Also known as English plantain, narrow leaf plantain (botanical name Plantago lanceolata) belongs to genus Plantago. Generally, plantains are categorized under two groups, narrow leaf and broad leaf.
Plants under the broad leaf plantain produce leaves that are about 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide and have parallel veins, which spread out at the broader section of the leaf. You will find the plantain leaves growing in a bunch very near the ground. The plantain flowers are borne on elongated spike that emerges from the centre of the leaf clusters.
On the other hand, the leaves of narrow leaf plantain are lance-shaped and grow up to 12 cm (5 inches) in length and just 2.5 cm (1 inch) broad and are covered with hairs. The edge of the leaves is small and lance-shaped. The flowers of this variety of plantain are small as well as unremarkable.
It has been found that both types of plantains enclose elevated levels of tannins and their seeds contain high amounts of mucilage. The tannins contribute to the leaves' astringent properties and make them effective for treating various types of skin sores, cuts, bites and even a variety of inflammations. The seeds are used to brew a tea, which is taken internally for treating diarrhea and dysentery. This herbal tea is also effective for curing bleeding from the mouth as well as other mucous membranes.
The leaves are also used as poultice. Crush the plantain leaves and place it around wounds to end bleeding. A decoction or infusion prepared with the leaves is used as a rinse for the eyes and cure eye infections. The whole plantain plant is also used to make a tea which is drunk for treating nausea. This tea is also used in the form of a mouth wash for canker sores (aphthae).
The mucilage contained by plantain seeds is a wonderful thickener that is used in various cosmetics, such as lotions and even hair wave sets. It is also used by the ice cream manufacturers as a stabilizer.
Plantain is a marvellous plant that can help in treating a variety of skin problems including bruises, cuts, burns, wounds, rashes, mosquito bites, blisters, swellings, sprains, eczema, poison ivy/ oak, cracked lips, and diaper rash. Plantain is known to be effectual in bringing out poisons from snake bites, bee stings, spider bites, thorns and splinters. Application of this plant may also lessen the chances of developing scars due to scrapes and major cuts. In order to use the plant for these purposes, pick a few plantain leaves, mash or chew them to let go their juice and subsequently apply the mashed or chewed leaves to the bite or sting. Keep the mashed leaves in place for some time to enable them to draw out the poison.
It is worth mentioning here that Native Americans have been using plantains for several centuries in the form of a miracle plant. In fact the plant's therapeutic properties and uses are extensive. This plant is widely used for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Many claim that plantain's anti-bacterial and antiseptic activities are similar to that of hydrocortisone. It has been proven that its potent antiseptic properties help plantain to sterilize minor cuts. At the same time, application of the plant's leaves is said to accelerate new cell regeneration as the plant contains a chemical compound called allantoin, which is known to be a cell proliferate.
A look at the various different constituents of the plantain helps to somewhat explain the multiple health benefits offered by this plant. Phenylethanoids contained by plantains are excellent for healing wounds. These natural chemicals are work as effective antioxidants and possess anti-microbial properties. They work to restrain bacterial and fungal growths.
Plantains also contain iridoids that serve as anti-bacterial as well as anti-inflammatory agents, in addition to accelerating wound healing. The flavonoids present in this plant are potent antioxidants. At the same time, they also inhibit inflammation and hyaluronidase. In other words, they possess excellent anti-aging properties.
These plants also contain a wide range of essential minerals, including sodium, calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. They also contain elevated amounts of tannins, which are not only antiseptic, but also excellent anti-inflammatory and astringent agents.
Polysaccharides contained by plantains help to reinforce the immune system, in addition to possessing moisturizing and soothing properties. Similarly, plantains contain saponins that possess anti-bacterial properties and help to restrain bacterial growth. Saponins are also hemostatic, thereby help to stop bleeding. Plantain plants also contain a number of vitamins, including vitamin A, C and K.
Considering the valuable therapeutic properties of the plantain plant and its multiple uses, it is really surprising that this plant is yet to be utilized properly, especially for skin care. In fact, it should have been widely used by skin care product manufacturers as a major ingredient in their products.