Not the starchy banana-like vegetable, Plantago is a very common lawn weed. You've seen it, I promise. The narrow-leaved P. lanceolata, or Lance-leaved Plantain, forms flower stalks with a cone shaped head. These are the things that simply bend down when the mower passes over, then spring right back up again, towering over your freshly cut lawn. Broad-leaved P. major forms a rosette closer to the ground, and a flower stalk that is fat and all flowers then seeds. Kids find it fun to rub their thumbs up the stalk, showering seeds in all directions.
Plantain draws. Externally, it pulls out splinters, glass shards, bee stingers, infections, toxins, dirt, and anything else that shouldn’t be in there. Chew it when you have a toothache or abscess to draw out the pus, while you wait for the dentist. Make a “spit poultice” by chewing up a leaf and slapping it on a bee sting- YES this is a real thing! And it works, I’ve had to do it for a Nettle sting. Plantain features in all first aid healing oils and salves. It is soothing, cooling, and healing to wounds, and it will stop bleeding though maybe not as well as Yarrow so you might combine the two if bleeding is a problem.
Internally, Plantain draws moisture and nourishment back to tissues. Dry, pinching, tired, stagnant areas like the GI tract (think IBS to hemorrhoids) and the liver benefit from Plantain’s large vitamin and mucilage (that’s where mucous comes from, use your imagination!) content, as a juice, as a food, or as a tincture.
As a salad green, Plantain must be picked VERY young and chopped finely. In her Medicinal Herbs book, Rosemary Gladstar gives a recipe for a Plantain Power Drink, a smoothie of nutritive herbs, pineapple juice, and a banana. Sounds delicious, but so far my taste testing has occurred on weed walks just to prove it’s edible, and to harvesting the seeds to make my own seasoning like a Gomaiso- Sesame seeds, Plantain seeds, salt, Milk Thistle, Nettle, and Thyme (more details on this blog post)