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18 September 2009

A Most Humble Herb: Plantain (Plantago Major and Plantago Lanceolota)

Plantain is a really common weed! One of the more humble, invisible plants in my opinion-invisible in the sense that she is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Loves growing through the cracks in the sidewalk and at roadsides and fields. Don't let her commonality fool you though. Plantain is a powerful healer. Next time you pass her on the sidewalk, stop by to say hello.

Plantain is very easily identified. I guess she is not hiding at all. She's saying, "hey, I'm right here. No, lower dude . . . even lower. Now, just move your feet. Right, here I am." Notice the five long lines on the leaves and, of course, the stalks with seeds. They get brown in the fall, and the seeds are edible when they mature as are the leaves at any time, though the leaves are best eaten when small. We used to play with the stalks as children. Remember, easy to ID Plantain: five fingers on your hands, five lines on the leaves. The leaves can be oval/roundish shaped or skinny and longer, the Lanceolata variety. Doesn't matter which one; they still have five lines and they both work great to heal wounds and almost any skin problem you could come up with, including itching, rashes, bug bites, you name it. You can use it many ways. Use fresh or make an infused oil with the leaves in extra virgin olive oil. That will take a few months to be ready. You then take out the leaves and save the oil. You can add a little beeswax to thicken it up, but I haven't done that. Keeps for many years and will provide much relief. Supposed to be a great remedy for diaper rash though I don't have any babies to test out that theory! The fresh leaves will stop bleeding right away, a great first aid remedy for cuts. Break off a few leaves and chew them up till they get pasty and then paste them on the wound. They'll stick there for a while until they fall off, painlessly, not at all like ripping off a bandage. The bleeding will stop and the infections will stay away. You'll marvel at how fast you heal. Probably be fun for kids to learn that trick! I wonder why there's so much plantain in the world (trust me, there's a lot once you start noticing it!), but we humans are always getting cuts and scrapes and itches, right? Makes sense to me, very helpful, common and free.

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