Family: Plantaginaceae, Plantago species
Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984.
Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature
on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate
Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Plantain is the general name for several small herbs used medicinally
because of their mucilaginous properties. Spanish psyllium or
fleawort, Plantago psyillium; Indian or blood plantago,
Plantago ovata Forsk; common plantain, Plantago major
L.; and narrow-leaved plantain, Plantago lanceolata
L., are representatives of the species. Spanish psyllium, an annual
native to the eastern Mediterranean region and naturalized in
the eastern United States, is about 0.6 meters tall with hairy
leaves, a dense spike of flowers, and a dehiscent seed capsule.
Common plantain and narrow-leaved plantain are perennial
Indian plantago, Spanish psyllium, and black psyllium (Plantago
indica), are cultivated in India, the United States, France, and
Spain. Little cultural information on plantain exists, although
planting takes place in the southwestern United States during
mid-autumn. Plantain grows as a weed in most places.
Psyllium seed gum, a natural gum or mucilage, is extracted from
the seed coat and husk with hot water and used as a bulk laxative
or purgative. The material hydrates slowly with the addition of
water forming a viscous mass (14.1-26). Some Plantago
species are not suitable for the extraction of mucilage because
of anatomical differences within the seed.
The plant has been traditionally used as a remedy against insect
bites, toothaches, fevers, ulcers, and wounds (11.1-918).
Other medicinal applications of the plantain species have included
use as an astringent, demulcent, and diuretic. Extracts of common
plantain have been reported to exhibit antibacterial activity.
Plantago species have also been used in the treatment of cancer
(14.1-6). The plant may be an aeroallergen, causing rhinitis
or hay fever (11.1-96).
Hoary plantain, Plantago media, is a perennial used as
a natural laxative.
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997