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Spring | Plantain


Meet plantain, a leafy green perennial that can be found throughout the UK, even in winter, but tends to be harvested in spring or early summer before it flowers. You might know some of her other names such as ribwort, broadleaf plantain, buckthorn plantain, rippleseed plantain, Plantago lanceolata or Plantago major



Scroll down to the bottom of this page to watch the plantain video - also available to watch on YouTube and Vimeo.


The plantain we're talking about here has absolutely nothing in common,

apart from the name, with the member of the banana family

so enjoyed in Caribbean, Indian and African cooking.

This plantain, or ribwort as it is also known,

is a leafy, green perennial that can be found throughout the UK,

even in winter but it tends to be harvested

in the spring and early summer before it flowers. 

The leaves grow in rosettes, that is in a circle, close to the ground

and there are two main types of plantain in this country 

one type has long thin spear-like leaves

hence its Latin name of lanceolata or lance-like

the other type has large, round, saucer-shaped leaves

and has the Latin name Plantago major.

Either type can be used medicinally

so don't worry if you've only got one of the two.

When you look at the leaves, you realise how descriptive the name 'ribwort'

-  the veins on the underside of the leaves are very prominent,

you can feel them like ribs sticking out,

and they run parallel to each other along the entire length of the leaf.

Like the daisy and elder leaf, plantain can make a great first aid plaster.

It is anti-inflammatory and cooling

and many people find it more effective against nettle sting

than the famed dock leaf.

Plantain also makes a great hayfever remedy

as it contains anti-histamine compounds.

To make a plantain bandaid, simply crush the leaf

and then wrap it around the affected area.

To help ease some of the symptoms of hayfever

like itchy eyes and runny nose

 drink 2-3 cups of plantain tea a day.

To make one cup of plantain tea, collect a handful of plantain leaves,

wash them well, tear them up into small pieces and place in a teapot.

Add boiling water, let the leaves infuse for 5-10 minutes,

strain and then drink.

You can also drink this cold

so you could make a big pot of this in the morning

and drink it throughout the day,

adding lemon juice for taste but also to help improve liver function

which you always need to do to treat hayfever

beyond just the symptoms.

A lovely spring tonic tea could be

to combine the flowers and leaves of daisy, dandelion, plantain,

nettles and cleavers (but not elder leaves - they are too smelly!)