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 low-growing herbs.

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].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997