Plantain (Plantago Major) is a perennial herb, thought to be of Eurasian origin and now naturalized throughout the world. Plantain is considered a common and noxious weed by some and a miracle plant by others.
It is also known as Common Plantain, Broadleaf Plantain, Great Plantain, Greater Plantain, Ripple Grass, Plantago Asiatica, Waybread, Waybroad, Snakeweed, Cuckoo's Bread, Englishman's Foot, White Man's Foot, Che Qian Zi (China), Breitwegerich (German), Tanchagem-maior (Portuguese), Llantén común (Spanish), Llantén major (Spanish).
The word "banana" is often used (some would say incorrectly, although there is no formal botanical distinction between bananas and plantains) to describe other plantain varieties, and names may reflect local uses or characteristics of varieties: cooking plantain, banana plantain, beer banana, bocadillo plantain, etc. All members of the genus Musa are indigenous to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Oceania, including the (redundant term) Malay Archipelago (modern Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines) and Northern Australia.
Plantains tend to be firmer and lower in sugar content than dessert bananas. Bananas are most often eaten raw, while plantains usually require cooking or other processing, and are used either when green or under-ripe (and therefore starchy) or overripe (and therefore sweet). Plantains are a staple food in the tropical regions of the world, treated in much the same way as potatoes and with a similar neutral flavour and texture when the unripe fruit is cooked by steaming, boiling or frying.
The leaves of the common plantain are generally ovate or egg-shaped and are found complete or jagged. The leaves are distinguished by their chunky and conduit footstalk. The flower stems of the common plantain grow up to a height of seven to twenty inches and are inclined with long and slim barbs of greenish-white flowers. The flowers’ colors are, however, eclipsed by the brown colored sepals and bracts.
Among its many qualities, the common plantain is popular as a healer of wounds and injuries as well as a remedy for most poisons. In addition, the herb is known as a ‘body purifier’ and cleans the system of heat, congestion as well as all toxic elements. The common plantation is effectual in treating ailments such as fevers, infections and skin diseases. The herb’s mucilage or the gum like sap released by the plant offers comfort in case of physical disorders, particularly in the respiratory, digestive and the urinary systems. In addition, the herb is useful in safeguarding the mucous coatings from inflammation and, at the same time, calms down muscle contractions in conditions such as asthma and colic or stomach aches. The herb is also useful in comforting cough impulse, alleviating ruthless, and panicky coughs. Tannins present in the common plantain are astringent (a substance that brings tissues closer) in nature and this explains the herb’s conventional use for tuberculosis, hemorrhage in the stomach and bowels, blood vomiting, diarrhea and colitis or inflammation of the colon. The herb is also used to cure excessive menstrual bleeding.
Plantain is edible and medicinal, the young leaves are edible raw in salad or cooked as a pot herb, they are very rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. The herb has a long history of use as an alternative medicine dating back to ancient times. Being used as a panacea in some cultures, one American Indian name for the plant translates to "life medicine." And recent research indicates that this name may not be far from the truth. The chemical analysis of Plantgo Major reveals the remarkable glycoside Aucubin. Acubin has been reported in the Journal Of Toxicology as a powerful anti-toxin. There are many more highly effective constituents in this plant including Ascorbic-acid, Apigenin, Baicalein, Benzoic-acid, Chlorogenic-acid, Citric-acid, Ferulic-acid, Oleanolic-acid, Salicylic-acid, and Ursolic-acid.
The leaves and the seeds are used as an antibacterial, antidote, astringent, antiinflammatory, antiseptic, antitussive, cardiac, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, haemostatic, laxative, ophthalmic, poultice, refrigerant, and vermifuge. Medical evidence exists to confirm uses as an alternative medicine for asthma, emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, rheumatism and blood sugar control. A decoction of the roots is used in the treatment of a wide range of complaints including diarrhoea, dysentery, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhage, haemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, coughs, asthma and hay fever. It also causes a natural aversion to tobacco and is currently being used in stop smoking preparations.
Extracts of the plant have antibacterial activity, it is a safe and effective treatment for bleeding, it quickly stops blood flow and encourages the repair of damaged tissue. The heated leaves are used as a wet dressing for wounds, skin inflammations, malignant ulcers, cuts, stings and swellings and said to promote healing without scars. Poultice of hot leaves is bound onto cuts and wounds to draw out thorns, splinters and inflammation. The root is said to be used as an anti-venom for rattlesnakes bites. Plantain seeds contain up to 30% mucilage which swells in the gut, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. The seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic worms. A distilled water made from the plant makes an excellent eye lotion.
The common plantain normally discourages the discharge of mucous, especially in the respiratory system. This property of the herb is useful in treating colds, catarrh or running nose, bronchial congestion and allergic conditions like hay fever (irritation caused by allergy to pollens) as well as asthma. The expectorant (forcing the coughing up of thick mucous) action of the herb helps to clear the cough from the chest, while it can also be used to treat congestion of mucous in the middle of the ear, glue ear and infections of the ear. The anti-bacterial action of the common plantain adds to its fame as a remedy for respiratory disorders like colds, sore throats, tonsillitis and all types of contagions of the chest. The common plantain is also useful in clearing stomach and bowel infections as well as urinary infections, cystitis, prostatis as well as urethritis or infection of the urethra. Simultaneously, the herb also helps in alleviating the pains and exasperation owing to colic. In addition, the common plantain is known to be an effectual medication for prostatic swellings.
Common plantain contains iridoids (such as aucubin, also found in Euphrasia species), flavonoids (including apigenin), tannins, plant acids, and mucilage. Aucubin increases uric acid excretion by the kidneys; apigenin is anti-inflammatory.
Native American Indians carried powdered roots of Plantain as protection against snakebites or to ward off snakes. Plantain was called Englishman's Foot or White Man's Foot as it was said to grow where ever their feet touched the ground - this is referred to in Longfellow’s 'Hiawatha.'. Some old European lore states that Plantain is effective for the bites of mad dogs, epilepsy, and leprosy. In the United States the plant is called 'Snake Weed,' from a belief in its efficacy in cases of bites from venomous creatures.
See also Plantain Teas and Remedies
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