Scientific Name: Plantago (genus)
- Order: Lamiales
- Family: Plantaginaceae
- Genus: Plantago
Dull green leaves growing out of an underground taproot may not seem impressive, but this common little “weed” is mighty when it comes to relieving pains and rashes. Plantago is a large genus of small green plants, usually known as plantain — not to be confused with plantain bananas. Without stalks, the leaves of these plants grow straight from the stem, resulting in leaves that are very low to the ground. In fact, the first part of the name plantago is from Latin for “sole of the foot.”
The flowers of plantain plants grow on slender spikes and are so tiny that one can hardly tell when the plant is flowering and when it has grown seeds. Plantains are a nuisance to many gardeners because its seeds are pollinated by wind and spread quite fast. Additionally, in order to get rid of the plant, its entire taproot must be taken out or the plant will grow back.
One of the Saxons’ nine sacred herbs, plantain has many medicinal uses, from reducing swelling to relieving coughing problems. The leaves contain healing oils and are often chewed or crushed before being applied to a wounded area or insect bite. Besides external use, plantain leaves can also be made into tea, which can soothe the lungs and help with indigestion. Fresh, young leaves of the broadleaf plantain — the most common type of plantain — can be eaten in salads. These plants contain vitamins and calcium.