If you took a walk outside and looked down at the cracks in the driveway or sidewalks, you will find plantain herbs. Plantain can also be found naturally in lawns and gardens as well as out in the wild.
Some have dubbed plantain as a “common and noxious weed” while others proclaim it as a “miracle herb”. You would recognize the plantain by its broad leaves (sometimes referred to as “Broadleaf Plantain”) growing from its plants bottom. The leaves are ovate or egg-shaped and are found to be ribbed and jagged. The flowered stems grow up to a height of 4-10 inches with long, slender barbs of dense purple-greenish flowers. The flower contains up to 30 seeds and multiplies and disfigures lawns rapidly. It is a rough and tough perennial plant very much like the dandelion. Please take note that plantain – the starchy, banana-like fruit, is completely different and not related to the plantain “herb/weed” discussed here! See pictures of plantain here!
Plantain herbs have a long history of use dating way back to the 14th century. It has been coined a medicinal panacea, for plantain herbs have been known to be a “cure all” for typically every ailment. The American Indian gave plantain the name “Life Medicine” for its variety of uses. In the United States, the plant is nicknamed “Snake Grass Weed” due to its efficiency in cases of rattlesnake bites where the plantain roots juice is mixed with salt and applied locally to the wound. When any form of the leaf is applied to a bleeding surface, plantain is safe and effective for it quickly stops the blood flow and will repair tissue damage. Plantain has an astringent property that has been used for inflammation of the skin, malignant ulcers, boils, burns, insect bits, sunburns and has been used as a general pain reliever. Plantain is known to be an effective medication for an enlarged prostate, colic and is a remedy for respiratory disorders like colds, sore throats and tonsillitis. It has been known to treat bruises and broken bones.
Among the many other plantain uses, this herb is very popular as a body purifier and cleanses the body of all toxic elements. Plantain will open obstructions in the liver and spleen. It has been used as an alternative medicine for asthma, emphysema, bladder infections, bronchitis, fever, hay fever, hypertension, rheumatism and diabetes. It has been said to be effective with epilepsy, dropsy and jaundice. Additionally, plantain treats ear infections. When the juice is dropped into the ears (3-6 drops twice a day), it will ease the pain and will restore hearing loss. And get this smokers; plantain causes a natural aversion to nicotine in tobacco. It is now being used in “stop smoking products”.
Plantain roots, seeds and leaves can all be used internally and externally. They can be used as teas, washes, poultices, infused oil, lotion, cream, salves, decoctions, juice, tincture, ointment, gargle and syrup. Plantain has never been associated with any common side effects and is thought to be safe for infants and children as well. There is no information available regarding its use by pregnant or nursing mothers, although topical applications appear to be safe. The American Herbal Retailers Association has classified plantain as “able to be safely consumed when used appropriately”. However, there have been rare reported incidences by allergy sufferers having flare-ups when exposed to the plantain pollen. As with any medication, use in appropriate, moderated applications and always pay attention to your bodies needs.
If the above were not enough, plantain is also an edible herb. Plantain is very high in beta-carotene, vitamin A and C (ascorbic acid), vitamin K, calcium, potassium and fiber. You will want to harvest the young, tender leaves in the spring and toss them into your salads, or steam and use plantain as a spinach alternative. The leaves have a tendency to get tough quickly, so be sure to harvest only the youngest leaves. The flowers bloom all summer long and the stalks can be eaten raw or cooked. When you harvest the seeds, you will find a nutty flavor. They can be heated and dried then added to a variety of foods or ground into flour. (The seeds tend to have a mild laxative effect, almost like psyllium, which is used in commercialized “Metamucil” so you will probably want to use it sparingly.) The fresh leaves, seeds and roots can all be brewed to make herbal tea. You can dry every part of the plantain herb for later medicinal or culinary purposes. Note: Never harvest any plants along roadways due to exhaust residue or sprayed pesticides. Remember to always harvest or purchase your herbs from a reliable source.
Plantain Infusion– for internal and external use: The process of seeping the leaves, roots and/or flowers in already boiled water for a long period of time. To make Tea: This recipe all has to do with your own personal tastes. Some people like tea strong…others like it weak, according to their own personal palate. (Of course there is always honey, lemon or another sweetener available) To start experimenting with brewing your own plantain infusion, start out with 1 tablespoon of freshly; mashed/ground leaves (you can mash the herbs in a food processor) (1/2 tsp. dried) per 1-cup boiled water. You can also use a mixture of flowers and roots along with this. Remember to place it all in a tea ball or cheesecloth so you will not have the residue floating in your cup. If you have found your seeped tea to be too weak, drink it like water anyway to soothe the throat, lungs, bowels and any other internal organs along the passage way. If you are a smoker, add a bit of honey or other sweetener and drink it to stifle the nicotine cravings throughout the day. Regardless, drink this tea accordenly. Remember, this herb is a medicinal panacea!
If you have found your brewed tea to be too strong…do not throw it out. Use it as a wash by applying the tea to a cotton ball or absorbent cloth then squeeze a few drops into the ears for wax buildup and for better hearing. Better yet, place the tea absorbed cotton ball on the eyes to soothe them after a long, stressful day. This method will cure pink eye or any other eye ailment within days. If you have an open wound, rash, insect bite, sunburn or any other scar tissue present, apply the cotton ball to the effected area externally and continuously until there are no other traces of the ailment found. There have been reports of plantain fading stretch marks and scars.
Infused oil: To start experimenting: fill a pint sized container with freshly crushed plantain leaves (if you are using dried leaves-only fill the jar half full) then pour any type of vegetable oil over the top to fill the jar-leaving enough room to shake the contents. Let the jar sit in the sun and heat for at least 2 weeks. After the allotted time you will find the concoction to be a beautiful dark green color. (It gets better and more potent with age, but to an extent) Strain the mixture and then apply the oil to soften facial tissue. Use it nightly to ease wrinkles, age spots etc. You can use plantain oil on babies/young children’s skin instead of commercialized lotions or creams, (Plantain is 10% of the ingredients found in commercialized Vaseline Jelly or Vaseline Intensive care products.) to cure diaper rash, cradle cap, and diaper yeast infections.
Poultice: A pasty substance. Applied externally. After you have infused the plantain herbs and have strained the residue, you can then use the strained residue as a poultice, a paste like substance, to be applied as a more localized version of the infused form. Infusions get to the blood stream internally. A poultice is external and takes time to be absorbed through the skin tissue locally. Both have their benefits according to the treatment necessary. Apply a poultice to insect sting bites, sun and windburns or broken bones.
This is probably the best time to mention the purist form of plantain herbs: the act of chewing. In an emergency, when a person has been stung by a bee, wasp or rattlesnake, or perhaps is allergic to any of the above, you will need to insert the leaves (in more extreme cases, the flower and root as well) into your mouth and chew the substance, letting your saliva intervene with the mixture, then keep chewing to obtain a juice. You will then want to literally spit the substance upon the wound or infected area immediately. Keep applying the measure until the affected area is covered completely. Let rest, then apply additional plantain as needed when the “spit mixture” has been absorbed of moisture.
This is the most potent measure of Plantain available. Most people object to this measure because of its raw acrid taste…but it is the most potent and effective measure to administer to any infected ailment, especially in an emergency. If you have an infected, broken tooth or suffer from gingivitis, chewing a mixture of plantain parts in your mouth will cure the ailment.
Decoction: internal or external use. The process of boiling the plant material in water for 8-10 minutes. Then strain. For thrush, take 1 oz of the seeds and boil them in 1 ½ pint of water. Let the mixture boil down to 1 pint then let sit for about 20 minutes. Strain and cool. The syrup can then be mixed with sugar or honey and given to a child in tablespoon doses, 3-4 times per day. The syrup will also provide relief from coughs, congestion or sore and inflamed throats. Used as a juice, take 3 cups of fresh plantain leaves to one cup pure liquid honey. Crush the leaves in a food processor, drain then squeeze the juice using cheesecloth. Combine 1 cup of the juice with honey and simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes on low heat, stirring regularly. Let it cool then transfer to any container. Drink 1 spoonful of this nectar 3 times daily to fight fatigue, anemia or flu like symptoms.
By now you can see that plantain herbs are very useful for numerous applications. The plant’s leaves can be taken as a juice, tincture and syrup. An infusion prepared with the plantain’s seeds is also very useful in treating various disorders. Externally, the herb’s leaves may be applied as a poultice, ointment or cream, wash and gargle. And the list continues.
Learn how to add plantain herbs to your own Home Herb Garden Here!
Kali S Winters
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You may have noticed the cattail plant along the roadways near marshes and swamps. But, did you know that cattails are probably one of the most important wild plant foods around and definitely worth knowing about?
The uses of cattail are versatile, for every part has its purpose during different parts of the year. You can easily recognize a cattail plant. None of the look-alikes grows much more than a few feet tall, so by mid-spring, the much larger cattail becomes unmistakable. It’s easy to harvest, very tasty and provides a rich source of nutrients. A stand of cattails is as close as you will get to finding a wild supermarket for it has been dubbed: “the supermarket of the swamp” due to its variety of uses.
Cattail Shoots-The Edible Cattail!
In spring, as the cattail flower spike is developing, it can be tore off and eaten like corn on the cob. The cattail shoot has an odorless, tender, white, inner core that tastes sweet and mild. They taste like a cross between a tender zucchini and a cucumber, making it perfect to add to salads or sandwiches. If you add the cattail shoots to soup towards the end of cooking they will retain their crunchiness. They add a tasty flavor to stir-fries as well. The cattail shoot provides an excellent source of beta-carotene, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin C. It’s one of the best naturally wild vegetarian resources of protein, unsaturated fat, and it contain no calories. It also provides nutrient rich enzymes and minerals.
You can collect the cattail shoots after a period of dry weather. The ground may be a bit muddy so you will want to wait until the ground is more solid for better footing. Be sure to bring along a plastic baggie to collect the moist and sticky jelly. The jelly can be used on boils and burns later on. To increase your harvest, find a larger stand of cattails. The best yield is just before the flowers begin to develop. You will want to use both hands to separate the outer leaves from the core. After pulling the core out, peel and discard the outermost layer of leaves until you reach the edible part, which will be soft enough to pinch with your fingernail.
In late spring when the bases of the cattail leaves are young and tender, they can be eaten raw or cooked. The raw form can be added to salads or sandwiches. The cooked form is similar to spinach but better tasting. The dried leaves can also be twisted into dolls and toy animals for children, very much like the cornhusk dolls found in the market today. Cattail leaves have been found on thatched roofs, woven into decorative baskets and rugs, and have even been used for supports for the backs of chairs.
The underground lateral stems called rhizomes, can be harvested from late autumn to early spring. They are starchy, like potatoes, and are unchewable so the starch must be scraped off or sucked from the tough fibers. An alternative method of harvesting is to tear apart the rhizomes, wash and dry them, then pound the fibers to release the starch within. Then sift. The starch is very sweet and tasty, a great energy rich food source, and can be eaten raw or added as a thickening agent when cooking. The buds attached to the rhizomes, are also edible and make a tasty cooked vegetable. Get a taste of the wild food by hunting for cattail in your area.
Cattails are plants that have flowers with both male and female parts. The male flowers form a narrow spike at the tip of a vertical stock. The male usually withers once the pollen has been shed. The pollen can be collected and used as a flour supplement or thickener for gravy and soups. You can also eat the pollen raw, sprinkle it in yogurt; mix it up in fruit shakes, oatmeal, or salads. People have paid an outrageous amount of money to obtain the pollen from health food stores. The commercial form of the pollen is sold in capsules but does not contain the flavor, energy content, freshness, nutrition, and price value like that found in the wild. The pollen is a great protein and energy source.
During its short season, the pollen can be collected on calm summer days so that your bounty is not scattered in the wind. Take the flower heads and bend it down so you can place a large paper bag over the top. Then gently shake it. After letting the pollen settle and sifting out the debris, you can then use the pollen to add to whole grain flour for baking breads, muffins or pancakes.
After the pollen has been removed, the cattail is no longer edible. You can then dip the brown flower heads in wax and use the stem as a slowly burning candle. The smoke will drive away the insects.
The large numbers of tiny female cattail flowers form dense cigar-like spikes on the stem just below the male spikes. When ripe, the heads disintegrate into a cottony fluff, leaving the seeds to blow in the wind. The female part must remain connected to the rest of the plant until the seeds have matured and dispersed. But beware, the plant’s airborne seeds have been known to irritate the skin and can trigger asthma.
Cattails were a major staple for the American Indian. There was no need to cultivate the cattail, for the Indians found it in such great supply. They used the “down” to line moccasins, for bedding, diapers and baby powder. One Native American word for cattails meant “fruit for papoose’s bed.” The Indians also used cattails medicinally. They boiled the rootstock and used it as a diuretic for increase urination or used the jelly-like paste found between the young leaves for sores, boils, wounds, burns, scabs and inflammations. It was a major ingredient for smallpox pustules.
People today use the cattail down to stuff pillows and clothing items. Word of caution: when using the down of cattails-always use batting material to completely cover the down. The fluffy down may cause skin irritation.
Discovering cattails are always a sure sign of water. Their microorganisms have been known to improve water and soil quality. Scientist are now experimenting with the cattail to remove the poisonous elements of arsenic from drinking water. This form of filtration system may be one of the only ways to provide cheap water filtration for developing nations. How incredible is that!
Learn some great Wild Food Recipes Here!
