Common Plantain

Here’s a plant you can find growing in your lawn, in vacant lots, even in the strips of grass beside the street. Its broad, oval leaves grow close to the ground in a dark green rosette. The smooth, thick leaves are 4 to 10 inches long with ribbed veins and long leaf stalk that is reddish at the base. Tall, slender flower stalks grow from the center of the plant, with small flowers along their length, then little fruits filled with tiny black seeds. Early spring leaves are edible in salads, and are rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. But the real magic comes later, when the leaves are mature. They are the perfect tonic for late summer mosquito or other itchy insect bites — simply grab a nice fat leaf, crush it and spread the juice on the bite. The itch goes away almost immediately. And that’s just the beginning. Plantain has a long history as a medicine. Some cultures used it as a panacea, or medicinal for almost everything. Chemical analysis has revealed that it has powerful anti-toxin, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and fever-reducing properties, to name just a few. A whole pharmacy…and you thought it was only a weed. This fall, you may want to harvest a few of these powerful plants and dry the leaves. Keep them on hand to make a medicinal tea when the chills of winter get you down.