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Plantain

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Peanut

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Plantain or Plantago is a genus of medicinal plants. World wide there are a dozen or so species, all of them originally grew in the northern hemisphere. There are 4 or 5 species native to north America. The one most commonly found east of the Mississippi river is Plantago virginica or Virginia plantain.

All of these species are commonly called “Plantain’. There is a banana fruit also commonly called Plantain, it’s completely unrelated.

I’ve posted pictures of 3 species commonly found in the eastern US. (1) Lanceleaf plantain or Plantago lanceolata is native to England, it’s sometimes called English plantain. (2) Common plantain or Plantago major is native to Europe. (3) The last one is native to North America – Virginia plantain.

Lance leaf Plantain

Plantago lanceolata (1).jpg Plantago lanceolata (2).jpg

Common Plantain

Plantago major (1).jpg Plantago major (2).jpg Plantago major (3).jpg

Virginia Plantain

Plantago virginica (1).jpg Plantago virginica (2).jpg

Settlers brought lance leaf and common plantain with them. Native Americans called these plants “White man’s foot prints” because were ever a settler went one of these plantains appeared. They were that important as a medicine.

These 3 plantains can be used interchangeably as medicine, I’ve used all 3. I most often use lance leaf because it’s the easiest to find. I only see Virginia plantain from late January to late April.

Common plantain grows from late March to late fall but it’s very rare during the heat of summer. It rarely grows in the wild, it’s a very “people friendly” plant. I most often find it in the suburbs or in small towns. It’s usually found in very shady places, like the north side of house where there is a leaky faucet. It loves water and shade. It tends to grow in thick patches.

The leaves of common plantain vary in size. In the photos the leaves are about the size and shape of a lemon. I have seen it with leaves larger than my hand. Its leaves share a common trait with its English cousin, both have very pronounced veins. Virginia plantain has no veins. All 3 species put up noticeable seed stalks

Lance Leaf Plantain is the most common of the 3. It’s a very hardy plant. I’ve found it growing in January and under the August sun in Alabama. It’s not people friendly, it loves wild places. I find it most often on the shoulders of roads or the edge of fields. It will grow at the edge of a lawn if you run your lawnmower at the highest setting.

As medicines… Plantain has one very unique property, modern medicine has no equivalent. It can “draw out”. It’s not the only plant that can do this but it’s chief among the group. Say you have a spider bite or wasp sting or even a snake bite, it can draw out the venom. Say you have an abscessed tooth, it can draw out the infection, just chew it up like a wad of tobacco and hold it between your cheek and gum. It won't heal what caused the abscess but will buy you a few days until you can get to a dentist. It can also draw out the infection from a shallow infected cut.

Its other greatest attribute is its ability to heal our skin. It causes a cut or abrasion to heal much faster than normal. It will even cause a very serious wound or cut to seal quickly. There is a danger here… it can close a wound so quickly that infection can be trapped deep inside. If I needed to treat a deep cut or wound there are several plants I would use. Plantain is on the list but only after I was sure there was no deep infection. Plantain it great for any sore in the mouth or ulcer or boil.

There are dozens of other uses for Plantain but I’m going to skip those… The herb books I’ve posted in the library go into these in great detail.

Highlights… I posted in another thread – Virginia plantain is the first plant I used to heal. I had a serious brown recluse spider bite. After three days, I could no longer see where the spider bit me. I would chew a plantain leaf to break the cell structure. I would hold the chewed leaf on the bite with a band aid. I put on a fresh leaf every time the old one dried out, about every 4 hours.

If I made a list of the 11 plants I use most often as medicine... plantain is on the list… I use plantain more often than the other 10 combined. This plant is my “go to”, any kind of insect bite, cut, scrape, sore, boil… It’s the best thing going for poison ivy! In the warm months of the year I use plantain almost daily. I understand why the early settlers took plantain with them everywhere they went.

And for comic relief… my favorite fun fact about plantain! If you look at a bottle of Metamucil at the bottom of the label you will see the words “Psyllium Fiber Capsules”

https://www.healthline.com/health/psyllium-health-benefits

Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds. It sometimes goes by the name ispaghula.

Plantago? Where have I heard that name before? So yes… If you have ever taken a Metamucil capsule you have swallowed Plantain. Is plantain safe? I’d say yes, millions of people swallow a plantain capsule everyday.

Plantago ovata is grown commercially in India/Spain and Portugal to make Metamucil.
 
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Bacpacker

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I'm almost certain I have both Lance Leaf and Common growing here at the house. Possibly the Virginia type as well. I'll do more research on how to use these. But just as a quick version, do you use these as a dried mix, tincure, or just fresh?
 

Peanut

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I'm almost certain I have both Lance Leaf and Common growing here at the house. Possibly the Virginia type as well. I'll do more research on how to use these. But just as a quick version, do you use these as a dried mix, tincure, or just fresh?
I prefer fresh leaf at anytime for bites/scrapes (external). I keep external tincture made with rubbing alcohol for cuts or bites that aren't in convenient locations. Places where a band aid is more convenient. I soak the pad of a band aid with tincture. I also keep internal tincture made with 100 proof vodka for internal uses... Just be sure you label the bottles correctly... wouldn't want anyone consuming wood alcohol.

