So I’m watching random videos, and they had this Irish herb garden lady… and she casually drops the info that “slan lus,” healing herb, which shows up in a lot of stories, is what we call plantain.
What the Irish have as plantain, by the look of it, is not exactly the same species as we have here, but it must be really really close. And everything she described was stuff I’ve heard about US plantain. (It does grow in the US in many places, and is often called “buckhorn plantain.”)
But yeah, it’s apparently getting a lot of use from her, because you can make plantain leaf tea pretty easily. I mean, it’s a weed. Unless somebody’s using pesticide on it, you can get it everywhere temperate and use it most of the year, fresh. The kind of plantain we get around here never gets as big, but contrariwise, the leaves are always tender enough to be edible (although the taste is better when they’re small and young). They have a lot of vitamins too.
Plantain is usually used here (by those who use it) as just kind of a wild salad herb, honestly, although Chinese and Korean teas use plantains a fair bit. You see more about it in survival books than in herb books. It’s called Plantago major, Greater plantain, but it’s a lot smaller than that Irish kind of plantain.
The other amusing thing was that the Irish lady was sort of rubbing the little bitty flower things off the big plantain flower crowned stalk, and using them for extra salad roughage! Ha! Plantain seeds are kind of oily, and gooey when wet, so birds like to eat them. (The psyllium plants that are used for roughage are actually related to plantains, too.)
The important news is that plantain tea is supposed to be very good for respiratory issues and for sinus problems. So don’t say those weeds are totally useless!
Here’s another fan of plantains, who has both Greater and Buckhorn accessible around the place. The idea that “they want to be used” is based on how readily they grow back when browsed upon by animals, stepped on, ripped up, mowed, and what have you. They’re as happy in a city vacant lot as in the country. This person highlights the plantain as an impromptu bandage and as a drawing poultice for splinters, as well as the old-fashioned use of leaf fibers as a replacement for thread. The Irish lady says “spit poultices” of plantain are great for insect bites, and for drawing out pimples and boils.
But if you’re down by a stream and see this plantain, don’t mess with it! It’s the rare and possibly endangered heart-leaved plantain (Plantago cordata). Nothing dangerous, but it’s struggling to survive, because it likes pristine natural water.