Plantain belongs to a big family of plants called Plantaginaceae.
Greater and lesser plantain is also known as common plantain and ribwort plantain respectively. Plantains are a versatile wild edible and herbal remedy.
Greater Plantain and Lesser Plantain.
Plantago major and Plantago lanceolata.
Greater Plantain (Plantago major): the leaves are broadly oval, long-stalked, ribbed and green. The flower spike is long, cylindrical spikes covered in tiny flowers with purple anthers.
Lesser Plantain (Plantago lanceolata): the leaves are long, lance-shaped, ribbed and green. The flowers are tiny in tight brownish spikes with yellow anthers.
Perennial, native to Britain, Ireland, Europe, parts of Asia and naturalised around the world.
Habitat and Distribution
Both species grow vigorously at waysides, in fields and lawns.
Parts Used For Food
Largely the leaves and seeds.
Greater plantain – spring to summer.
Lesser plantain – spring to autumn.
Food Uses of Plantain
The leaves are picked and used as a salad green, vegetable or potherb. The seeds have been ground to make flour.1
As a wild edible, the species are considered highly nutritious, containing vitamins A, B, C and K, calcium, fibre, fat, protein, silicon, sodium, zinc, tannin and mucilage.2 The nutty-flavoured seeds are also considered a good source of protein.
- Aubergine And Avocado Bake With Ribwort Plantain
- Spiced Greater Plantain Seed Mix
- Sea Plantain Risotto
Herbal Medicine Uses of Plantain
Both plants have been used as a general remedy for many complaints from cuts, sores and bruises1 to kidney disease, bowel disorders and intestinal worms.3
It was considered a great healer and, in particular, a vulnerary herb for its ability to prevent external bleeding.3
The seeds were once collected to feed small caged birds.3
Eating too much plantain may have a laxative effect and could even lower blood pressure.4
There is little data on the plant’s toxicity and therefore it is best avoided during pregnancy and when breastfeeding, or for use for a specific medical condition, without further medical advice.
About The Author
Robin Harford is a plant-based forager, ethnobotanical researcher, and wild food educator. He is the author of Edible and Medicinal Wild Plants of Britain and Ireland.
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- Jackson, PW. Ireland’s Generous Nature. The Past and Present Uses of Wild Plants in Ireland. Missouri Botanical Garden Press. St Louis, Missouri, 2014.
- Pedersen, M. Wendell, W. Nutritional Herbology . Whitman Company. Warsaw, 1998.
- Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal. Tiger Books International. London, 1996.
- Karalliedde, Dr L. Gawarammana, Dr I. Traditional Herbal Medicines. A guide to their safer use. Hammersmith Press Ltd. London, 2010.