How to identify plantain?



Plantain loves disturbance. It is a common weed of cultivated pastures, cracks in sidewalks, back yard gardens, and any place that experiences regular activity. Plantain has been used for centuries as an edible food and for its beneficial properties. According to western folklore, the leaf was chewed and placed on the skin for its ability to draw a splinter, or similar nuisance, out.

In traditional western herbalism, plantain leaves have been infused with a multitude of herbs. Plantain can be valuable externally and is often found in skin care products. The young, spring leaves can be eaten as food in salads.

Plant Details

In general, two species of plantain are well-known and preferred: Plantago lanceolata and Plantago major, the narrowleaf plantain (also known as ribwort) or the broadleaf plantain (also referred to as greater plantain) respectively. Narrowleaf plantain has 3-5 prominent ribs that stripe its long, narrow, lanceolate leaves. Broadleaf plantain has 5-9 prominent veins that stripe their wide, oval-shaped leaves. Ribwort and greater plantain are native to temperate Eurasia and are widespread across the British Isles. They have since spread across the Americas and to Australia. Both varieties can be used interchangeably.

Suggested Uses

Plantain leaf is commonly steeped as tea and combined with other botanicals in herbal infusions. Can also be used as an ingredient in topical skin care recipes.

Want to learn how to make a refreshing herbal infusion with plantain?

Plantain Herb

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Plantain herb is one of our most versatile medicinal plants. It heals many types of wounds, takes the swelling and sting out of a variety of insect bites, and can even be used for dry coughs and mucus membrane inflammation.

Despite its many attributes, the plantain weed is a humble and persistent plant. It doesn’t boast vibrantly colored flowers. Its leaves often hug the ground, or grow tall to blend in with the surrounding grass. It can thrive in hard packed soils with lots of foot traffic and it loves disturbed areas. Best of all, if you know how to spot it, you can most likely find this herbaceous perennial whenever you need it. There are about 200 species worldwide, with about 30 native and 5 introduced species in the US.

Plantain Herb for Hot Conditions

You could simply memorize many of the benefits of plantain; however, you would be missing out on understanding its special affinities. You will have a deeper understanding of its abilities when you view it through the lens of its energetic properties.

Plantain herb is energetically cooling and it excels when used to counteract hot conditions.

What is a hot condition?

Hot conditions are characterized by signs of heat, including feeling hot, redness (or sometimes yellow), sharp pain, swelling, and inflammation. Burns are an obvious example of a hot condition as the burned area feels hot and turns red. A red, hot, itchy rash would be another example. A fresh plantain poultice can soothe burns and rashes by both pulling out the heat and healing the damaged tissue.

Plantain Herb for Bites and Stings

Another example of a hot condition is bites and stings from insects, spiders, and scorpions. Let’s take a bee sting for example. When a bee stings a person it releases its venom into the skin. Fairly quickly, the area around the sting will swell, turn red, and feel hot to the touch. The pain is generally sharp (as opposed to a dull ache).

Plantain herb is perfect for this “hot” condition. A fresh poultice of the leaves has the ability to pull the poisons from the skin and dramatically decrease the redness, swelling, and pain. I’ve seen this work again and again on many different types of bites and stings. For best results apply the plantain as quickly as possible after the sting and change the poultice every 20 minutes or when it feels warm to the touch. A plantain salve will also work well, especially on common itchy insect bites, like those from flies and mosquitoes.

Plantain Herb for Wounds

Plantain herb stitches together many types of wounds, from minor cuts and scrapes to blisters to hemorrhoids and postpartum tears. It makes a wonderful all-purpose salve, poultice, or sitz bath (combined with other herbs such as Calendula). Because it has the ability to draw things out, plantain is perfect for splinters, boils, or even puncture wounds. Plantain is also antimicrobial, so it helps to prevent bacterial growth in wounds as they heal.

Plantain Herb for Infections

Infections are also hot conditions where plantain excels. Examples include infected wounds (poultice or soak is best), boils, eye infections, or urinary tract infections. I like to combine Echinacea with plantain when specifically dealing with infections. My first plant teacher, Karen Sherwood, has successfully used plantain poultices on blood poisoning while she was out hiking in the back country and didn’t have access to medical care.

Plantain Herb for Excessive Histamine Response and Seasonal Allergies

Plantain herb can also be taken internally to modulate an excessive histamine response to stings or from seasonal allergies. I learned from Matt Wood (or was it Kiva Rose, or maybe jim mcdonald?) that fresh plantain tincture combines well with peach leaf/twig tincture for calming overly reactive tissues that create symptoms such as runny nose, itchy and runny eyes, sneezing, or dramatic responses to bug bites. Herbalist jim mcdonald recommends using slightly saline plantain leaf tea in a neti pot for nasal irritations or as a wash for eye infections (see below for instructions).

Plantain Herb for Gastrointestinal Inflammation

Plantain is an obvious choice for many first aid or acute inflammations, but it is equally useful for chronic hot conditions, especially in the digestive tract.

A strong plantain leaf infusion (tea) can be one of the most dramatic healers for inflammatory digestive problems, including intestinal permeability (leaky gut), ulcers, and inflammatory bowel diseases. In this situation, plantain soothes the inflamed tissues, helps to heal the tissues (vulnerary), prevents bacterial overgrowth (antimicrobial), and can seemingly knit those tissues back together (astringent).

It can also be a powerful healer for the upper digestive tract. It can relieve the pain of canker sores and speed up the healing of the tissues. It’s also a nice tea to include for people who have acid reflux, as it can soothe and heal the tissues of the esophagus.

