A prolific plant the world over, the many species of plantain (Plantago) appear on every continent but Antarctica, and to the untrained gardener it is all too often considered a common weed. Yet plantains are one of the most beneficial medicinal herbs on the planet.
Chief among its uses is the plant's ability to sooth irritated skin, whether from stinging nettle, poison oak, insect bites, and even snake bites. With anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, plantain can not only provide immediate relief, but it will also help to prevent a spreading infection.
Easy to identify and collect, plantain grows in very compact leafy clusters, with leaves distinct for their parallel vein structure (see photo). For best results, one need only gather a few of the younger, more tender leaves, allowing the plant itself to remain and keep growing. By chewing on the leaf for a just a minute or less, it becomes tender and moist, and begins to release it medicinal constituents. Then you can rub the moist, fibrous leaf on the irritated area of the skin, and within a minute or two you should feel some relief. For best results, apply the remedy as quickly as possibly after realizing you've been bitten by a mosquito or stung by nettles.
Ruth uses plantain as a key ingredient in most of her salves
and bug balms
. For cases of bites, burns, sores, acne, and other skin irritation, the plant is something of a miracle cure.
Throughout the world and in nearly every climate, the plantain is easy to find. Frequently it grows right along the path of a hiking trail. For this reason, Native Americans called it white man's foot print. In many places, you can practically follow the plantains to keep on the trail. In the spring and summer, most varieties sprout a long, tall flower stem with a short cone or spike at the top.
Keep an eye out for this wonderful herbal remedy next time you go out for a hike. Chances are you'll find plenty of it, and you'll have a quick and easy treatment for those pesky bites and rashes.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia