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Plantain: An old and reliable medicine

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Plantain: An old and reliable medicine

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Plantain

Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) also known by other names such as: fleawort, wimp, plantago, plantine, buckthorn, ribgrass, psyllium, abaca and more was awarded as the “medicinal plant of the year” in 2014.

The “medicinal plant of the year” has been chosen since 1999 by the “Study group for historical evolution of medicinal plants” at the University of Wurzburg. The selection of one plant each year aims to underline the value of plants in medicine and their uses in producing medication.

As a syrup or tincture, plantain is used through oral ingestion for whooping cough, chronic bronchitis and other illnesses that are linked to weakness in the lungs. The plantain is a symbol for domination , resilience and roughness.

Σιρόπι ΠεντάνευρουToday, narrowleaf plantain is more used than other varieties and we can find it in many medicinal products that are expectorants, bronchodilators or used to treat coughing because it dilates the bronchus and has antiviral, antimicrobial, immunocontrolling, and anti- inflammatory action. As a lung medication it protects the mucus membranes that show inflammations or infections since it covers them with its thick mucus composition, thus soothing the pain from coughing and inhaling deeply. It soothes in cases of inflammation and generally acts in the “separated areas “ such as the skin and mucus membrane. It is also used as a skin conditioner, a styptic and an antiseptic.

Plantain has always been known to be a plant that heals wounds. Its German name, “Wegerich”, which means “the lord of roads” shows where we can primarily find the herb. Plantain, both plantago major L. and plantago media L. can be found in the edges of roads (and even in the middle sometimes), where the soil’s concentration in nutrients is higher. Plantain is an especially resilient plant. Plantago major can usually be found at the middle of the road while plantago minor grows more at the edges. “Planta” means foot in latin.

Growing at the edge of roads, plantain is found exactly where it’s needed most. This is because it soothes and heals everything that can happen to a traveller: accidents, bleeding, insect bites, scrapes, bruises,blisters, sunburn, skin tears and even skin rashes from nettle or ants and more.

The juice from plantain leaves is soothing to skin irritation, has antibacterial action, supports and accelerates the healing of wounds and reduces pain from infections and pruritus. To extract the juice of the plantain we have to crush a fresh, clean leaf and the refreshing and sticky juice is extracted. We can then either apply the extract as drops on the wound or we can apply the whole leaf with its sticky juice on the wound directly. This method has been proven invaluable for travellers when they need to treat bites from mosquitoes, wasps or bees. For feet blisters, the crushed leaf is placed inside the shoe or wrapped around the finger with tah cyst.

Plantain contains the pharmaceutically confirmed and studied iridoid glycoside (up to 3%), with its main acting ingredient being aucubin and also catalpol and asperulocid. The antimicrobial action of plantain is usually attributed to its high concentration in aucubin, which prevents the creation of prostaglandin and thus slows down the development of infection. Other ingredients that can be found in plantain extend to: phenylethanols, flavanoids, mucopolysaccharides, tanins, phenolic acid, coumarin, silicic acid, saponines, essential oil, mucal substances, inorganic substances, iron, zinc and potassium.

There are no known side effects of plantain so far. The only restriction is that the use of plantain seeds should be avoided during pregnancy.

Dioscurides suggested plantain for treating hematomas, burns and bites from dogs or insects. Even Plinius and the German botanologist and doctor Hieronymus Bock, from the dark ages, held plantain in high regard. The German botanologist Lonicerus wrote in his 16th century “Book of herbs”:

“Using it to wash the teeth, relieves from pain and swelling in the gums. Its juice is good for women who cannot quench the passion of their flower, putting a compress over the vagina and soaking it again with plantain juice after it dries. Whoever suffers from a sore throat should take plantain by crushing the plant to extract its juice and then drink the juice and rub it on the throat area. It is even helpful to apply it in the chest area. Spreading the juice on the ears helps with curing vertigo”.

Even Shakespeare refers to plantain as an incredible remedy: Bemvolio says to Romeo: “Take thou some new infection to thy eye, And the rank poison of the old will die.” and Romeo replies “Your plantain leaf is excellent for that.” (Romeo and Juliet, act 1, scene 2).

Swiss catholic doctor Johan Kuntsle when asked if plantain poses any danger of infection when applied externally replied: “This word is unknown to the plantain. A compress with plantain juice is usually the best measure we can take, because the healing of the wounds is very fast. The plantain juice comes as an invisible thread to stitch the gaping wound”.

In the past, it was common to use plantain leaves to relieve the pain from swollen feet by tired travellers.”A freshly cut plantain leaf in the shoe has refreshed many weary travellers” says Maria Treben in her book “Health through God’s pharmacy, 2002”. In fold medicine, the nerves of the plantago leaf are extracted and turned into a small ball and then placed in the ears in order to relieve from ear pain while they used to chew plantain leaves for toothache. Maria Treben suggests (in the same book) the use of plantain to treat tuberculosis in the lungs and whooping cough and also to treat chronic lung problems.