Plantain Herb for the Lungs

Besides being cooling for hot conditions, plantain is also moistening (demulcent). These two qualities make it ideal for hot and dry lungs, resulting in chronic or acute coughs. My favorite application for this is the dry, hacking cough that hangs on long after your upper respiratory infection has healed. In this situation, anti-tussive herbs may temporarily stop the cough but, by addressing the root cause (heat and dryness leading to irritation), you can more effectively alleviate the cough and change the dry conditions in the lungs.

Herbalist jim mcdonald specifically recommends plantain for coughs that result from the inhalation of fine particulate matter, which might be experienced in a work environment or during wildfires or weather conversions.

Plantain Seeds

Plantain seeds are mucilaginous and high in fiber. Seeds collected from Plantago ovatum or P. psyllium are harvested on a large scale and sold as “psyllium” seed and husk, which are used to maintain bowel regularity. Psyllium is where the product Metamucil® gets its name. The seeds from Plantago major, P. rugelii, and P. lanceolata can be used similarly, but the process of harvesting enough of those tiny seeds is time consuming. Plantain seeds also are deliciously edible and can be eaten raw or added to cooked foods, or whole plantain seed stalks can be steamed and eaten if the seeds are too tedious to collect.

Using Plantain Herb

When using plantain for bites and stings, fresh leaves are preferred. A simple spit poultice is often the best choice. To make a spit poultice, chew up a fresh leaf or two until the cell walls are broken and you have a gooey, green leaf poultice. Place this on the affected area. A whole leaf can be used to cover the poultice and a Band-aid® or gauze can further hold the poultice in place. Any hesitation you may feel about how this green mess looks will quickly be forgotten as it soothes the pain and swelling or itching. If you live in an area where plantain disappears from summer heat or under winter snow, you can keep some dried plantain leaf on hand and it can be rehydrated with warm water to make a soothing poultice or fomentation.

When infusing plantain into an oil for a salve, wilt the fresh leaves slightly or use a hot water bath method. When making a tincture, fresh plantain leaves are also preferred.

The young fresh leaves make a great salad green, cooked green, or pesto addition that is high in nutrients, especially minerals that are often lacking in modern diets. As the leaves mature, the strings in the prominent leaf veins can make the experience more like flossing than eating. You can avoid this by chopping the leaves cross-wise to cut the strings into short pieces.

Plantain leaves are wonderful as a strong infusion (tea) for healing digestive wounds, for general GI inflammation, or for dry and irritated coughs. I like to prepare this with one ounce of the leaves (roughly 30 grams) to a quart of just-boiled water. Steep for four hours or overnight. This preparation is also a good way to enjoy the mineral nutritive benefits of plantain.

Neti Pot or Eye Wash Instructions

Infuse two heaping tablespoons of dried plantain leaves in 1 1/4 cups of just-boiled water for ten minutes. Strain very well through cheesecloth to remove any small particles. Measure out 1 cup (8 ounces) of the tea. While still hot, add 1/4 teaspoon of fine white (non-iodized) salt and stir to dissolve. Use this in a neti pot or as an eye wash.

Plantain Herb Side Effects

Plantain herb is regarded as safe and there are no common allergies or adverse effects associated with its use.

The Plantain Plant

Plantago major and P. lanceolata are originally from Eurasia and now grow practically everywhere. They love roadsides, lawns, pathways, and disturbed soils. There are over 200 species within the Plantago genus.

There are two types of plantains that are regularly used as medicine.

One type is commonly called broadleaf plantain. It has oval or egg shaped leaves. Plantain major (European native) and P. rugelii (US native) are both examples of broadleaf plantain. From a practical point of view, these plantains are interchangeably used. From a botanical point of view, they are separate species. One distinctive property is that the base of the leaf stems of P. major are white, whereas the base of the P. rugelii stems are reddish.

The other type of plantain, Plantago lanceolata, has long narrow leaves and is commonly called narrowleaf plantain.

Both the broad-leaved and narrow-leaved plantains have prominent parallel leaf veins. If you gently pull the leaf apart, you will see the strings that run through the leaf veins.

Plantain flowers grow in dense spikes that rise above the leaves of the plant. The flowers are wind pollinated and the plant reproduces mostly by seed.

I am often asked which plantain is best. As far as I can tell, each of these three species (and many others) can be interchangeably used. To answer even more practically, the best one is the one you find growing at your feet.

Summary for Plantain Herb

Plantain herb has a special place in my heart. It was the first herb I learned about when I started my herbal journey and I think it is the epitome of herbalism as the “people’s medicine.” This common weed is a safe herb that is a powerful healer for hot and dry conditions. It is also the epitome of sustainable medicine. You won’t have to pay lots of money for your own supply or ship this herb from halfway across the world to enjoy its benefits…I’ll bet it’s growing abundantly near you already!

Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal. She’s a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and the Education Director for LearningHerbs. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.

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20 Amazing Benefits Of Plantain For Skin, Hair And Health Nithya Shrikant Hyderabd040-395603080 May 23, 2019

Wait! Do not confuse this plantain with the green skinned cousin of bananas. This is a weed or an herb that you can find in temperate climates. There are over 200 species of this herb and you can locate one or more of them even in your lawn! A traditional cure for various skin conditions including sunburns and eczema, this herb is known to have rich antibacterial and antiseptic properties.

It is the leaves of this herb that gives you the benefits. If traced back to the 1500s, you would be able to find that this leaf extract used to be a cure for various health conditions, including flu and fever. Packed with tannins, aucubin , and mucilage, the plantain leaf extract is known to have expectorant and anti-irritant properties as well.

So, do you want to know more about plantain-the herb? Read on plantain herb benefits here!