But yeah... I love fresh leaf! Did I mention you can use it as a pot herb when cooking? It makes the stew taste a little mediciney... but hey, in a pinch! It's high in fiber! ;)
 
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Peanut

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Above I described chewing leaves to break cell structure of the leaves… not the most sanitary thing to do. I used various little wheels for breaking cell structure in leaves in the years since, nothing ever worked well.

This winter I finally found the tool I’ve needed for years… It’s a tool used by leather workers to lay out locations for stitches when sewing leather together, either marking spots to punch holes or sew thinner pieces together.

I literally use fresh leaf 10 months out of the year. I’ve used this little tool to break cell structure 7 times since I got it in late January. I roll the wheel back and forth across a leaf repeatedly to punch holes in cell walls. The wheel at the end of the tool punches a hole every 16th of an inch.

Plantain wheel_v1.jpg
 

angie_nrs

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Awesome information Peanut! I'm quite certain we have all 3 kinds up north. I know we have common plantain all over the place. I will definitely be on the lookout when I go mushroom picking this year and just on regular walks......If the snow ever melts!:confused:

This is definitely a post I will use!!!! Thank you!
 

angie_nrs

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Peanut....or anyone else who can answer..... How do you make the tincture? Can you just pick the leaves, wash, mash with the above tool and put into a small jar and add 100 proof vodka? I was told to shake it every so often but that you could actually leave the leaves in the tincture until it's used up. That's how I was taught to make tinctures several years ago, but I don't know if it applies to all plants or just the ones that I made. What do you think?
 

Peanut

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I put under herbs books in the library "The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook... every prepper should own a copy.... It covers just about everything you need to know about using plants as medicine.

@angie_nrs Yeah... I'd rinse them if covered with dust, dirt or something obvious... Remember, you're putting them into alcohol. That'll kill any germs or tiny critters.

Rip the leaves up with your hands, kitchen shears, scissors, what ever it takes. I use a mezzaluna knife for large batches, makes quick work of a big bowl or basket of herbs.

Cut the leaves about the size of the picture... the idea is a smaller size best allows the menstruum to penetrate and extract the chemical properties of the herbs. Large pieces of herbs prevent or at least slow the work of the menstruum.

Q. Would strawberry flavor spread better in your icecream if dropped one large berry or chopped it up in little pieces? Same idea applies to tinctures. The chemical properties of the herb spread better into the liquid if chopped up in little pieces.

For a simplers tincture... fill the jar with your chopped herbs, pack the herbs down a little. Pour in vodka until it's about an inch over the herbs. The herbs will try to float up... thats okay... Pour distilled water, about a cup, into a ziplock sandwich bag, push out left over air and seal it... Put it in the top of the jar. This will press the herbs back below the menstruum without changing the vodka/water ratio in the menstruum.

There should be youtube videos showing how to do a simplers or a volume tincture.

Edit... Leaving herbs in the jar after they have given up their chemicals is pointless and they get in the way. They don't hurt anything other than that. Yes... shake the jar every few days... plantain gives up its goodness in about a month. Then you can use it with or without the herb left in the jar...

Edit one more time... Even something as simple as making a plantain tincture has variables. There could be a few or many depending on the situation.

Thats why I've avoided writing something like this out... because no matter how well intentioned I can't cover every variable that might come up. A thread in a forum is the worst platform for trying to present information like this in a logical manner.

I strongly recommend that if you wish to make tinctures either take a few classes (there are on-line classes available) or get the book I've posted. Personally I like having books, they don't require the internet or electricity.

Poke 001 sm.jpg
 
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angie_nrs

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I put under herbs books in the library "The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook... every prepper should own a copy.... It covers just about everything you need to know about using plants as medicine.

Yeah... I'd rinse them if covered with dust, dirt or something obvious... Remember, you're putting them into alcohol. That'll kill any germs or tiny critters.

plantain gives up its goodness in about a month. Then you can use it with or without the herb left in the jar...
Is that the book by James Green?

Usually around here, I find plantain in alongside areas that are routinely driven on or walked on. So, it's usually dusty. Maybe I need to venture into the woods and see what else I can find. Ticks are pretty bad here right now so I'm a bit reluctant to do that.

I never really gave much thought to how long it would be effective, so thanks for that. I use the small glass jars....like half cup sized jars to make tinctures. That reminds me, I need to buy some more.

Thanks for sharing your expertise Peanut!!
 

Peanut

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@angie_nrs I'm picky about where I gather herbs. I stay away from paved areas. Paved means cars which means oil and other petroleum products. I'll make an exception for rarely used gravel roads but then only in carefully selected spots.

Roads aren't level... say a road curves right... the inside of the curve is lower in elevation than the outside of the curve. With rains any chemicals on the road will wash to the downhill side. On the bank of an outside curve being higher than the road anywhere close by.... I'll gather a herb for medicine but even then if I can find it no where else.

