Plantago” is a genus of about 200 species of small, inconspicuous plants commonly called “plantains.” (Not to be confused with a dissimilar plantain, which is a kind of banana.) Common plantain (“Plantago Major”) is a weed commonly found in the wild and (much to suburbanites’ embarrassment) the lawns of almost everyone living in temperate climates.  You can find it quickly when you see the green, nubby spikes, which stick up out of a cluster of round leaves. Common plantain was used in time past to heal the bites of “mad dogs, snakes, and venomous creatures.” On this side of the ocean, Native Americans learned to use plantain in the same way. In colonial America a slave would be freed if he taught them how to use plantain to cure rattlesnake bite. Take a few fresh leaves, crush or chew them, and see how quickly they stop the bleeding of an open wound or the pain and inflammation of bites and stings.

My family uses plantain poultices for treating bee stings and ant bites. Plantain can also be used to treat minor cuts and a wide range of skin disorders, including dandruff, eczema, or sunburn. The active chemical constituents in plantain are “allantoin” (which stimulates cellular growth and tissue regeneration), “aucubin” (anti-microbial agent), and “mucilage” (which reduces pain). Plantain has astringent properties, and a tea made from the leaves can be ingested to treat diarrhea and soothe raw internal membranes. Common plantain is also a highly nutritious wild edible, that is high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K.

Plantain is like a first aid kit growing in the lawn! A cup of strong Plantain tea will calm indigestion, and the leaf will relieve the pain of a toothache. “Psyllium” is the common name used for several members of the plant genus Plantago whose seeds are used commercially for the production of mucilage, the 2 most common of which are “Plantago Ovata” (aka blonde psyllium) and “Plantago Psyllium” (aka black psyllium). They are used in the common over-the-counter bulk laxative and fiber supplement products such as Metamucil and are useful for constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, dietary fiber supplementation, and diverticular disease. Psyllium is mainly used as a dietary fiber which is not absorbed by the small intestine. The psyllium mucilage absorbs excess water while stimulating normal bowel elimination.

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