Table Of Contents

Skin Benefits Of Plantain

Taking care of our skin involves much more than a skin care regime! A truly beautiful skin is the one that is healthy from the inside. Plantain does just that!

1. Natural Relief For Sunburns:

Extract the juice of fresh plantain leaves and apply it to the affected region. You can also make a poultice by crushing this leaves with cool water for similar benefits. While the anti-inflammatory nature soothes the burning and rashes, antibacterial properties prevent itching.

2. Cures Insect Bites:

The extract of these leaves of this herb contains certain elements that ease the itching, inflammation, and soreness associated with insect bites and bee stings. Thus, it soothes down the skin, promoting faster healing.

3. Aids In Quicker Healing Of Wounds:

Allantoin, an ingredient present in plantain leaf herb, has germicidal and antibacterial properties. Thus, when applied to the wounds topically, this herb helps in killing the germs. It induces quicker healing, and triggers the synthesis of skin cells.

4. Lowers The Chances Of Scarring:

A mixture of cayenne, comfrey, and plantain leaf extract is known to invigorate the skin regeneration process. This, in turn, reduces the chances of scarring on the skin due to wounds and blemishes.

5. Treats Acne And Rosacea:

Inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne and rosacea get benefits from the topical application of this cooling herb extract. Along with easing down the inflammation and preventing the region from infections, this herb also prevents scarring by inducing faster healing and regeneration of skin cells.

6. Offers A Blemish Free Skin:

As mentioned above, this herb is known to possess anti-scarring properties. Studies suggest that one can use this regularly as a supplement, especially if one has pimples or acne to clear off the blemishes and keep the skin glowing.

Hair Benefits Of Plantain

Yes! Plantain is good for your hair too! Here are some of the benefits of plantain for your hair:

7. As A Hair Rinse:

Plantain can be used as a hair rinse. A string concoction made with the leafs of this plant along with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, and a little water, if required, makes an excellent hair rinse. Plus, thus herb tones down the pungent aroma of vinegar too.

8. Helps In Easing Dandruff:

This herb has been touted as an effective remedy for dandruff and flaky scalp since time immemorial. The antiseptic and antibacterial properties of this herb shield your scalp from infections and offer relief from dandruff.

Health Benefits Of Plantain

A healthy body is a beautiful body! Plantain comes with a number of health benefits, some of which are:

9. Good For Babies:

Mix the extract of plantain leaves with a little almond oil and beeswax. This mixture can be used as an effective antidote for diaper rash as well as mosquito bites for babies. Roll a cube of ice in a leaf and use it to massage the baby skin. This will ensure that the skin is free of rashes and inflammations. It also increases the suppleness and smoothness of the skin.

10. Cures Respiratory Tract Disorders:

Studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory nature of this herb enables it to soothe the inflamed respiratory tracts and bronchial passages in events of cold, bronchitis, and flu. An ideal dose is 1 tsp of the extract thrice a day. A cup of plantain tea is known to soothe the irritated mucous membranes, offering relief from cold and cough.

11. Cures Blood Poisoning:

It offers an effective treatment for blood poisoning. You can either use it topically as a poultice or drink it as tea to experience the benefits.

12. Natural Diuretic Properties:

It is a natural cure for inflammatory conditions affecting the urinary bladder and kidneys. Being a natural diuretic and a demulcent, it enables frequent urination, thus eliminating the toxins from the kidneys and bladders. It is also effective in easing edema conditions in various health issues. It can also be used as an effective cure for bed wetting in babies.

13. Prevents Bleeding:

The styptic properties of this herb enable it to be used in cases of minor bleeding. Just chew the leaf or make a paste of it to be applied topically on the bleeding zone.

14. Helps In Coping Up With Postpartum Issues:

Studies suggest that this herb can be used for faster postpartum recovery. While the styptic nature helps in controlling the bleeding, this herb is also known to aid in the elimination of placenta. It is known to have positive impacts on controlling the cramps associated with postpartum recovery. It also helps in toning the uterus after child birth.

15. Eases Tough Periods:

Plantain is an effective antispasmodic, which enables it to be used during painful periods to ease menstrual cramps. One can also use plantain to stall heavy bleeding during periods.

16. Good For Digestive System:

Drink a cup of tea or use the leaves in your salads to ease the inflammation troubling your tummy. It also helps in improving the digestive fire and even combat constipation issues in a healthy way. An effective cure for diarrhea, plantain leaf tincture is an effective remedy for gastric ulcers, bowel ulcers, dyspepsia, and dysentery.

17. Potential Anti-cancerous Properties:

The anti-inflammatory nature of this herb is quite well known. This enables it to function as an anti-cancerous and anti-tumors agent too. It slows down and represses the growth of cancerous cells and tumors, thus being quite efficient in easing and preventing the spread of this malignant condition.

18. Beneficial For Overweight And Obese People:

This herb is known to possess diuretic and detoxifying properties. It also has appetite suppressant properties, which helps in curbing hunger pangs to a great extent. Just ingest 3 grams of this herb with 250 ml water half an hour before each meal, restricted to a maximum of three times a day and watch the weight melt away.

19. Remedy For Tuberculosis And Syphilis:

This herb can be used, both externally and internally to treat tuberculosis and syphilis.

20. Safeguards Cardiovascular Health:

Studies have pointed that this herb has the potential to lower triglycerides level and keep them under required amounts. It is also known to lower LDL cholesterol, improve HDL cholesterol, and maintain the balance between the two. When all these elements are under control, then there is a reduced risk of various cardiovascular health issues.

This plant rarely seems to give any negative reactions and is quite safe to be used. However, always make sure that you follow the recommended dosage to reap maximum health benefits.

Have you ever tried using plantain as a natural remedy for any health conditions? What was your experience? Share with us right below in the comments section.