The three kinds of plantain have similar uses and are easy to tell apart. Plantago major has flat egg shaped leaves. Speared plantago, the medicinal plant of the year 2014, has narrow speralike leaves. Plantago media has flatter leaves than the spear one but not as flat and egg shaped as the major one. Biologically, plantago species includes about 190 different species of plant that are widespread throughout Europe and central and northern Asia. Psyllium (Plantago psyllium), meaning plantago seeds, also comes from the family of Plantaginaceae

Anyone who wants to follow the method of traditional botanologists can tell the use of the plant by the shape of its leaves. By that measure, narrowleaf plantain with its narrow leaves is indicated for skin cuts and scrapes while the leaves of Plantago major that are flatter and round are good for insect bites and blisters (wounds “rounder” in shape).

Other than the healing action of the plant, the rich in vitamin and inorganic matter plantain leaves along with the dried seeds of the plant and every kind of plantain flower are very popular to those who use wild herbs in cooking.

In traditional European physiopathic medicine mostly the parts of the plant that are above ground are used, especially the leaves. In older botanology books, Plantago Major is considered to be the most potent of the plantain family.

Tabernaemontanus, a doctor and botanologists of the 16th century, suggested the use of plantain for diseases of the liver, lungs, spleen , stomach or intestines since it “possesses special qualities that heal internal wounds”.

In traditional Chinese medicine, they primarily use the leaves of the plant (and in rare cases the seeds). They had access to plantago major and Plantago asiatica which are indicated for illnesses of the diuretic system and the liver (hepatitis) but also for bleeding and other inflammatory diseases. Its leaves are described as tender, refreshing and bitter and it is thought that they benefit the urine bladder, the small intestine and the gallbladder.

Plantain contains the pharmaceutically confirmed and studied iridoid glycoside (up to 3%), with its main acting ingredient being aucubin and also catalpol and asperulocid. The antimicrobial action of plantain is usually attributed to its high concentration in aucubin, which prevents the creation of prostaglandin and thus slows down the development of infection. Other ingredients that can be found in plantain extend to: phenylethanols, flavanoids, mucopolysaccharides, tanins, phenolic acid, coumarin, silicic acid, saponines, essential oil, mucal substances, inorganic substances, iron, zinc and potassium.

There are no known side effects of plantain so far. The only restriction is that the use of plantain seeds should be avoided during pregnancy.

Properties

Antiseptic, anti- inflammatory, analgesic, hemodialytic, expectorant. It also increases the creation of digestive fluids..

Fields of application

1. Diseases in the respiratory organs, tuberculosis, pleurisy, chronic bronchitis, whooping cough, simple cough and asthma

2. The brew and the juice of the plant are used in more serious gastrointestinal diseases such as gastritis, intestitis, stomach ulcer and intestine ulcer.

3. Urination difficulties, cystitis, malaria

4. As a blood purifier for rashes, eczema and zits

5. Wounds with pus, cuts, scrapes, burns and insect bites.

6. For washing the eyes in case of an infection

Instructions for use

Compress with plantain leaves: crush fresh and washed plantain leaves and apply them directly on open wounds.

Brew: 1 full teaspoon of crushed leaves is put into 1/4 ltr boiling water. Let it absorb the leaves for 2 minutes and then drink 2-3 cups per day.

Brew 2: boil 1 teaspoon of plantain leaves in 1/4ltr water,leave it to drain for 2 hours and then drink 1 teaspoon 4 times a day before eating.

Syrup: Grind 4 handfuls of washed leaves or chop them. Add a little water, 300g sugar and 250g honey. Slowly boil it on a small fire while stirring until the mixture becomes thick. Pour the mixture in a sterilised vase. After it is cold we can store it in the fridge. Drink one teaspoon 4 times a day before food.

Washing wounds and eyes: Take 2 tablespoons of fresh leaves and put them in 1,5 cups of hot water and let them be for 2 hours. Drain the water and apply the leaves for washing.

Plantain: An old and reliable medicine

Maria Treben, in her book, “health through God’s pharmacy” provides us with examples of plantain use from experience. Among other things, she writes that one day she watched a farmer that was injured while working in the field, who gathered plantain leaves, crushed them and directly put them on the wound without washing them. There was no infection regardless! Maria treben stresses that plantain leaves heal all kinds of wounds. Compresses from plantain leaves have helped people with open wounds of many years heal quite fast, while all previous treatments failed. She notes that the same is true for older people. To conclude she also suggests plantain leaves for malignant neoplasia and thrombosis.