This past weekend, I decided to harvest some Plantain to make an infused oil which I will turn into salve in six weeks. Plantain is the first plant I formally studied in my herbal program, however, I was already familiar with plantain’s wonderful healing properties for the skin and use it often to make a healing salve for family and friends.
During my class, we were given an assignment to take our chosen herb internally as well as externally. I made plantain tea and capsules. I had noticeable effects from the plantain capsules! It turns out that plantain is an effective, gentle laxative! Plantain also has properties to slow diarrhea. It can help both constipation and diarrhea because it acts as a regulator in the large intestines (Wood, 1997).
Here are a few pictures of my plantain oil making. Below the pics are some notes I wrote for class. Enjoy!
Plantain growing near my patio.
Plantain leaves washed. I then let them air dry
Put plantain leaves in a jar and fill to the rim with extra virgin olive oil
Label, shake every day for one week, then let the oil infuse for a total of six weeks. Strain before use. I always include the date the infusion will be ready on my label so I don’t have to count on my fingers. 🙂 I like to use painters tape to label my jars because its easy to remove and doesn’t leave a sticky residue like labels.
Plantago major (Plantain) grows just about everywhere. Often popping up in driveways, and cracks in sidewalks. It thrives in poor soil. Plantain is self-fertile and the seeds are carried by the wind (pfaf.org) as well as on shoes. It is suspected that colonists transported the seeds with them and “wherever the English have taken possession of the soil the Plantain springs up” (Grieve, 1971) which explains the abundance of plantain growing in the United States.
“Native Americans carried powdered roots of Plantain as protection against snakebites or to ward off snakes” (altnature.com).
The Pennsylvania Dutch used the juice of plantain to soothe tired feet, treat insect bites, treat hemorrhoids, and eliminate intestinal worms (doctorschar.com).
The Chinese have used plantain to treat infertility, rheumatism, urinary infections, and diarrhea (doctorschar.com).
“Colonial Americans used plantain to reduce prolonged fevers, prevent tuberculosis, and to treat cholera” (hollirichey.com).
Plantain is most commonly applied as a poultice, a salve, or brewed and drank as tea.
“Leaves of Plantago Major have been used for centuries almost all over the world as a wound healing remedy, and for other medicinal purposes. Polyphenols have been proposed to be responsible for many of the medicinal properties attributed to P. major” (Zubair, 2012).
Polyphenols are phytochemicals found in plants, many of which are antioxidants (Venes, 1867) meaning that they protect cells from damage (Venes, 160).
Plantago Major also contains Allantoin which “promotes the healing of injured skin” (Duke, 493). Allantoin has anti-inflammatory properties which reduce inflammation, and they have anti-ulcer and sunscreen properties (Dr. Dukes).
Plantain also contains Mucilage in the leaves and the seeds. Mucilage can be cancer preventative and is demulcent (Dr. Dukes) which is an oily or mucilaginous agent that soothes or softens irritated (Taber, 643) skin.
Plantain contains Selenium, a mineral with antioxidant properties (webmd), iron which helps blood cells, and magnesium which is sometimes used to treat skin ulcers and boils and to speed the healing of wounds (webmd).
Plantain’s phytochemicals can work individually and together to help heal external wounds. Some phytochemicals protect the skin, while others lubricate, speed healing, and reduce inflammation.
According to Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical databases, Plantago Major contains 572 “distinct activities”. Many qualities of this plant have not yet been researched. Even though some of the phytochemicals that Plantain contains can benefit the body internally, many have qualities that are specific to wound healing, soothing irritation, and reducing swelling. Plantain is an excellent plant to aid in protecting, healing and repairing the skin.
According to Dr. Duke, Plantago Major contains 26 antioxidants including Beta-carotene, Salicylic acid, Riboflavin, and Tyrosol (Dr. Dukes).
Beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A, otherwise known as retinol, benefiting the skin by prompting cell turnover and “making way for new cell growth underneath” (webmd). “We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucus membranes, our immune system, and good eye health and vision” (medical news).
Plantain also contains Salicylic Acid which works by softening the proteins which are part of skin structure, allowing dry, scaly skin to be easily removed. (Derm net) Once this happens, other constituents present in Plantain are more easily absorbed by the skin.
Riboflavin or vitamin B2 is required for proper development of many parts of the body including the digestive tract, blood cells, and skin (NIH). Plantain also contains Tyrosol. In one study on Tyrosol (a main phenol present in extra virgin olive oil) induced a higher resistance to thermal and oxidative stress, reducing the effects of ageing (Cañuelo, 2012). Tyrosol is a powerful antioxidant which helps extend the life of cells.
The Beta-carotene, Salicylic Acid, Riboflavin, and Tyrosol help to contribute to Plantain’s properties by allowing active constituents to reach the skin, promoting cell turnover, helping the skin to rebuild, and extending the life of the newer skin cells.
Cañuelo, A., Gilbert-López, B., Pacheco-Liñán, P., Martínez-Lara, E., Siles, E., & Miranda-Vizuete, A. (2012). Tyrosol, a main phenol present in extra virgin olive oil, increases lifespan and stress resistance in Caenorhabditis elegans. Mechanisms Of Ageing And Development, 133(8), 563-574. doi:10.1016/j.mad.2012.07.004
Dermnetnz.org, “Salicylic Acid”, Derm Net NZ, Retrieved from http://dermnetnz.org/treatments/salicylic-acid.html
Duke, James. (1997). The Green Pharmacy, The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from the World’s Foremost Authority on Healing Herbs. New York: Rodale Press, Inc.
Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases, Plantago Major, Accessed 15 February 2014.
Grieve, M. (1971). A Modern Herbal: Volume II. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
medicalnewstoday.com , “What Is Beta-Carotene? What Are The Benefits Of Beta-Carotene?”, Medical News Today, Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/252758.php
nlm.nih.gov, “Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)”, National Institutes of Health, Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/957.html#Action
Venes, Donald, and Clarence Wilbur Taber. Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis, 2013.
webmd.com, Retinoids for Anti-Aging Skin”, Web MD, Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/beauty/aging/retinoids-for-aging-skin
Webmd.com, Selenium, Web MD, Retreived from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-selenium
Webmd.com, Magnesium, Web MD, Retreived from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-998-magnesium.aspx?activeIngredientId=998&activeIngredientName=magnesium&source=1
Wood, M. (1997). The Book of Herbal Wisdon: Using Plants as Medicine. (pp. 389-395). Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.
Zubair, M., Nybom, H., Ahnlund, M., & Rumpunen, K. (2012). Detection of genetic and phytochemical differences between and within populations of Plantago major L. (plantain). Scientia Horticulturae, 1369-16. doi:10.1016/j.scienta.2012.01.002
Hi, welcome to my humble abode! I’m Charlena, wife, mother of two, pet mommy, full-time worker, sporadic crafter, former floral designer, trial and error gardener, future chicken owner, and wanna be farmer. I have a Master’s degree in Therapeutic Herbalism. In between my disjointed, seemingly unrelated posts, I hope to share some of what I’ve learned. Thanks for stopping by!