Earlier this Spring, I was inspired to write about Dandelion and its connection to Spring and the Celtic goddess, Brighid. I really enjoyed talking about that humble weed, and so on a walk a few days ago, I looked around our place to see if any other weeds deserved mention, and I noticed the several varieties of Plantain that we have growing here.
This species doesn’t look much like its fleshy-leaved relatives, and I was stumped as to its identity until it flowered with the classic airy cone of tiny trembling flowers.
None of these Plantains are related to the banana-like fruit that shares their common name; rather Plantain herb is its own genus of about 200 different species with similar appearance and properties.
Its botanical name, Plantago, comes from the Latin planta, meaning “sole of the foot”, since the European species of this herb grows in low rosettes of leaves, flat at ground level as if they have been stepped on.
Plantain also followed in the footsteps of the colonizers of the New World, and was called “white man’s foot” by Native American tribes, since it sprung up wherever the Europeans traveled. It spreads enthusiastically by many multitudes of tiny seeds which catch in the clods of dirt picked up by boots and horses’ hooves, and so it marched across the Americas along with the new inhabitants.
Those seeds are the most commonly-used medicinal component of Plantain, in fact, they are used much more often than most people know. The seed husks of Plantago psyllium are the mucilaginous bulk-forming fiber better known by its brand name, Metamucil. Psyllium is a very balanced fiber and works in either direction to normalize bowel function, whether calming or stimulation is needed.
Mucilages, fatty oils, and other more structural components of plants do not extract well in alcohol, but fortunately for our work, Plantain leaves are also very medicinal. Used topically in their natural form, they are soothing, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory, and have long been recommended as a poultice for- you guessed it- sore feet!
Plantain leaves can also be used as tea for many of the same imbalances when they affect the mouth, throat, stomach, or digestive system. The leaves are astringent but also moisturizing, which is a unique combination. In herbalism, most astringent herbs are drying, so Plantain fits a useful niche for reducing swelling and hot reactions while preventing further irritation.
Our Spagyric Essence of Plantain is from the main European species, the major. Its anti-infective and painkilling properties are well-extracted by the alcohol the Essence is made from, and our Spagyric process extracts the calcium that is abundant in the leaves. It is also a good Spagyric for allergies and general immune imbalance in the respiratory, digestive, or urinary systems.
Whether you find Plantain growing in your area, or you work with our Spagyric Essence of it (or both!) you’ll find it a useful plant for many common ailments and health issues. You may even find it follows in your footsteps as you walk through Nature’s garden!
For more articles in my Weed Love series, click here.