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Plantain

Parts Used & Where Grown

These green, weedy plants are native to Europe and Asia, but now grow practically anywhere in the world where there is sufficient water. Plantain should not be confused with the banana-like vegetable of the same name. The leaves of plantain are primarily used as medicine. The seeds of plantain can also be used medicinally, having mild laxative effects similar to the seeds of psyllium, a close relative of plantain.

How It Works

The major constituents in plantain are mucilage, iridoid glycosides (particularly aucubin), and tannins. Together these constituents are thought to give plantain mild anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antihemorrhagic, and expectorant actions.1,2 Plantain is approved by the German Commission E for internal use to ease coughs and mucous membrane irritation associated with upper respiratory tract infections as well as topical use for skin inflammations.3 Two Bulgarian clinical trials have suggested that plantain may be effective in the treatment of chronic bronchitis.4,5 Insufficient details were provided in these reports to determine the quality of the trials or their findings. Although plantain was thought to possess diuretic properties, one double-blind trial failed to show any diuretic effect for this plant.6 A preliminary trial found that topical use of a plantain ointment (10% ground plantain in a base of petroleum jelly) was helpful as part of the treatment of people with impetigo and ecthyma, two inflammatory skin disorders.7 Insufficient details were provided in this report, however, to determine the quality of the study or its findings.

References

1. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 186-7.

2. Wichtl M, Bisset N (eds). Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers and Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 378-81.

3. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 186-7.

4. Koichev A. Complex evaluation of the therapeutic effect of a preparation from Plantago major in chronic bronchitis. Probl Vatr Med 1983;11:61-9 [in Bulgarian].

5. Matev M, Angelova I, Koichev A, et al. Clinical trial of Plantago major preparation in the treatment of chronic bronchitis. Vutr Boles 1982;21:133-7 [in Bulgarian].

6. Doan DD, Nguyen NH, Doan HK, et al. Studies on the individual and combined diuretic effects of four Vietnamese traditional herbal remedies (Zea mays, Imperata cylindrica, Plantago major and Orthosiphon stamineus). J Ethnopharmacol 1992;36:225-31.

7. Aliev RK. A wound healing preparation from the leaves of the large plantain (Plantago major L). Am J Pharm 1950;122:24-6.

8. Koichev A. Complex evaluation of the therapeutic effect of a preparation from Plantago major in chronic bronchitis. Probl Vatr Med 1983;11:61-9 [in Bulgarian].

9. Matev M, Angelova I, Koichev A, et al. Clinical trial of Plantago major preparation in the treatment of chronic bronchitis. Vutr Boles 1982;21:133-7 [in Bulgarian].

10. Mills S, Bone K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2000, 209.

11. Doan DD, Nguyen NH, Doan HK, et al. Studies on the individual and combined diuretic effects of four Vietnamese traditional herbal remedies (Zea mays, Imperata cylindrica, Plantago major and Orthosiphon stamineus). J Ethnopharmacol 1992;36:225-31.

12. Weiss RF. Meuss AR (trans). Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd., 1985, 198-9.

13. Hoffmann D. The New Holistic Herbal, 3rd ed. Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK: Element, 1990, 224.

14. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 186-7.

15. Weiss RF. Meuss AR (trans). Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd., 1985, 198-9.

16. Hoffmann D. The New Holistic Herbal, 3rd ed. Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK: Element, 1990, 224.

17. Schilcher H. Phytotherapy in Paediatrics: Handbook for Physicians and Pharmacists. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers, 1997, 33.

18. Blumenthal M (ed). Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000, 307-10.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2019.