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Nithya Shrikant

A simple, amiable, down to earth woman! A mother to two adorable daughters! A good wife! A nice person in short! 🙂

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Broadleaf Plantain, Common Plantain or Greater Plantain (Plantago major) plant. (By: Javier martin)

(NOTE: If you are not interested in growing Plantain, but just finding the plant and using it, try going to the Nature’s Restaurant Online site Plantain page.)

Broadleaf Plantain, Common Plantain or Greater Plantain (Plantago major). This plant has no connection with the fruit that looks like a Banana that is also called a Plantain. It is a leafy green found in waste places, paths, lawns in full to part sun. There are many variations of the Plantain, but the best one for eating is the Broadleaf.

Is the growing of this plant compatible with Natural farming, Ecoagriculture or Eco friendly agriculture, Ecological farming, Sustainable agriculture, Agroforestry or Agro-sylviculture and Permaculture: This is a plant that does its best using Natural farming or no-till garden methods. Once started, whether on its own or in with other plants, there is no need to turn the soil. In fact, this plant takes hard, compacted soils and loosens them. See under “Maintenance” below for how to use this plant to make mud-free perennial pathways in no-till or tilled gardens.

Seeds: Plantain produces a lot of seeds on the ends of the long thin seed heads. Gather when mature when the seedhead turns from green to tan. When choosing the plants to gather the seeds from, look for the kind with the wide leaves.

Soil & Site: This plant is remarkable for its ability to grow in hard, poor soil and take abuse like being walked on over and over. So, I like to grow it between the rows of plants in the garden on the pathways. It can grow in a wide range of soil pH, types and climates. If you are growing for greens, other than turning over the soil before planting, there is nothing you need to do. If you do put some composted manure or other fertilizer in the soil, this plant can get huge.

Planting: Spread the seeds over the area you want them, tamp lightly, put over a very thin layer of fine mulch, water, and there should be no problem getting a good crop. When planting for pathways between rows, just spread a layer along the pathway between rows early in the spring when the garden has been prepared for planting. You don’t have to wait for the last frost to plant this one. After spreading the seed, just tamp the soil with the back of a hoe, then spread a little mulch.

Maintenance: If you are growing a couple of these for the greens, there is nothing to do other than picking off flower heads to prevent them from turning into seedheads. This forces the energy back to the roots and into the greens so year after year you will have nice greens. Mulch around them to prevent other weeds from coming up.

When using for paths between rows in the garden, I run over it now and then with the lawn mower to keep it growing low and prevent the seedheads from coming up. If I see low seedheads forming, I just pick them to prevent this plant from becoming a weed in the garden next year. By doing this, it provides a path to walk on that is not muddy after rains or watering, plus during times of drought, this plant shades the soil and prevents the sun from baking it. In the fall or spring when you are turning over the garden (I rent a tiller for this), you can just turn these under with the rest of the garden. That way, you can move the pathways. If you like where the pathways are, you can leave this walkway crop in place (it is a perennial), and till alongside it. If you do that, start to mow it as soon as it comes back in the spring to train it to grow low. One nice thing about leaving it in place is you have well established pathways that are not mucky in the spring which makes planting the garden easier. The incredibly fibrous root systems hold the soil in place even when soaked.

Harvesting: For greens, harvest small, young leaves only. Don’t use the pathway plants for this, only use the ones you left to grow upright.

Using: You can use the fresh, young leaves raw on a salad, but I have to say, I’m not really keen on them. Not bad tasting, but the chewy texture, dry/nothing taste isn’t my favorite. However, used steamed or chopped up and a little in soups, or other cooked foods, it makes a good, healthy green. Not a green to serve by itself, but with others greens, or just as one of many ingredients, it is quite useful. Leaves must be young and immature, or they will be stringy.

One of the nice things about it in foods, is it has soothing qualities, and is a nice green to include with hot foods. If all you can get is stringy leaves, wash them, then boil in water and use some of the water in hot and spicy meals when cooking.


  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 3-9 (More information on hardiness zones).
  • Soil pH: 4.6-7.8
  • Plant Size: 15–30 cm (6 to 12 inches) diameter, Flower spikes can reach 50cm (20 inches) or more, but usually are 30 cm (12 inches) or less
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Leaf Shape: Ovate (Oval).
  • Leaf Phyllotaxis (Arrangement) on branch: (rosette) of basal leaves (leaves at the base)
  • Leaf Size: 5–25 cm (2 to 10 inches) long and 4–12 cm (1 1/2 to 5 inches) wide
  • Leaf Margin: Entire (smooth edged), most often it is wavy
  • Leaf Notes: The leaf veins (5 to 9) all start from the base of the leaf and sweep toward the tip. The veins are also obvious as they are like channels that are lower than the top of the leaf. The stem of the leaf is trough shaped. (Looking at the shape of the leaf, veins and stem, you can’t help but wonder if they evolved/are designed to collect and channel water to the center of the plant to water the root in times of little precipitation.)
  • Flowers: The tightly packed, small flowers are a brown tinted green on a spike 5–15 cm (2 to 6 inches ) long on a stem 10–30 cm (4 to 12 inches ) tall (in perfect conditions, sometimes significantly taller). There are usually 3 to 10 of these spikes (6 seems about average) coming from the center base of the plant.
  • Fruit: Tiny yellowish tan to reddish tan oval shaped seeds with off-center pointed ends. Each plant can produce huge numbers of seeds. (Don’t eat the seeds)
  • Habitat: Full to part sun. Disturbed soils, compacted soils. Lawns, gardens, pathways, fields. Very often found on or along well used dirt trails as it can withstand being walked on and growing in very hard packed soil.

