Plantain is a weed you have probably seen thousands of times and thought nothing of. It was once called “white man’s foot” by Native Americans after it came across the sea with the Europeans and showed up wherever they set their feet on the ground. Plantain loves disturbed soil on the edges of sidewalks, old construction sites, dug up yards, and more. These often dry and irritated landscapes with disturbed, poor soil where people frequently walk is where plantain pokes up. It tries to nourish and repair the disturbed soil and ease its healing. In the same way, plantain helps soothe, protect, and heal our bodies both internally and externally. No wonder it is so soothing—both when growing and when used medicinally it helps try to bring things back to balance.
In this issue, you will find herbalists discussing how they use plantain for minor bug bites, to draw out splinters, and to ease other skin issues. Other herbalists I know have used plantain both externally as a poultice and internally as a tincture made from the fresh plant for things like severe spider and tick bites, as well as bee and wasp stings. This is an herb to get to know and have on hand for any sort of skin or allergic reaction first-aid situation.
My first experience with plantain occurred when I was trying to find something to resolve my daughter’s eczema. We discovered her eczema was due to gluten exposure, but getting the rash under control was so hard. When I was reading and trying to figure out what exactly could treat my poor girl’s rash, I came across some exotic plants that I couldn’t get my hands on. I then read that plantain was good for “skin stuff”, so I figured why not throw that into a salve with some other easy-to-get skin herbs like
nettle and calendula and see what happens? It turns out that salve clears up just about any skin issue, including allergic skin rashes in a wonderful way.
Last summer we were playing at the park and, all of a sudden, my daughter screamed loudly and came running to me. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong but my friend identified a sting on the back of her neck. She and I went around the park and found some plantain, chewed it up, and put it on the sting. It took the redness and pain away within minutes, then she went and played with her friends once more. She was almost three at the time and can still identify plantain for “owies.” She insists on picking it whenever we cross paths with it.
While focusing on healing my gut I again employed plantain to help soothe and cool my angry and hot, damaged gut. Plantain plays a key role in my tummy healing tea to help treat the damage I have endured from over 25 years of untreated Celiac disease.
Plantain, although undervalued, is an herb I recommend you learn thoroughly. Teach it to your kids since it is safe to use for everyone, and share it with everyone you meet. You never know when you will need to treat a nasty bug bite, bee sting, or skin rash.