The more we learn, the more independence we get from Big Pharma. It costs us a lot less too!!

You are so on top of things! Great idea to journal all that knowledge you habe been collecting - a very valuable resource!
Thanks for sharing!

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Aw shucks, thanks. Xx

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plantain is pretty magical... can be used in food dishes as well. i've seen it work wonders for bee stings and skin ailments. as 'white man's footprint' found pretty much everywhere on turtle island, one can guarantee finding it in most emergency situations. thanks for sharing!

I put in all my winter stews and sauces! And its totally everywhere... so handy!!!

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