All About Plantain

Broad-leaved Plantago major, Narrow-leaved Plantago lanceolata Plantago Star of the Earth or Buck’s Horn Plantain Plantago coronopus
The Māori name for plantain is kopakopa or parerarera


Plantain seed-head

Plantain seed-head

  • esteemed healers since ancient times Anglo-Saxon names Waybroad’ or ‘Waybread’ meaning a broad-leafed herb which grows by the wayside
  • will grow anywhere, even in the middle of pathways
  • found on every continent except the arctic and antarctic
  • they grow in a rosette form out from the centre
  • leaves are round or narrow with well defined veins
  • threads come out of the stems when a leaf is torn
  • seed-heads form on tall stalks and look like a slender bulrush with brownish flowers massed together (photo left)
  • they can be annual or perennial depending on the variety.

Magical Use this is cute
Recipe for a charm to predict love. On the summer solstice pick two flowering spikes as in the photo left and remove pollen bearing anthers. Wrap the flower spikes in a dock leaf and place under a stone overnight. Next day if more anthers have risen erect from the flowering spike, love is assured.

Medicinal Use

Left: Broadleaf Plantain, Centre: Narrowleaf Plantain, Right: Buckshorn Plantain

Left: Broadleaf Plantain, Centre: Narrowleaf Plantain, Right: Buckshorn Plantain

  •   herbal cure for wounds and sores
  • respiratory disorders including asthma, whooping cough and bronchitis
  • excellent for treating a bee sting by chewing up or rubbing a leaf to release the juice and applying to the sting
  • I used it with impressive results on mosquito bites. The itching quickly goes and maybe 15 minutes later all sign of the bite has gone.

Nutritional qualities

  • All plantain varieties are high in protein
  • Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, boron, calcium, iron, molybdenum, potassium and sulphur the

narrow-leaf plantain is more concentrated so best to use just one or two leaves in your smoothies leaves of the broad-leaved and buck’s horn plantains are less concentrated and can be used finely chopped up in salads, cultured with vegetables as well as in your smoothies.

Plantain Soup


Soak 1 cup of yellow or green split peas overnight
Gather a large handful of plantain leaves & chop up finely across the ribs

Plantain cut up for soup

Plantain cut up for soup

Stir fry a large onion, 3 garlic cloves and 1 tsp of ginger, 1/4 tsp cumin & 1 tsp turmeric in some nice olive or coconut oil
To this mix add 1 Liter of filtered water. Bring to the boil and let it simmer an hour or until the peas are soft.
Add tamari sauce, a dash of your own mineral rich vinegar and salt to taste.
Garnish with you favourite herb.

  • Plantain SmoothiePersimmons are ripe at this time of year, full of vitamin C they’ve been gathering all summer. They make a nice thick smoothie. Include some coconut milk along with the greens, an apple & banana, a slice of lemon and you have a lovely creamy drink.
    Ingredients listed below are left to right in the photo

    Ingredients for smoothie

    Ingredients for smoothie

    2 small kale leaves
    1 stalk of cleavers
    4 narrow leaf plantain leaves
    3 buckshorn plantain leaves
    2 wall lettuce leaves
    2 leaves & flowers of violet
    3 herb robert leaves
    1 sprig parsley (not pictured)
    1 ripe apple
    1 banana
    2 ripe persimmon
    1 cup coconut milk
    2 cups water
    1 small slice of lemon including skin for flavour
    Blend up the greens in the water and coconut milk. Once smooth add the banana, apple, lemon and persimmons including skin (take out the stalk). Blend again.
    Pour into your favourite glass, decorate with a slice of lemon and a small kale leaf and voila a delicious, creamy smoothie!

    Yield: 1.2 liters

    Plantain & Persimmon Smoothie

    Plantain & Persimmon Smoothie

11 Responses to “All About Plantain”

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  1. Keep promising myself each Spring to pick plantain. With your lovely ideas, this year will be the year! Thank you Julia

  2. Fiona says:

    Wow I have so many of these weeds in my yard. I have heaps of Plantain and a mass of Onion weed. I must try the plantain soup. I could kick my self in the backside because before knowing about edible weed I got rid of my chickweed and my violets they were everywhere. I have great soil here and they just keep coming up. (The Weeds)

    • Julia says:

      HI Fiona, they will probably come back or you could get some more plants. Amazing what we don’t know we’ve got in the garden isn’t it! Thanks for emailing!

  3. Annie says:

    Hi Julia, would love to try the plantain soup recipe, but couldn’t figure out when to add the plantain? Is it before simmering for 1 hour or more towards the end of cooking?

    • Julia says:

      HI Annie, great to hear from you and how cool you are making the plantain soup. I put the plantain and split peas in right after I have sautéed the onions, garlic, ginger, cumin and turmeric. Then I add the water and let it all cook together. Sorry I didn’t make that clear in the recipe! Thanks for asking and I hope it turns out delicious! Julia 🙂

  4. Petra says:

    Hi Julia. May I just add to your wonderful list of plantain uses – you can make amazing narrowleaf plantain tea out of the dried leafs. I’m European (Slovenian) and I know they fed narrowleaf plantai tea to concentration camps survivors at the end of WW2, my grandmother being one of them. It is amazing for cough, upper respiratory tract infections, bronchitis, promotes better digestion and soothes pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis). Once you pick the leaves (before it flowers) just make sure you dry them as quickly as possible and don’t use the ones that turn black. That’s it. Thanks for this article and the rest of your page is just amazing.

    • Julia says:

      HI Petra, Oh I so LOVE it that you wrote to me and shared that wonderful use of plantain tea. I knew it was good for chest and lung conditions but to have someone – your grandmother who benefited from it after the war is pure gold in information and just shows that when we don’t have access to modern drugs that these plants are there to help us so much. I will definitely share that information and have even more respect for the wonderful plantain plants or which we have so many. I have missed it before it flowers now as it is all in flower, but I am eating the flowering tops and they are quite edible and good to chew on and slightly mucilaginous – which is soothing to the digestive tract as well.
      It was wonderful to hear from you and thanks a lot for your feedback!!

      • Jen K says:

        Thanks for your page. This is wonderful information. I have a small cut that became infected and am on round #2 of antibiotics and it has been years since I’ve had to do abx. I’m trying desperately to aid healing otherwise and have been using plantain weed as a poultice. Hubby also made me a smoothie with the leaves. However, it has gone to flower already, should I not be using the leaves now for smoothies or topically? Thanks for any feedback

        • Julia says:

          Hi Jen, it is still fine to use plantain when it has gone to flower. It will put energy into the flower – you can actually eat them too and the seed heads. I eat all of it all year. All the best with your healing. I’d love to hear how you get on.

          Best wishes!

  5. mary lucker says:

    i had been pulling out the plantain for years until my niece [who is a naturopath] told me what it was. i have a special pot now with the plantain in it and it is flowering now . it goes in the smoothies now

    • Julia says:

      HI Mary,
      thank you for taking the time to write and share about your special plantain in a pot!! How wonderful. I will send you my latest newsletter as I am not sure if you get it or not but there is a picture in it of a huge plantain leaf. I’m so glad you’re now appreciating the huge benefits of this wonderful plant. Warmest wishes Julia