Plantago major/lanceloata

framed image of green plantain, Plantago major on a gravel background

Can you eat plantain leaves? You sure can, but I recommend getting them when they’re very young. As the leaves get older, they get much tougher.

Those lines you see in the photo are quite stretchy and tough. Historically, they’re supposed to have been used as dental floss, but the numerous times I’ve not had success (maybe people’s teeth used to be further apart?)

Identifying plantain isn’t difficult at all. The leaves usually stay close to the ground and have distinctive parallel veins running from stem to tip. Their flowers pop up on long, wiry stems and they produce small tuft-like seeds. You can collect plantain seed heads and sauté them with a little olive oil and garlic or pull the seeds off to sprinkle over yogurt and fruit.

Young plantain leaves make a wonderful addition to salads or topping for an open-faced sandwich. And if you’ve ever made kale chips, you’ll recognize the recipe for plantain chips. Yum!

Plantain is my go-to herb if I get an insect sting. It has incredible drawing capability, and will draw out toxins, stingers and splinters. You can use it as a spit poultice or chop and grind it as a regular poultice.

Of course, relief only comes if you’re willing to put enough on there and leave it on for a minimum of 20-30 minutes. If I get stung by a wasp or other stinging beast, I usually commit an hour to poulticing the area. This ensures that I won’t wake up in the middle of the night or in the morning with continued pain, redness and swelling.

Plantain is very soothing to the skin, and therefore great to use as a mild demulcent inside the body as well. It’s soothing to stomach, throat and lungs. You can blend the leaves (remove the strings) and freeze for use as a poultice, in smoothies or mixed with a little honey for a soothing expectorant.

I love to prepare plantain infused oil to use in balms, lotions and salves.

close up of green plantain, Plantago major on a gravel background