Herbs in your lawn: Plantain

Plantain : Yarrow : Dandelion : Self Heal and others


For me, part of being a Druid is to become more aware of the things around us. The plants we walk past everyday – the herbs beneath our feet…

Many of these plants have been eaten and used by our ancestors for thousands of years. Over the next few months we will discuss some of these wonderful plants.

In New Zealand there are two common varieties

Plantago major – which has roundish leaves and is a little less common.

Plantago lanceolata – which has long leaves with parallel veins.

Both varieties are equally useful for nutrition and health. The ancient Saxon name was ‘waybread’, because it grows everywhere and it is so good!

There would be few sown lawns in New Zealand that do not have P. lanceolata growing in them. Kikuyu is probably the only grass that is sometimes used as lawn that can outcompete it!

I use it in two ways: as an ingredient in herbal teas, and as a wound dressing.

Taken internally, it can be added to salads, herbal teas or cooked as part of a bunch of greens. It helps the functioning of our kidneys and urinary tract. It has also been used for respiratory problems – coughs, colds and bronchitis. Here is another  link with more information.

Even our farmers are being converted to the benefits of this great plant! It is high in minerals, and I have even been told that cows eating it have less nitrogen in their urine!

When I was researching this blog – I even found this bit of “interesting” research into breast cancer in mice. Most of the mice that were injected with plantain juice got did not get cancer (18%) – and most that were not injected did get cancer (93%). Now I am not recommending we inject plantain juice – but here is a link to a plantain smoothie recipe 🙂

As a wound dressing I have applied it to grazes (road rash) and cuts. I put a piece of the leaf, topside down, onto the wound, and hold it in place with a plaster or bandage. The wound has always healed perfectly. (Disclaimer time: this is a recount of my personal experience – not a recommendation, and any use that is made of the herb is totally the reader’s responsibility. )

The leaves are described as having antibacterial, antifungal and antihistamine qualities. Plantain was one of the nine herbs Woden used. Woden has been said to use its help against snake bite – in this 10th Century charm recorded in Malcolm Cameron’s book Anglo-Saxon Medicine:

A snake came crawling, it bit a man.

Then Woden took nine glory-twigs,

Smote the serpent so that it flew into nine parts.

There apple brought this pass against poison,

That she nevermore would enter her house.

My preferred way of using this herb is to go out to the garden (or lawn) and pick a leaf or two to put in an herbal tea – it is almost tasteless and makes a healthy addition.

Before I finish, I should also mention the fibre psyllium is in the seed and husks. This is sometimes sold as metamucil – and is used as a laxative and can help irritable bowel syndrome. The psyllium that is available commercially comes from other plantain species, such as Plantago psyllium, but the plants we have here in New Zealand also contain this water soluble fibre in the seeds and husks.

Several websites contain cautions against nursing mothers using plantain – especially the seeds and husks because of the psyllium.

So next time you walk over a piece of lawn – look for this wonderful herb!

– Richard