Learn about Dandelion Herbs!
Kali S Winters
Alert: Rules for Harvesting– Precautionary measures
1. Be entirely certian you know the plant your are harvesting. If necessay use several different field guides, consult a knowlegeable person and if you are still uncertain, watch it through the seasons to confirm your ID
2. Be entirely certain the area you are havesting from has not been sprayed with pesticides or has been subjected to other harmful chemicals that are not conducive to human health. Areas to be careful of are: lawns that have been treated, roadsides, golf courses, and along power lines.
3. Tread lightly and never pick too many plants for an area. The general rule is to only pick 1/3 of the plants in an area. Less for endangered plants. Maybe more for prolific plants like the dandelion or yellow dock.
4. Remember that these are recipes, not a field guide. The user takes full responsibility for correctly identifying, harvesing, and using these plants.
I could not pass up telling you about the amazing secret life of the natural dandelion.
Before you start killing dandelions on your dandelion lawn, did you know that the dandelion benefits include a highly prized herb?
This lowly plant, disdained by nearly all homeowners and landscapers alike, is probably one of the most versatile healing herbs you could ever possibly find. It has been described as “a plant for which we once knew the use for but we have forgotten”.
Dandelion Health Benefits:
Dandelions are a rich source of vitamin A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as potassium, zinc, and fair amounts of iron and manganese, which contain a higher mineral content than similar leafy greens such as spinach. One cup of dandelion leaves amounts to 112% of the daily-recommended dose of vitamin A, 32% of vitamin C, 535% of vitamin K and 218 mg potassium, 103 mg calcium, and 1.7 mg of iron. Wow!
When ingested, dandelions are also an excellent source of vitamin H, which aids in weight loss reduction. The leaves and roots of the dandelion, or the whole plant, are used fresh or dried in dandelion teas, capsules, or extracts.
Dandelion supplements are available in a variety of Natural Health Food stores. But why go for dandelion supplements when you can pluck them right from your own very yard!
Dandelion Medicinal Uses:
Dandelion mead (the flowers, roots and leaves), have been used for centuries in traditional medicine & medicinal teas. In traditional medicine, dandelion roots and leaves were used to treat liver detoxification.
The Native Americans were known to have used a dandelion decoction (liquid made by boiling down the herb in water ~Dandelion Tea) to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and stomach upset. They also used the natural dandelion as a diuretic and for inflammation reduction.
Chinese medical practitioners have used the dandelion tool to treat digestive disorders, appendicitis, and breast problems (such as inflammation or lack of milk flow). In Europe, herbalists incorporated it into dandelion remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.
Today, dandelion roots are mainly used as an appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and for liver and gallbladder function.
The fresh root or its preparations are thought to be more potent than the dried root itself. Additionally, dandelion leaves are believed to have a diuretic effect as they increase salt and water to stimulate the excretion of urine from the kidneys. There is also evidence that this property of dandelion leaves may normalize blood sugar levels in diabetics.
Wait, that’s not all, because the natural dandelion flower is also edible. You can use the flower and leaves in salads and there are dandelion tea benefits as well.
The roasted, ground roots can be used as a caffeine-free dandelion coffee. The flower, additionally, makes a terrific jelly. And who hasn’t heard of Dandelion wine? The flower petals, along with other natural ingredients, have been used for century’s to make dandelion wine. What great stuff! And of course, so natural! Dandelion Recipes Here!
Dandelion Side Effects:
The uses of dandelion are generally considered safe. However, there have been rare incidences of upset stomach and diarrhea, and some people are allergic to the plant. People with an inflamed or infected gallbladder, or blocked bile ducts, should avoid using the natural dandelion in any form what so ever. Please experiment with a small dosage at first before ingesting and consult a herbal practitioner if any symptoms should arise.
If this has interested you so far, forget about dandelion supplements. The next time your child plucks a batch of dandelions to present to you as their prize, why not teach them the dandelion herbs benefit, by sharing a refreshing cup of dandelion tea instead of letting the dandelions wilt in a vase upon the dining room table. “OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES” to quote an old expression.
View Dandelion Videos ~ Dandelion Tea, Using Dandelion Roots, Dandelion Coffee, Dandelion Wine, Dandelion Medicinal Purposes, Benefits of Dandelion Greens
Kali S Winters is an author and herbalist who teaches others how to set up and maintain beautiful amazing gardens. Kali has written numerous books on herb gardening and holistic healing. Check out all 18 bonus books Here!
Here are some great Natural Dandelion Recipes including Dandelion Wine and Dandelion Coffee.
Dandelion Wine Making Supplies