Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Lamiales
Family Plantaginaceae
Genus Plantago
Species P. major
Binomial name Plantago major

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the herb plantain are broad leaved plantain, ripple grass, waybread, slan-lus, waybroad,snakeweed,cuckoo's bread, englishman's foot, white man's foot, buckhorn plantain, dog's ribs, hock cockle, lance-leaved plantain, rub grass, dooryard plantain, round-leaved plantain, he Qian Zi (China), Breitwegerich (German), Tanchagem-maior (Portuguese), Llantén común (Spanish) and Llantén major (Spanish).


The Plantain belongs to the natural order Plantaginaceae, which contains more than 200 species, twenty-five or thirty of which have been reported as in domestic use. Plantain is considered as a common and noxious weed and a miracle plant. The standard native English name is Greater Plantain, though it is also called Common Plantain in some areas where it is introduced, particularly North America. Another one of its common names was "Soldier's Herb" for its use on the battlefield as a field dressing. Broad-leaved Plantain was spread all over the world by early colonists to America, New Zealand and Australia.

plantain plantago major
The Broad-leaved Plantain seems to have followed the migrations of our colonists to every part of the world, and in both America and New Zealand it has been called by the aborigines the 'Englishman's Foot'for wherever the English have taken possession of the soil the Plantain springs up. Longfellow refers to this in 'Hiawatha.'Our Saxon ancestors esteemed it highly and in the old Lacnunga the Weybroed is mentioned as one of nine sacred herbs. In this most ancient source of Anglo-Saxon medicine, we find this 'salve for flying venom. It is a good source of vitamins C, A, and K.


The plantain is a tough and perennial plant which grows from a very short rhizome the rhizome has a number of long, straight, yellowish roots. The rhizome from the ground level has a large, radial rosette of leaves and a few Iong, slender, densely-flowered spikes. 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 blade is 4 to 10 inches long and about two-thirds as broad, usually smooth, thickish, five to eleven ribbed, the ribs having a strongly fibrous structure, the margin entire, or coarsely and unevenly toothed. 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.
The corolla is bell shaped with staples and purple anthers.

It is a two-celled capsule with four to sixteen seeds.


A perennial "weed" that can be found almost anywhere in North America and much of Europe. This herb which is temperate in its distribution is said to be originated in Europe and now naturalized throughout the world. It is also very common in South Africa and other mountainous regions.


This may be found anywhere by roadsides and in meadow-land. It will grow in sun to shade, and in almost any soil fir it is said to be very adaptable. Plantain spreads by seeds. The common plantain is hardly cultivated commercially anywhere, but mostly harvested from the wild. It is found growing naturally in the lawns, gardens, backyards and along the roads throughout America.


Plantain is adaptable to any soil and so very easy to cultivate, and generally prefers a sunny position. Succeeds in any moderately fertile soil in a sunny position. They are propagated by sowing the seeds in spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in early summer. A sowing can be made outdoors in situ in mid to late spring if you have enough seeds.

Flowering Season

The flowering season is generally between early spring to early autumn.

Pests and Diseases

Plantago major acts as a reservoir for several viruses, such as potato virus and cucumber mosaic virus and also for bacterial leaf blight of rice (Xanthomonas oryzae).

Parts Used


The most commonly used parts of the herb are root, leaves and flower-spikes.

Medicinal Applications


• The juice, or distilled water, dropped into the eyes cools inflammation in them.

• The dried and powdered leaves taken in drink kill worms of the belly; boiled in wine, it kills worms which breed in old and foul ulcers.

• It is a remedy for all scabs and itch in the head and body, tetters, ringworms, shingles and running and fretting sores.

• It is a remedy for for piles and diarrhoea.

• The herb is used in inflammation of the skin, malignant ulcers, intermittent fever, etc., and as a vulnerary, and externally as a stimulant application to sores.

• Rubbed on parts of the body stung by insects, nettles, etc., or as an application to burns and scalds, will help in relief of the pain.

• It is said to be good against epilepsy, dropsy, jaundice and opens obstructions of the liver, spleen and reins.

• Powdered seeds stop vomiting, epilepsy, lethargy, convulsions, dropsy, jaundice, strangury, obstruction of the liver, etc.

• It is used 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 helps in stopping the bleeding 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.

• The root is said to be used as an anti-venom for rattlesnake's bites.

• The seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic worms.

• A distilled water made from the plant makes an excellent eye lotion.

• The plantain helps in treating colds, catarrh or running nose, bronchial congestion and allergic conditions like hay fever as well as asthma and ear conditions.

• 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.

• Ointments or lotions prepared with the common plantain leaves may be used to cure hemorrhoids, fistulae or anomalous channels in the skin as well as ulcers.

Commercial Applications and Culinary Applications

• Plantains young and tender leaves are used in a salad, or steamed and used as a spinach substitute.

• The immature flower stalks may be eaten raw or cooked.

• The seeds have a nutty flavor and may be parched and added to a variety of foods or ground into flour.

• The leaves, seeds and roots can all be made into an herbal tea.


The herb is influenced by the planet Venus. 'Plantain cures the head by antipathy to Mars and cures the private parts by sympathy to Venus'.

Quotes from Scriptures

Our Saxon ancestors esteemed plantain highly and in the old Lacnunga the plantain is mentioned as one of nine sacred herbs.

'Salmon also tells us that a good cosmetic is made with essence of Plantain, houseleeks and lemon juice.

Culpepper tells us that the Plantain is 'in the command of Venus and cures the head by antipathy to Mars, neither is there hardly a martial disease but it cures.' He also states that 'the water is used for all manner of spreading scabs, tetters, ringworm, shingles, etc.'

From the days of Chaucer onwards we find reference in literature to the healing powers of Plantain. Gower (1390) says: 'And of Plantaine he hath his herb sovereine,' and Chaucer mentions it in the Prologue of the Chanounes Yeman. Shakespeare, both in Love's Labour's Lost, and in Romeo and Juliet, speaks of the 'plain Plantain' and 'Plantain leaf' as excellent for a broken shin, and again in Two Noble Kinsmen,' These poore slight sores neede not a Plantin.' His reference to it in Troilus and Cressida,'As true as steel, as Plantage to the moon,'is an allusion that is now no longer clear to us.

Folklores and Myths

Plantain protects against Snakes, Thieves, and Fever. An Old Indian Snakebite Cure is to boil Plantain and Five-Finger Grass in milk, apply it to the bite, and bind it very tightly. Renew every hour. Plantain leaves or root may be hung in your car in a blue flannel bag, to protect the vehicle from jealous who envy your fortune. For safety while driving, adds Feverfew, Comfrey Root, and a St.

Christopher medal. Native Americans 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 was called 'Snake Weed,' from a belief in its efficacy in cases of bites from venomous creatures. Plantain was hung in the house to guard against evil spirits.