Narrowleaf Plantain in Natural Skin Care

Narrowleaf Plantain, Plantago lanceolata

Plantain, Plantago lanceolata L., or ribwort plantain, is a perennial plant. It is considered a common weed and can often be found in our own backyards. I have seen masses of it in our surrounding Bay Area hills while hiking. Plantain has a long history in herbal medicine and many of its remarkable medicinal qualities have been confirmed by modern science. Used topically, it is effective on any kind of skin disorder by simply bruising its leaves and rubbing them onto the skin. Alternatively it can be made into an oil or balm and stored for convenient later use.

Plantain is an amazing plant and can help with a long list of skin complaints, including rashes, wounds, ulcerations, cuts, swelling, sprains, bruises, burns, eczema, cracked lips, poison ivy, mosquito bites, diaper rash, boils, hemorrhoids, and blisters. Due to a high concentration of mucilage, the plant has excellent emollient properties. The presence of tannins give it astringent properties. It is reportedly effective as an agent to draw out the poison from bee stings, snake bites, and spider bites. At the same time, it can also be used to draw out splinters and thorns, and reduce the risk of scarring from more severe cuts and scrapes.

Using plantain is as simple as picking a few leaves, chewing or mashing them to release the juices, and applying the mash to the sting or bite then taping it into place. It is no wonder that Native Americans used plantain for years as a miracle plant with its seemingly endless medicinal properties.

Most commonly plantain is used for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This activity is said to be comparable to that of hydrocortisone ², and its powerful antiseptic action can disinfect minor cuts. On injuries, it is said to increase the regeneration rate due to the fact that – like comfrey root – plantain contains allantoin, a cell proliferate that can speed the regeneration of cells.

If you're not busy plastering Plantain on your family's wounds, or making an extract from it’s leaves, you can make a salad with it and have it for dinner! Plantain is completely edible and every part of the plant can be enjoyed. The leaves can be eaten raw or steamed for a spinach substitute, and are delicious raw in salads or blended into green smoothies. The whole plant can be made into a tea for drinking and is tasty when sweetened with honey. Nutritionally, plantain is high in beta carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C and K, calcium and a list that just goes on. Is it any wonder that we love using this ingredient in our balms!

References

[1] – Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckann J. Expanded Commission E Monographs. Plantain. Newton: American Botanical Council; 2000. Herbal medicine; pp. 307–10. 

[2] – European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. Plantaginis lanceolatae folium/herba. 2nd ed. New York: Thieme; 2003. ESCOP Monographs; pp. 383–7.

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