Years ago I was gifted a few sprigs of the weed form of plantain by Marion Wise so I actually chose to introduce it to my garden. Mr. Wise lived several miles from us and we developed a friendship after I stopped by his place for fresh eggs. His home had no electricity and he cooked and heated with wood… his yard was a fascinating tangle of weeds and garden crops. Well into his eighties, he was a singular individual who had lived a life of service to others, taking nothing for himself… I admired him greatly. His parents had both died young so as the oldest, he took in and raised all of his siblings with tender devotion. Later in life he took in a mentally challenged man whose family had died leaving him lost and homeless. Mr. Wise was one of the few who still recalled the old ways to cure and heal… he would pluck something from the weed patch, crush it, adding a bit of oil to make a salve and it was a cure for skin cancer.
Unfortunately as life would have it, the demands of my young family kept me busy and my visits with him became fewer and fewer. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and suddenly he was gone. With his passing all that he knew drifted out into the universe… and his home and gardens were flattened and bull dozed until there was no longer even a memory of them. I have long wished I had taken time to tap into the wealth of his knowledge for he was properly named... he was wise indeed.
I planted the plantain and fairly soon it jumped the bed, spilled into the yard and actually took over my world. I could not recall why he had given me this terribly invasive plant and waged war on it until recently when I discovered it is indeed a miracle plant.
It is the only plant brought to the colonies from Europe where it was introduced to Native Americans … they called it White Man’s Foot as it was often found growing along well-trodden foot paths. From bee stings, snake bites and sunburns, to bronchitis, arthritis and cancer, this plant is revered among practitioners of folk medicine for its ability to cure just about anything.
It kills bacteria and stops bleeding from wounds while preventing infection. The tonic will relieve coughing while it strengthens the heart, and the seeds can aid digestion. A salve using crushed leaves mixed with Vaseline can reduce the swelling and pain of hemorrhoids. A tonic of plantain will reduce fever, kill internal parasites, and also act as a diuretic. Applying crushed leaves will reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis and they will also bring relief to those with various eye conditions.
To prepare a tea or tonic pick, wash, and pat the leaves dry. Place them in a bowl, cover them with boiling water, place a tight lid on and allow it to ‘steep’ for 30 minutes. Strain it, saving the leaves. It may be sipped as a warm tea or allowed to cool before sealing it in a glass jar to be used as a tonic. Do not toss the softened leaves… put them on a spot of psoriasis, poison ivy, eczema, bug bite, or pink eye… several applications will provide relief. Go to the yard and pick some… it’s everywhere!