Scientific Name(S): Plantago lanceolata L., P. major L., P. psyllium L., P. arenaria Waldst. & Kit. (P. ramosa Asch.) Spanish or French psyllium seed), P. ovata Forsk. (Blond or Indian plantago seed) Family: Plantaginaceae. (Not to be confused with Musa paradisiacae, or edible plantain.)
Common Name(S): Plantain, Spanish psyllium, French psyllium, blond plantago, Indian plantago, psyllium seed, flea seed, black psyllium.
Perennial herb, origin thought to be Eurasia and now naturalized throughout the world. Plantain is considered a common and noxious weed by some and a miracle plant by others. Cultivation: Plantain is very easy to cultivate, it succeeds in any soil and prefers a sunny position, some forms have been selected for their ornamental value. It is an important food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies. Growing from a short, tough rootstock or rhizome, which has a large number of long, straight, yellowish roots, is a basal, rosette of large, broadly oval, dark green, leaves. The 4 to 10 inch long smooth, thick, strong and fibrous leaves have 3 to 7 or more ribbed veins, abruptly contracting into a long, petiole (leaf stalk) which is redish at the base. The leaf margin is entire, or unevenly toothed. The flower stalks, are erect, long, slender, densely-flowered spikes. Each tiny flower is brownish and bell-shaped with four stamens and purple anthers. Flowers bloom most of the summer. The fruit is a two-celled capsule and containing four to sixteen seeds. Harvest fresh young edible leaves in spring. Gather entire plant after flower spike forms, dry for later herb use.
Uses of Plantain:
It is used in inflammation of the skin, malignant ulcers, intermittent fever, etc., and as a vulnerary, and externally as a stimulant application to sores. Applied to a bleeding surface, the leaves are of some value in arresting haemorrhage, but they are useless in internal haemorrhage, although they were formerly used for bleeding of the lungs and stomach, consumption and dysentery.
Side Effects of Plantain:
Plantain is not associated with any common side effects and is thought to be safe for children. There is no information available about its use by pregnant or nursing women, though topical application appears to be safe. Adulteration of plantain with digitalis leading to dangerous side effects has been reported in Switzerland and the United States.
Drug Interactions: Plantain may interact with lithium and carbamazepine, decreasing their plasma concentrations.
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