Health Benefits of Plantain Leaf

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on

Plantago Major

Not to be confused with the banana-like fruit of the same name, the Plantago major is a green, weedy plant native to North America, Europe and Asia. Cultures around the world have used the plantain leaf (Plantago major) to help relieve health ailments for millennia. The plant is one of nine sacred herbs mentioned in the ancient Lacnunga (‘Remedies’), a collection of Anglo-Saxon medical texts. During the 1500s and 1600s, it was used by Europeans for everything from dog bites and boils to fevers and the flu [1]. The major components of plantain are iridoid glycosides (particularly aucubin), mucilage,and tannins. Together, they are believed to reduce irritation, quell harmful organisms, and exhibit expectorant actions [2].

How is Plantain Leaf Used?

Today, it is still frequently used in folk medicine. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is found in balms called mehlems for “urogenital tract disorders, respiratory system disorders, gastrointestinal tract disorders, skin ailments, blood system disorders, nervous system disorders, cardiovascular system disorders, and rheumatism [3].”

People in Colombia use plantain leaf to promote good health. The gastrointestinal category dominates its use in Mexico [4]. These are just a few of many examples of how plantain is used across the globe. Due to its long history of use across the globe, and recent confirmation of some of its therapeutic properties, plantain leaf is now used primarily as an herbal remedy for upper respiratory tract health.

Clinical Studies of the Plantain Leaf

Modern science is just beginning to study the effects of the plantain leaf, and studies are confirming some of these traditional uses.

The German Commission E, which is similar to the United States’ FDA but regulates herbs and their medical use, approved the internal use of plantain leaves to ease coughs and irritation of the mucous membrane which are associated with upper respiratory tract infections [5]. They found that experimental research confirmed its beneficial properties, which can help reduce the irritation of lung tissues that cause discomfort. It can also help to stimulate the immune system. They recommend the plantain plant for moderate chronic irritative cough, especially for children.

Two clinical trials in Bulgaria documented the plantain plants efficacy for chronic bronchitis [6]. It acts as a demulcent, such as pectin and glycerin, which are common ingredients in cough syrups and throat drops. Demulcents relieve minor discomfort and irritation by forming a soothing film over the affected mucous membrane.

This property can also make the plantain leaf an effective relief for coughs caused by the flu, cold, and irritation. Since demulcents can cause more mucus production in the lungs, they are more often used to relieve dry coughs.

A study conducted in Taiwan, where plantain leaves are used in folk medicine for various infectious ailments related to the respiratory, urinary, and digestive tracts, found that hot water extracts from the plant showed resistance to harmful organisms. [7]. They also confirmed the immunostimulatory effects found by Commission E.

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Universidad Nacional Río Cuarto in Argentina also confirmed plantain leaf’s resistance to harmful organisms when studying alcoholic extracts from 8 different plants [8].

Research conducted by a Brazilian university found that three plants from the Asteraceae family, including the Plantago major, had some degree of activity against harmful organisms, including yeast. They believe this explains its use for many infectious ailments in Brazilian folk medicine [9].


  1. Margaret L. Ahlborn. History of plantain.
  2. Mark Blument, . Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. 1998. Book. isbn:096555550X.
  3. Sari?-Kundali? B, Dobes C, Klatte-Asselmeyer V, Saukel J. Ethnobotanical study on medicinal use of wild and cultivated plants in middle, south and west Bosnia and Herzegovina. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Aug 19;131(1):33-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.05.061. Epub 2010 Jun 8.
  4. Andrade-Cetto A. Ethnobotanical study of the medicinal plants from Tlanchinol, Hidalgo, México. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Feb 25;122(1):163-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2008.12.008. Epub 2008 Dec 25.
  5. Wegener T, Kraft K. [Plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.): anti-inflammatory action in upper respiratory tract infections]. Wien Med Wochenschr. 1999;149(8-10):211-6. Review. German.
  6. Kiochev. Plantain. Aisle 7. 2012 November 7.
  7. Chiang LC, Chiang W, Chang MY, Lin CC. In vitro cytotoxic, antiviral and immunomodulatory effects of Plantago major and Plantago asiatica. Am J Chin Med. 2003;31(2):225-34.
  8. Zanon SM, Ceriatti FS, Rovera M, Sabini LJ, Ramos BA. Search for antiviral activity of certain medicinal plants from Córdoba, Argentina. Rev Latinoam Microbiol. 1999 Apr-Jun;41(2):59-62.
  9. Holetz FB, Pessini GL, Sanches NR, Cortez DA, Nakamura CV, Filho BP. Screening of some plants used in the Brazilian folk medicine for the treatment of infectious diseases. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2002 Oct;97(7):1027-31.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • Andrea

    Are you aware that the images you used are not of the plantago major of which you speak.?

  • Frannie

    Spunky, my dog, has a kind of boil on the top of her paw. The vet described it like an inflammed hair follicle where skin is growing within the skin & filling with pus. Spunky was administered 2 – 2week injections of antibiotics & is now on another 2 week pill form! Surgery was recommended to get rid of the boil. My dog is 14 & can not have surgery due to age & a heart murmur. The vet took a swab of the pus to find out the kind of bacteria is causing the infection & to identify an antibiotic that will get rid of the boil. Spunky was perscribed an antibiotic before which possibly caused her to get pancreatitis,so I’m concerned about too much antibiotics. A friend suggested plantain & I’m trying it. I crushed it up & put it on the boil & wrapped it with a gauze. I’ll try anything & I hope it works!

  • Erich

    did it work?

  • bob

    we use the narrow leaf type for just about every thing and check up on goldenseal root powder – and myrrh gum

  • What benefits do you notice?

  • bob


  • IdahoGrown

    I have used this amazing plant on my horrible mosquito bites that were huge,swollen with fever and itched like crazy! I am in love with this plant aka weed, who knew! Nothing worked on them for the misery I was going through, so I chewed up a leaf and taped it on my bites and within 10-15 minutes the itch was gone,so I left it on over night! The swelling and itch and fever are ALL GONE, now to try it for my stomach pain from TOO much pain medicine

  • Lanka Fortunata

    Don’t spend your money on buying this stuff. Juice your own plants and freeze it in the ice cubes.

  • bob

    it’s good for tick bite’s any kind of bug bites and snake bite’s and they say just about any thing but I use the lance leaf – the narrow leaf

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  • Moneva Van Vooren

    Juicing is about the worst idea anybody ever had. You throw away what is best in the plant and you keep what is least valuable. Eat the entire plant, that way you get the juice PLUS all the valuable minerals and fibers and all the rest of it!
    Quod erat demonstrandum.

  • Moneva Van Vooren

    you can also just find the plant in your yard, cut the leaves, wash them with cold water, put it in a blender with some water, and blend it to a pulp. Then put it in the dog’s food…. make a rice dish for him, with tuna, veggies and rice! He will love it.

  • Moneva Van Vooren

    yes, you are right… but both the broad and the narrow leaf have very similar potency and properties. Use whichever one you have growing in your yard.

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  • Orris Holt

    Can I dehydrate and powder this? Thought it might be easier to use if in powder form.

  • Sabina D

    I found your article by searching “Plantain herb” …and was so pleasantly surprised that in 1st paragraph you write how this herb is used in Bosnia and Herzegovina, my Home country!! I remember this plant ever since I was little…as kids we would put it on scraped knees and cuts! I am interested in learning g more about healing plants and this one was 1st one I looked up and Bam, 1st article I read refferences use of Plantains in my country! Pretty kewl! Thank you 🙂

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