Friday, March 23, 2012

Weed lovin' witchery: Narrowleaf Plantain

The lovable lawn weed series (Purple Deadnettle, Hairy Bittercress) continues:

Narrowleaf Plantain
Plantago lanceolata
a.k.a. Ribwort (note the ribbed leaves)

Do you have a lawn? Do you ever see lawns? You have seen this stuff. I have seen it in diverse areas of the U.S. without ever realizing that I was standing on a goldmine of health benefits. It won’t flower until later in the season, so for now the key thing is the ribbed leaves. Also, narrow leaf and broadleaf (wider, rounder leaves, but still ribbed) plantain have the same uses. Neither is related to the starchy food plantain.

For eating: The leaves are edible stir fried or boiled and are full of good-for-you antioxidants. Young leaves are preferable especially raw in salads, but older leaves can be used after their tough, parallel veins are removed.

For healing: Crushed leaves produce an astringent, anti-toxic, antibacterial, hemostatic and anti-inflammatory juice that can be applied to cuts, insect bites and stings. It is also an expectorant, anticatarrhal and demulcent, useful as a fresh or dried tea for respiratory issues, colds and coughing. In fact, this is pretty much a miracle plant that’s good for everything. Make the tea as needed or carry it dried in a first aid kit, chew and apply to bites (or find it fresh and crush or chew). Make a vodka tincture or an oil infusion and take only 2-3 drops as needed. Make an ointment for diaper rash and hemorrhoids.

For witching: Plantain, so widely regarded as a heal-all herb, can be used for health and healing spells. Its soothing, calming, toxin-neutralizing and protective properties can be used magically as well as physically. It is especially good for taking the sting out of arguments and creating a well protected and happy home.

For wildlife: Like most garden weeds, it is not native to North America. However, birds are fond of plantain seeds, which contain a higher percentage of oil than many seeds and are grown commercially and included in some bird seed mixtures. Children sometimes play games with the long flower stalks. Children count as wildlife.

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