Web Resources:

  • Recipe search on the web here (Google search) and here (Bing search).
  • Pictures on the web here (Google images) and here (Bing images).
  • Interactive USDA distribution map and plant profile here.
  • The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) distribution map here. BONAP map color key here.

Broadleaf Plantain, Common Plantain or Greater Plantain (Plantago major) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.

Broadleaf Plantain, Common Plantain or Greater Plantain (Plantago major) illustration. (By: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany)

Broadleaf Plantain, Common Plantain or Greater Plantain (Plantago major) leaf and flower stalk. (By: Rasbak GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

Broadleaf Plantain, Common Plantain or Greater Plantain (Plantago major) flowers up close. (By: H. Zell GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2)

Broadleaf Plantain, Common Plantain or Greater Plantain (Plantago major) seeds. (Steve Hurst, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)

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3 Steps to Rightly Plant Your Plantain Suckers for Maximum Yield

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Have you ever wondered why some healthy, vigorously growing plantain suckers with a high yielding potential produce little fruits upon maturity?

Have you ever planted your suckers only to be hit with the disappearance of rain as soon as you plant your suckers, leading to low yields?

Many farmers experienced this too.

Having properly set up their plantain farms based on all the processes highlighted in previous series of this post, they found out that at maturity, some of the plantains has few hands (low yield) leading to poor sales and poor income for the farmer.

Some also discovered that some months, even weeks, after planting their suckers, the rains suddenly disappear and leave them to artificially supplying water to their growing suckers which is usually quite stressful and energy-sapping.

If you do not plant your suckers very close to their optimum time, with the right technique and put them in the right hole size, they would not give their best yield and that will mean low sales and low income to your pocket. You do not want that, right?
So how will you go about it?

Time to Plant

Suckers are planted immediately after field preparation. Plantains can be planted throughout the rainy season. However, they should grow vigorously and without water stress during the first 3 to 4 months after planting. Therefore they should not be planted during the last months of the rainy season.

Planting with the first rains or last rains may be agronomically sound but financially disadvantageous. Most farmers will plant at the onset of the rains, causing the market to be flooded with bunches 9 to 12 months after planting, when prices will be very low.

Planting with the last rains will mean more stress for the farmer as he must artificially supply water to the plants so as to maintain the optimum soil moisture content and ensure good yield.

Hence, planting in the middle of the rainy season is a better proposition as plantains will then be produced off-season and get high prices.

Hole Size to Plant In

Plant holes are prepared with a minimum size of about 30 cm x 30cm x 30 cm, which is about the length of a plastic ruler. Holes can be dug with a shovel. If you are planting for fruit production it should be spaced about 8 to 10 feet.

Process for Planting

Care should be taken to separate the topsoil from bottom soil. The sucker is placed in the hole and its corm is covered, first with the topsoil and then with the bottom soil. This is because the top soil is more fertile than the sub soil and the new sucker requires much nutrients. To supplement the fertility of the top soil, manure can be mixed with it before being placed in the hole.

In the plant hole, the side of the sucker corm which was formerly attached to the corm of its mother plant is placed against the wall of the hole. The opposite side of the sucker’ corm is placed towards the middle of the plant hole, where the soil is loose.

The best sucker (the future ratoon) will emerge at the side opposite to where the planted sucker was previously attached to the mother plant. If the land is sloping, the sucker should be so oriented that its follower will emerge against the slope. That will delay the development of the so-called high mat when the ratoon crop grows out of the soil and exposes the corm.

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Let ’em Grow: Plantain

This is one in a series of very short articles that might change your mind about some surprisingly good weeds. And even if your mind isn’t changed, you’ll still be well informed.


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Aunt Bett said: “There’s two things you’ll need, food and medicine. You’ve got both right here. Let ’em grow.” She pointed to the weed that grew from under the rock at her feet. It was broadleaf plantain: Plantago major.

Commonly called plantain, the plantago species is considered a weed throughout much of the world, but before we dismiss it completely, let’s take a look at what it provides for us. This article is about the small plant, the common herb, and is not to be confused with the banana-like fruit of the genus Musa.

Description: The broadleaf plantain has leaves that are well rounded and often as long as 6 inches or more. The leaves grow close to the ground and the flowers are on a spike that rises from the middle of the cluster of leaves.

The narrow-leaf plantain has leaves up to 8 or 10 inches long and perhaps an inch at its widest area. The leaves, which form a rosette at the base, are covered with hairs. The flowers are small and inconspicuous.

I’ll be talking about broadleaf plantain here, though most of the same characteristics are true of the narrow-leaf and other species.

Edible Parts: The young tender leaves of the broadleaf variety are edible raw and are most often used in salads. Older leaves should be cooked and can be used in soups and in roasts or as a green sauce. Seeds are edible raw or roasted.

Medicinal: Briefly, to relieve pain from wounds and sores, wash and soak the entire plant for a short time and apply it to the injured area. To treat diarrhea, drink tea made from 1 ounce of the plant leaves boiled in about 2 – 3 cups of water. The seeds and seed husks act as laxatives.

Plantain seed husks expand and become mucilaginous when wet, especially those of P. psyllium, which is used in common over-the-counter bulk laxative and fiber supplement products such as Metamucil.

More specifically, plantago species have been used since prehistoric times as herbal remedies. The herb is astringent, anti-toxic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine, as well as demulcent, expectorant, styptic and diuretic. Externally, a poultice of the leaves is useful for insect bites, poison-ivy rashes, minor sores, and boils. In folklore it was even claimed to be able to cure snakebite, giving the narrow leaf variety the old common name of ‘snakeplant’. Internally, it is used for coughs and bronchitis, as a tea, tincture, or syrup, as well as a laxative as mentioned above.

