Plantains: Free medical care!
To enjoy the beauty of nature, we expose ourselves to all of nature - in other words, if you're out in the woods you might get an insect sting or a cut from an errant branch. Nature does provide a readily available remedy, if you know what to look for.
The plantain plant (Plantago major) grows all over the lawns, street sides, and occasionally in the woods of eastern Maine. It is easily identifiable by its broad leaves and long stalks covered in small seeds.
If you get stung by an ant or a flying insect, or if you get a small cut or rash, you can pick a few leaves from the plantain plant and chew them up in your mouth. The idea is to make a homemade poultice by chewing the leaves into small pieces (into a kind of cud) and then spitting it out into your hand or a piece of cloth or tissue. Use the material that you've created to soothe your wound by placing it directly on it. The wound will receive the natural benefit of the plantain leaf - which draws out most poisons within an hour - and your saliva.
Plantains are among the most commonly available medicinal plants and can be used to cure a variety of ailments. The leaves of the plantain are a natural appetite suppressant and can lower cholesterol if consumed as a tea. The roots of the plant can be chewed to alleviate pain from a toothache. The tannin and glycosides within the plantain cause it to slow bleeding and pull together tissues, making it ideal for cuts and other inflammations such as hemorrhoids.
The plantain shown in parts. Image from Growing Hermione's Garden.
Plantain plant (Plantago major) in its natural habitat. Look for it by roadsides, in lawns, or along the edges of woods, and never suffer from an ant bite for too long again!