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Wild Plantain

Wild Plantain

Wild Plantain

Plantago major, or Plantain, is an herbaceous, flowering, perennial species of Plantago. It grows in lawns and fields, along roadsides, and in other areas that have been disturbed by humans. Plantain does particularly well in compacted or disturbed soils and can survive repeated trampling. Native Americans called it "white man's footprint" because it appeared and thrived in disturbed areas around European settlements. Its roots work to break up hardpan soil and can help stop erosion. Plaintain is wind-pollinated and each plant can produce 20,000 small oval-shaped orange to black bitter-tasting seeds. This is a common lawn weed that is able to resist mowing because of its low basal leaves. Anti-inflammatory herbs may help people with bronchitis. Often these herbs contain complex polysaccharides and have a soothing effect; they are also known as demulcents. Plantain is a demulcent that has been documented in two preliminary trials conducted in Bulgaria to help people with chronic bronchitis. Other demulcents traditionally used for people with bronchitis include mullein, marshmallow , and slippery elm . Because demulcents can provoke production of more mucus in the lungs, they tend to be used more often in people with dry coughs. The mucilage of slippery elm gives it a soothing effect for coughs. Usnea also contains mucilage, which may be helpful in easing irritating coughs. There is a long tradition of using wild cherry syrups to treat coughs. Other traditional remedies to relieve coughs include bloodroot , catnip , comfrey (the above-ground parts, not the root), horehound , elecampane , mullein , lobelia , hyssop , licorice , mallow , (Malvia sylvestris), red clover , ivy leaf , pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides, Mentha pulegium), onion , (Allium cepa), and plantain (Plantago lanceolata, P. major). None of these has been investigated in human trials, so their true efficacy for relieving coughs is unknown.

Plantain flowers occur in compact spikes on erect, leafless stalks from among the basal leaves. Each spike is about the size and shape of a pencil but consisting of many, tiny, stalkless, greenish flowers giving it a coarsely granular texture. Each flower measures 2 to 3 mm (1/12- 1/8") across. Each flower has four petals, two stamens, and one pistil. Egg-shaped seedpods develop beneath the withering flower.Flowers from spring until late autumn.Plantain definitely does work as I carried out a deliberate experiment of stinging my inner lower arms (both) by brushing with a nettle. After a minute or so (allowing the welts to appear) I rubbed Greater plantain leaves against the painful area of only 1 arm until the leaves were juicy and bruised to destruction. 3 minutes after this the un-medicated arm was still painful but the ‘plantain arm’ merely tingled.You may wonder how many of our common weeds got here. The short answer is that they had some help. Many were used for medicinal or culinary purposes in their native region. When immigrants came to the US, they brought along familiar and valued plants. This is the case for broadleaf plantain and buckhorn plantain. Broadleaf plantain is reported to have been brought to North America by the Puritan colonists, and earned the name of “white man’s foot print” due to how well it established itself in disturbed soils surrounding European settlements. In the past, parts of it were utilized as salad greens, as an herbal tea, as a compress for minor cuts and bruises and to treat upper respiratory infections. Buckhorn plantain had similar uses; notably, a tea made from the leaves was used as a cough syrup in Austria. Plantains are high in calcium and vitamins A, C and K. Today, their more useful characteristics are largely forgotten, in our quest for weed-free lawns and gardens. Several historical ethnobotany references cite similar uses of related native plantain species by Native Americans. A species native to India, Plantago ovata is the source of psyllium seeds and is used as a source of dietary fiber and a natural laxative. (Source: www.canr.msu.edu)

 

 

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