Treating Burns:

Applying plantain topically to the skin may help to treat burns. You can apply the whole leaf to the burn as a poultice to soothe pain, reduce tissue inflammation and encourage tissue repair.

Relieving Dermatitis:

Topical applications of plantain can help to treat poison ivy, poison oak and other types of contact dermatitis. Plantain is also used to treat insect stings and bites. In addition, a preliminary clinical trial found that applying ointment containing 10 percent ground plantain in a petroleum jelly base helped to treat the inflammatory skin conditions impetigo and ecthyma, notes the University of Michigan Health System. To treat burns, dermatitis and insect stings, the University of Michigan recommends applying the whole fresh leaves directly to the affected skin areas three or four times per day.

(Source for medicinal treatment for burns and dermatitis found here.) ~*~ The plantago species holds little beauty except to honeybees, but its medicinal properties far outweigh those that are negative. Plantago: Let ’em grow!


Plantain Family (Plantaginaceae)

Other Names:

Origin and Distribution:

Originated in Eurasia and is currently distributed throughout the world. A botanist found broadleaf plantain so widespread in New England in 1798 that he classified it as a native. Broadleaf plantain is naturalized throughout Ohio, but its occurrence is less frequent in western parts of the state. It is rarely found in wet or shaded sites. Both species are common in areas where the soil is compacted or disturbed including turfgrass, landscapes, orchards, nurseries, waste places, and cultivated fields. The plants grow on a wide range of soils from sand to clay loams, but they prefer rich, moist soils. Plantains tolerate constant disturbance such as mowing and trampling.

Plant Description:

Broadleaf plantain is a perennial that frequently inhabits turfgrass, where it survives repeated mowing by growing as a ground-hugging rosette. The species has large, oval, strongly ribbed leaves and small, inconspicuous flowers appearing in clusters on solitary, erect flower stems. Broadleaf plantain leaves are thick, leathery, and taper to a petiole having a green base. Seeds are the primary means by which this species reproduce, although it is capable of reproducing vegetatively from root fragments.

  • Root System:

    Roots are mostly fibrous with a short taproot.

  • Seedlings and Shoots:

    First 2 leaves to emerge (cotyledons) are spatula-shaped, covered with a powdery coating, and have 3 parallel veins. Subsequent leaves are oval, have 3 to 5 prominent veins, and develop into a basal rosette.

  • Stems:

    The erect flowering stems (scapes) are less than 12 inches tall, leafless, unbranched, and terminate in a cluster of small, inconspicuous flowers.

  • Leaves:

    Mature leaves are thick, leathery, broad, oval, up to 12 inches long, and have 3 or more prominent veins running parallel to the leaf edge. Leaf edges are either smooth or irregularly toothed. Leaves attach to the compressed stem of the rosette by way of a thick green petiole that is about as long as the leaf blade.

  • Flowers:

    Inconspicuous greenish or white flowers are clustered in long, narrow spikes at the end of a flowering stem.

  • Fruits and Seeds:

    Fruits are egg-shaped capsules less than 1/4 inch long and split across the middle into 2 equal segments containing 6 to 20 brown, glossy, ridged seeds.

Similar Species:

Buckhorn plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is a similarly-appearing relative that has narrower, lance-shaped leaves tapering to a short petiole and a much more compressed flower cluster. Blackseed plantain (Plantago rugelli) is another similar species that has a petiole having a puplish base, rather than the green base that broadleaf plantian has. Hoary plantain (Plantago media) is also similar in appearance except its leaves are elliptic, thick, and covered with wooly hairs.


Both plantain species flower from June through September. Seeds are dispersed by wind, birds, or human activity. When wet, seeds develop a sticky mucilaginous cover that causes them to stick on soil particles and adhere to animals. BROADLEAF PLANTAIN can produce up to 14,000 seeds per plant per year and seeds may remain viable for up to 60 years. Seeds germinate in late spring, through midsummer, and again in early fall.


None known.

Facts and Folklore:

  • ‘Plantain’ is from the French word meaning ‘sole of the foot’ referring to the plant’s flat leaves.

  • Plantains were once highly esteemed medicinal herbs. Leaves were used to treat bites, stings, cuts, sore feet, and ailments of the eyes, tongue, and mouth.

  • Young plantain leaves are used in China and Japan as a vegetable similar to spinach.

  • Birds are fond of plantain seeds, which contain a higher percentage of oil than many seeds and are grown commercially and included in some bird seed mixtures.

Plantinis – Plantain Leaf Martinis

I won’t lie. You aren’t gonna win any favor serving these at your stuffy cocktail party.This is something you share with your best friends – the ones who won’t lie to your face and tell you that your dirt-like decoction is to die for. They’re the ones who would as likely say, “Ew, this is gross… let’s go get some beers.” Don’t get me wrong… it’s not unpalatable. It’s not even gross if you’re accustomed to earthy herbal tea. I love a plantini, but it ain’t a mint julep. What gives it gravity is plantain’s potent liver and kidney medicine. And the name. Who wouldn’t smile saying, “Plantinis, anyone?”

Plantain is one of the most overlooked wild edible/medicinal plants, in my opinion. I’m not talking about bananas, fried Cuban-style. I’m talking about the “weed” that grows feral in your yard and garden and in fields and vacant lots everywhere – plantain of the Plantago genus. White Man’s Foot, Snakeweed, Healing Blade: a few common names.

