Plantain leaf or Plantago major is actually not the same as the banana-like fruit known as plantain which is found in tropical areas. The leaf has the ability to treat skin conditions and a diverse range of health problems. It also has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and antibiotic abilities.
Plantain leaf contains vitamins (A, C and K), calcium, fiber, magnesium, zinc, potassium, sodium, and copper. It is also a rich source of various phytochemicals, including tannins, phenols, allantoin, glycosides, as well as salicylic acid. In case you didn’t know, phytochemicals are antioxidant compounds naturally present in plants that inhibit free radical from causing damage in the body and as such, help to prevent and treat a number of diseases.
The Health Benefits of Plantain Leaf
This herb called plantain leaf has a diverse range of health benefits.
The seeds of Plantago major, black psyllium, can help lower cholesterol levels. In fact, according to studies, lowers cholesterol levels in the blood and might also reduce the absorption of cholesterol and fat. Psyllium might also divert hepatic cholesterol toward the production of bile acid.
It is, however, advisable to consult your doctor first before incorporating psyllium into your diet therapy to reduce cholesterol levels. Also, do not forget to take psyllium with lots of fluids.
Plantago leaf is used to treat ulcers too. Some studies found that plantain contains anti-ulcerogenic properties and its anti-inflammatory effects are believed to make it effective for people with ulcers.
The dried leaves are powdered and consumed with some honey on an empty stomach to help treat ulcers.
Relieves Cold and Cough
For so many years, plantain leaf has been used traditionally for the treatment of colds and coughs. The herb contains anti-inflammatory, immunostimulatory, and spasmolytic properties that can be beneficial when treating infections in the upper respiratory airways. Plantain leaf also has antiviral properties that protect against certain viruses that cause the common cold. The herb is also a demulcent that relieves irritation in mucous membranes.
To prepare a plantain cough syrup, simply simmer 2 ounces of fresh leaves in 2 cups of water for about 10 minutes. Strain the water, add 3 cups of brown sugar (or honey) to the liquid, and allow it to boil. When the sugar dissolves, turn off the heat, and allow it to cool. Take 1–2 teaspoons of the syrup to treat colds and coughs when required.
Black psyllium, the seeds of Plantago major, is often used to treat chronic constipation as well as for softening stools, especially for people with hemorrhoids, pregnant women, and after surgery on the rectum. The seeds are also effective in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The ripe seeds of Plantago major are dried before being used medicinally. Psyllium seeds possess mucilage, and when taken with water, they increase the bulk of stool, easing bowel movement.
Remember, when taken with insufficient water, the seeds can actually choke you when they swell up and block the throat, or result in an obstruction in the bowels.
Remedy for Bronchitis
Plantain is an effective natural remedy for treating bronchitis, a condition where an infection in your bronchi results in inflammation and irritation. The symptoms of bronchitis include coughing and mucus production. Plantain also contains complex polysaccharides that help to soothe irritation and relieve coughs. According to some studies, the herb is effective for treating chronic bronchitis as well.
To make plantain tea, simply steep about 1/2 a teaspoon of the herb in a cup of hot water for about 15 minutes. Take about 3 cups of this tea a day to give you relief.
Improves Blood Sugar Levels for Diabetics
Psyllium may be helpful in regulating your blood sugar levels too. We already know that water-soluble dietary fibers are effective for lowering blood sugar levels after a meal by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrate. However, some commercial black psyllium products may contain added sugars. So choose carefully.
Incorporating psyllium into the diet prescribed by your doctor can help if you have diabetes. But it is advisable to consult your doctor before taking psyllium supplements, especially if you are already on medication to control your blood sugar.
For ages, plantain leaf has been used in the treatment of wounds. The herb contains saturated primary alcohols and allantoin that help heal minor wounds, sores, cuts, as well as insects, wasp, and bee stings.
Plantain leaves can be mixed with antibacterial honey and applied directly on wounds to facilitate healing. In fact, you can apply the fresh leaves directly on minor injuries.
Soothes Skin Irritations
Plantain leaves are effective as a treatment for inflammation and irritation of the skin. The leaves contain a compound called allantoin that helps promote the growth of healthy tissues. The compound also contains healing, soothing, and anti-irritating properties for acne, eczema, sunburn, and other skin conditions. Allantoin is, in fact, an ingredient used in the making of numerous cosmetic products such as pharmaceutical products, acne treatment ointments, sunscreens, oral hygiene products, and skin lotions.
Simply crush fresh plantain leaves and apply it to the affected area.
Side Effects and Precautions
Generally, plantain leaf is considered a safe herb, but there are a number of side effects and precautions you need to know about.
- Since there isn’t enough information about the safety of consuming plantain leaf during pregnancy or lactation, it is advisable to check with a doctor or herbal practitioner before using the herb.
- Remember that consuming psyllium along with your meals for a long time can inhibit the proper absorption of nutrients.
- It is not advisable to consume black psyllium if you have bowel blockage, hardened stools, weakened muscles, and a narrowed gastrointestinal tract. This is because the seeds can swell and block the gastrointestinal tract.
- As much as possible, do not use non-commercial preparations of black psyllium as they may contain a toxin that can cause damage to the kidneys. For commercial products, the toxin is usually removed to make them safe.
- Although plantain leaf has many health benefits, it is important to check with a doctor before using it, especially if you are on medications for depression, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, diabetes, heart-related issues, or neuropathic pain. This is because the constituents of plantain leaf may interfere with the effectiveness of the medications.