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Foraging: Ribwort Plantain

Plantago Lanceloata

In this series of articles I will cover foraging of plants found in the UK, their common uses, medicinal purposes and health benefits. Hopefully you will find this guide useful and learn something new. The first article will cover Ribwort Plantain.

Plantago lanceolata is often used to make herbal teas and other herbal remedies due to its many health benefits. The leaves can be used to make a highly effective cough medicine and in traditional medicine Plantago lanceolata leaves are astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and have been used both internally (as a tea or medicine made for ingestion) or externally (crushed fresh leaves) for the treatment of respiratory tract disorders, insect bites, and infections. 

If you get bitten by an insect or have a wound that might get infected, crush up some fresh leaves (or chew them up) and place them directly on the wound to disinfect, stop the bleeding with its astringent properties and help with healing. It will also help alleviate any itch or burn caused by an insect bite or a nettle rash.

Medicinal Uses

You can use Plantain to make a cream to treat eczema and traditional use of it as a wound healing herb has also been scientifically confirmed (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2010). It contains chemical substances that disinfect injuries, kill pathogenic organisms, reduce inflammation and accelerate the healing process. The fresh plantain leaf is the most effective.

Plantain can also be used to treat diarrhea, gastritis, colitis and other digestive ailments due to its astringent properties. The herb restores acid balance, regulates gastric secretions and treats inflammation or irritations and infections in the stomach and bowels.

It can be used to treat urinary tract infections and because the herb has antispasmodic (meaning used to relieve involuntary muscle spasms) and can be used to soothe irritation and reduce colic spasms in infants and children.

Plantain reduces mucus secretion in the airways making it helpful in treating colds, catarrh, sinusitis, lung and allergic conditions such as hay fever and asthma.

To make a cough medicine, use equal parts of finely chopped leaves soaked in cold-pressed sunflower oil.

Habitat

This common plant is easy to find and often considered a weed since it will grow almost anywhere, especially near water. The plant is naturalized in all temperate regions of the world, but it originated from Europa and parts of Asia.

Plant Parts Used: All Parts Above the Ground

The leaves are picked throughout the flowering season and can be used fresh or dried. The fresh leaves can be juiced or eaten raw. The texture of the leaves is very rough so even though it is edible and healthy, it can be hard to consume and is more suited to be cooked in advance. If you want to eat it raw, aim for the smaller younger leaves as they are softer.

The seeds taste surprisingly like mushrooms and can be boiled to make a mushroom sauce or broth, they can also be used to make a mild laxative.

Common plantains and ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) have similar medicinal properties so if you find the common plantain you can treat and use it in the same way you would the ribwort.

Active Ingredient and Substances

  • Iridoids (most importantly aucubin wich increases kidney excretion of uric acid)
  • Flavonoids (apigenin, an anti-inflammatory)
  • Tannins
  • Mucus
  • Silicic acid
  • Enzymes

The plant has high nutritional value and is loaded with calcium, iron and vitamins A, C, and K.

I just love this plant and its many health benefits!

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