Both Chaucer and Shakespeare wrote of plantain’s healing prowess. Pliny the Elder thought so much of it, he believed that “put in a pot where many pieces of flesh are boiling, it will sodden them together.” Nicholas Culpeper maintained, “All plantains are good wound herbs to heal fresh or old wounds, or sores, either inward or outward.” Early Europeans called plantain “the mother of herbs.”

Most folks who are familiar with herbal medicine are familiar with plantain. They know it makes an outstanding poultice for stings, cuts, bug bites and poison ivy, among other skin-related maladies. What’s not so well known these days is how plantain really shines when taken internally.

Common plantain,
Plantago major

Traditionally, plantain was used as a powerful blood cleaner. It was prescribed to protect the liver from the damaging effects of foreign toxins as well as to reduce swelling from kidney disease. Plantain has also been used to treat kidney stones by dissolving calcium and magnesium. It’s the perfect mixer for gettin’ yo likka drank on – that’s Southernese for “cocktail.”

I like to keep a supply of plantain around the house for making medicinal tea, so I cut as much as I can in season and dry some for the cold months. My last batch came from our community garden where plantain grows like the weed it is. It gets enormous in the amended soil and takes about a tenth of the time to harvest compared with foraging a field. In five minutes, I had a sackful of plantain on my shoulder that would make Santa Claus wince – enough to start an herb shop. I’ve found that most gardeners love how I’m so enthusiastic about weeding their plots.

Lance Leaf Plantain,
Plantago lanceolata

The key component in a plantini is plantain tea. I make it by filling a mason jar or tea pot with fresh plantain. You can use leaves, seeds and roots, although I’ve never taken the time to dig roots since the leaves are so prolific. I use scissors to cut it all up. Then I pour enough boiling water to cover and let it steep until it’s room temperature. Once it’s cool enough, you can strain and drink right away, refrigerate for a few days or freeze for a few months. If you’re using dried plantain, fill your jar about 1/4 full and top off with boiling water. Fresh plantain makes a green tea while dried plantain makes a brown tea. Either way, I’m a firm believer that fresh is better, so I use it fresh when I can. I may try growing some in a cold frame next winter.

I usually make plantinis with one part vodka to two parts plantain tea, but if you like a stronger drink, by all means, up the vodka. Then garnish with an olive or two, or, if you’re really daring, a pickled ramp bulb. A word of caution, though. We once had some good foraging friends over for plantinis. I thought it would be cool to garnish them with fresh ramp bulbs. Don’t do that. That sent us all running for the nearest bar, carefully avoiding close conversation, full plantinis forsaken.

Plantain is peaking now with its spiky seed heads poking up all around the garden. It’s the perfect time of year to host a plantini party. Do yourself a favor and weed your garden. Then celebrate its weedlessness with a plantini. And don’t forget to toast the mighty plantain!

Observations of two plantains

Here’s a typical plantain found around the world — usually in waste places, or lawns where it is regarded as a weed. This is English plantain (Plantago lanceolata). Another plantain found in similar locations is the Common plantain (Plantago major).

The following image compares the leaves of these two plantains. On the left you can see the lance-shaped leaves of Plantago lanceolata while a leaf of P. major is on the right.

Both plants have leaves with parallel veins — an identifying characteristic.

Let’s look at another specimen of Common plantain. Notice the flower spikes arising from the basal rosette.

Another view of Common plantain’s flower spikes . . .

And now for a close look at the flowers on a single spike . . . The flowers mature from the bottom to the top. So the lower portion looks brown (from the anthers), while the middle portion shows bits of white, and the top portion of the spike has still developing flowers.

Turning back to English plantain (Plantago lanceolata), its flower spikes also arise from the basal rosette.

The flowers on the English plantain inflorescence also mature from the bottom to the top.

And here’s a very close view of those flowers which are so familiar to many of us . . .

But wait. Here’s another type of inflorescence growing from an English plantain. . .

These flowers also mature from the bottom to the top. Yet they do not have those little creamy white flags flying out from the inflorescence. Let’s get the “very close” view of these flowers.

So what’s going on here? It looks like the first type of English plantain inflorescence consists of staminate flowers. The little white “flags” are the anthers (at the end of the stamens) which carry the pollen. The last two sets of images show a pistillate inflorescence — with a single white pistil extending as a fine thread from each flower.

According to John Andrew Eastman in The Book of Field and Roadside: Open-Country Weeds, Trees and Wildflowers: “Flowers may be pistillate (all female), staminate (all male), or bisexual — but all flowers are the same on an individual plant.” Aahh, this confirms the observations and related conclusions!

NOTE (January 15, 2015): Also, check out the video portrait of English plantain with a detailed description of the plant’s yearly growth cycle.

Ribwort Plantain (Plantago laceolata)

How to Identify Ribwort Plantain


Scientific Name: Plantago laceolata

Family: Plantaginaceae

Also known as: Narrowleaf plantain, English plantain, ribleaf and lamb’s tongue.

Habitat: Europe, including Britain, from Iceland south and east to Spain, northern and central Asia. Grassland, roadsides etc, a common weed of lawns and cultivated ground, on neutral and basic soils.

Description: The plant is a rosette-forming perennial herb, with leafless, silky, hairy flower stems.

Identifying Features:

  • Leaves – The basal leaves are lanceolate spreading or erect, scarcely toothed with 3-5 strong parallel veins narrowed to short petiole.
  • Flowers – Stalk deeply furrowed, ending in an ovoid inflorescence of many small flowers each with a pointed bract. Flowers 4 millimetres (0.16 in) (calyx green, corolla brownish), 4 bent back lobes with brown midribs, long white stamens.
  • Seeds – Each flower can produce up to two seeds.