I won't even gather a herb in the woods if I know there was cropland there 60+ years ago... Around here crops mean cotton. DDT was used on cotton until the 60's. I'm sure I've collected herbs from locations without knowing its exact history but I do make the effort.

Thats why, for more than a decade, I've been transplanting and seeding medicinal plants here to the farm. My family has been here since the 1880's. I know what this land has been used for.
 

angie_nrs

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Good point on the roads. The roads I was referring to is more of a two track and walking path on our property. It's traveled on by a golf cart or just walking pretty much every day. We walk the dogs on it, so I prefer my plants without dog pee. LOL! All the berry bushes we pick higher up b/c of that too. Although our dogs actually pick berries off the vine and eat them, so they get the low hanging fruit anyways.

At the office where I work, there is a lot of dandelions. I don't harvest any of them there b/c of what you stated above. It used to be a highly manicured lawn, which means many fertilizers in the past. Well, it's not now, hense the dandelions.....but I'm still reluctant to harvest there. In addition that property is located along a busy highway which also gives me pause.

Is that book you mentioned above the James Green book?
 

Peanut

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Is that book you mentioned above the James Green book?
Yes! the one named "The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook". If you google the title you will see it's written by James Green. I put a photo of the cover in the Herbal medicine book thread.
 
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Bacpacker

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I just picked a big bowl on leaves of narrow leaf plantain, Plantego lanceloto. I think that is spelled right. I have lots of it. But not sure about the potency vs the 3 types Peanut named off. Gonna process it today. I only picked from my yard area. This used to be a large pasture field no reason crops grown here.
 
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Peanut

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@Bacpacker If you go back up and read the first post... I use the 3 species interchangeably, there is no difference in them. I use lance leaf most often because locally it can be found 11 months out of the year. The other two species are much more location and weather dependent as to availability.
 

Bacpacker

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Peanut, Mine look like lanceleaf plantain. But my app says they are narrow leaf. I'm guessing they are one and the same.
Went and picked up some 100 proof vodka tonight to make the mix with. As I was harvesting the leaves, most of what I was picking was small leaf plants from areas I had been mowing weekly. But I found a area that is under some brush and had grown quite large. 3 plants filled over half the bowl. While mowing later tonight I found 3 more patches that I hadn't mowed recently that had gotten very large as well. I'm gonna let some areas grow in years to come.
A question comes to mind. How easy is Plantain to transplant? What areas are best for it to grow, moist and shady, dry and sunny, or does it matter much. I can do either but want to get the best shot I can.
 

Peanut

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It's easiest to seed it. Plantago major and Plantago lanceolata both produce large seed heads.

Each species I posted at the top is different as to where it grows, moisture, sun or shade... Search by the latin names for growing locations if what I wrote isn't clear enough... I don't know how to write it any better. Is something I wrote confusing?
 

Bacpacker

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Not confusing to me. I just haven't been dealing with it before and trying to learn more.
I apprecieate all the postings u=you have made both on platain, and on all other mdeicinal plants.
 

Peanut

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I'm not very good at explaining things sometimes but try my best... If something could be explained better speak up!

After reading my first post again... there is something I've left out... Wild seed is different than cultivated crops, very different. Example... some of the Sedges (type of grass), their seed can lay dormant over 100 years before they sprout. Many, many species of wild seed can lay dormant for years waiting for the right conditions. Others will try to sprout laying on bare rock during a drought... you just never know.

So, just cause you plant or sow seed... don't expect to see it the next year...
 

Bacpacker

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I'm not very good at explaining things sometimes but try my best... If something could be explained better speak up!

After reading my first post again... there is something I've left out... Wild seed is different than cultivated crops, very different. Example... some of the Sedges (type of grass), their seed can lay dormant over 100 years before they sprout. Many, many species of wild seed can lay dormant for years waiting for the right conditions. Others will try to sprout laying on bare rock during a drought... you just never know.

So, just cause you plant or sow seed... don't expect to see it the next year...
From your experience when is the best time to collect seed for plantain? I have a lot of seed heads up. But haven't a clue of how to harvest of resow the seed from them. TO me they have just been a weed to mow down. Lot of learning yet to go for me. But I want to get started.
 

Peanut

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As individual seeds mature they fall off... the whole seed head doesn't get ripe then shed seed. If you see a few looking like they are ready grab them. Or... harvest a whole seed head, let it dry. I don't know which is best... sometimes seed comes up where I threw seed several years ago... Do I remember what I did? Nope!
 

Bacpacker

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Gotcha. Kinda hit or miss and figure it out as you go. The heads look to me to be similar to onion seed heads. Gonna try and just capture some and start in the winter and have ready in the spring to plant. But also, just plan better and recognize what's coming up in the spring. I missed my heals all and dandlion this year. May get some dandelion later. But I know what I'm looking for now. Thats at least a small step in the right direction.
Thanks for the help.
 

Patchouli

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Honestly, I'd try now to cast the seeds if you want it growing in your garden. I am not sure I've seen much of it in this area of Texas but it was everywhere back east.
Peanut, your writings are generally easy to understand and always appreciated.
 

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