Plantain is a plant that you can easily overlook. Her tiny flowers are not very noticeable. But the ribwort plantain – Plantago lanceolata – is more than worthy of a monograph in this plant vademecum. And the great thing is that you can find this plant almost everywhere.
The most striking medicinal properties of plantain are those that act on all kinds of respiratory diseases. A quick way to tackle hay fever? Take plantain tea. But externally, plantain is also a go-getter. With plantain in your neighbourhood you can treat wounds quickly and effectively. Chronic skin conditions also benefit from plantain. And these are just the main effects of plantain. She can do a lot more.
Plantain is credited with magical properties that belong mainly to the field of sympathetic medicine. For example, you can put plantain in your shoe to prevent tired feet and tie her root onto your body to keep a fever in check. But she’s also handy in love magic and used for protective purposes.
Now that you know all this, you will probably look at this plant differently and leave her in your garden. Plantago major has largely the same effect – although I prefer ribwort plantain – and therefore deserves just as much respect.
Plantain has a short rhizome with many rhizoids. The leaves are located directly above the root in a leaf rosette. They have 3 to 7 parallel nerves, are lanceolate and up to 20 cm long, in exceptional cases even longer. The stem is long, sturdy and hairless and can grow up to 50 cm long. At the top of the stem you will find the inflorescence, an up to 5 cm long spike with dark sepals and small light green flowers with protruding white stamens, which bloom in rings around the spike from bottom to top, followed by small capsule fruits. The capsules contain brown, oval seeds.
The indigenous people of North America call the plantain ‘footsteps of the white man’ because settlers brought this plant from Europe and spread it along all the roads they took.
Plantain was proven to be used as food and animal feed as early as 12,000 years ago. Evidence of this has been found in the Middle East and Norway.
In Great Britain and Ireland there are several children’s games using plantain.
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