Young leaves – raw or cooked. They are rather bitter and very tedious to prepare, the fibrous strands are best removed prior to eating. The very young leaves are somewhat better and are less fibrous. Seed – cooked. Used like sago. The seed can be ground into a powder and added to flours when making bread, cakes or whatever. The leaves and seed heads taste of mushroom, and can be boiled up to make a nice mushroom stock.


Ribwort plantain is a safe and effective treatment for bleeding, it quickly staunches blood flow and encourages the repair of damaged tissue. The leaves contain mucilage, tannin and silic acid. An extract of them has antibacterial properties. They have a bitter flavour and are astringent, demulcent, mildly expectorant, haemostatic and ophthalmic. Internally, they are used in the treatment of a wide range of complaints including diarrhoea, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhage, haemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, asthma and hay fever. They are used externally in treating skin inflammations, malignant ulcers, cuts, stings etc. The heated leaves are used as a wet dressing for wounds, swellings etc. The root is a remedy for the bite of rattlesnakes, it is used in equal portions with Marrubium vulgare. The seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic worms. Plantain seeds contain up to 30% mucilage which swells up in the gut, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. Sometimes the seed husks are used without the seeds. A distilled water made from the plant makes an excellent eye lotion.


Love munching on the leaves and seed heads for the mushroom flavour.

Known Hazards

None known.


Leaves come up from March, but can be hard to spot when so young. Flower from Apr to August. Seeds ripen from Jun to September.

Potential lookalikes

Other members of the Plantain family, such as Greater, or common Plantain, but they are all edible and have similar uses.

You’ve probably seen this plant growing in your yard and along the sidewalks but did you know this plant has medicinal properties?

Today the plantain is considered a weed but it was considered a sacred herb in the Anglo-Saxon medical text, Lacnunga. It is one of nine herbs used to treat poisonings and infections.

Today the plantain is considered a weed but it was considered a sacred herb in the Anglo-Saxon medical text, Lacnunga. It is one of nine herbs used to treat poisonings and infections.

The Native Americans would keep powdered plantain root with them as a form of protection against rattlesnakes. They also gave the plantain the name “Englishman’s Foot” or “White Man’s Footprint” because the plant seemed to follow the colonist as they traveled throughout the Americas. This is one way they believe the plant was brought over to the Americas.

The plantain is often confused with the banana-like plant called the plantain. These plants are not related.


Common Name: Plantain, Common Plantain, Broadleaf Plantain
Scientific Name: Plantago major
Leaves- 6-18inches, oval, wavy or toothed margins, ribbed
Flower- slender, elongated
Harvest Time: Leaves & Roots April-October, Seeds July-October
Parts Edible: Leaves, Roots, & Seeds
Found: Found throughout North America, most of Europe, and Northern-Central Asia, in yards, meadows, waste places

Common Plantain (Plantago major)

Common Name: Plantain, English Plantain, Ribwort Plantain, Narrowleaf Plantain
Scientific Name: Plantago lanceolata
Leaves- 10-23inches, lanceolate shape, 3-ribbed
Flower- tiny, white, on a short cylindrical head
Harvest Time: Leaves April-November, Seeds June-September
Parts Edible: Leaves & Seeds
Found: Found throughout North America, most of Europe, Iceland, Spain, and Northern-Central Asia, in yards, meadows, waste places

English Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)

Historic Uses

Plantago major

-Latin American folk remedy for cancer
-Root was used as an astringent and used to treat rattlesnake bites
-Bruised leaves used to treat small wounds, sores, insect bites, and burns
-Seeds used to treat parasitic worms
-Leaves used internally to treat diarrhea, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, asthma and hay fever
-Leaves used externally to treat cuts, skin inflammations, and stings

Plantago lanceolata

-Leaf tea has been used to treat coughs, diarrhea, dysentery, and bronchitis
-Used in Europe to treat bronchitis and bronchial spasms
-Approved in Europe to treat catarrh in the upper respiratory tract as well as in the mouth and throat
-Leaves have been used to treat blisters, sores, ulcers, swelling, insect stings, and earaches
-Leaves have been used as an astringent, demulcent, and are a mild expectorant
-Leaves used internally to treat diarrhea, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, asthma and hay fever
-Heated wet leaves have been used to dress small wounds and swelling
-Seeds used to make a fabric stiffener
-The entire plant has been used to make golden to brown dyes

Vitamins, Minerals, & More

Leaf contains:

  • Vitamins A, C, K
  • Fiber
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Tannins

-Known antimicrobial, antioxidant, stimulant, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory
-Active compounds include mucilage and phenolic acids

Seed Contains:

  • Vitamin B1

Plantain seeds


-Leaves dried for tea
-Leaves used in salves & tinctures
-Leaves are eaten in salads, sometimes blanched first and fibrous strands removed
-Fresh leaves used to make poultices
-Seeds, when boiled, can be used like sago
-Seeds can be ground and added to flour


-May cause rare contact dermatitis


-Leaves are best harvested in the spring for eating
-Seeds best harvested in fall


–Mint, Calendula & Plantain Herbal Bath Salts
–How to make a plantain poultice, the right way
–Cooling Aloe Plantain Cubes
–Plantago Chips Recipe

Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting

  1. Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
  2. Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
  3. Do not harvest on private property without permission
  4. Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
  5. Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
  6. Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)

–Plants For A Future: Plantago lanceolata
–Plants for a Future: Plantago major
–USDA Plantago lanceolata
–USDA Plantago major
–The Health Benefits of the Plantain Leaf
–The Five Healthiest Backyard Weeds
-Foster, Steven, and James Duke A. Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 100-102. Print.

Disclaimer: All information on Not Your Typical Hippie is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for every person. Please consult a doctor before making any health changes. I am not liable for any choices you make based on the information provided on this website. (Learn more here)

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