Two types of edible plantain leaves, broad-leaf and lance-leaf (photo credit: Ann Hines) Move over spinach, try this delicious Plantain-Artichoke Dip (photo credit: Ann Hines)


Plantain Leaves (Plantago)
If you're visiting my house one afternoon and are unfortunate enough to be stung by one of our honeybees, don't be alarmed if my children race about the yard, then come back and spit something green on your sting. They've learned that plantain is wonderful for stings! I've taught them to identify the two common variants, which are nearly always found nearby when you need them, and to quickly chew up a leaf and put the pulp on a sting, bite, or burn. Its effects on pain are miraculous!
This is a tried-and-true remedy in our family. We make it into a salve, we use it on burns, bug bites, stings, cuts and scrapes. It's healing powers are impressive! My sister was camping along the river when a friend fell into the campfire. Having no other medicine on hand, she set everyone to finding plantain leaves, chewing them and applying them to the burns. The pain was under control rapidly, and she bore no scars after it healed.
In addition, Dr. John Christopher extols plantains virtues for kidney and bladder troubles, and for extracting the poison of bites and stings. Our dog was bit by a copperhead two weeks ago, and yelped pitifully while we searched for the bite marks. Once found, the kids immediately covered them with plantain. She began to quiet down immediately, and after additional treatment that evening, was acting normal by the next day, the swelling gone.
It's been studied for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer and immunomodulatory properties. In addition to topical applications, it's known for soothing the digestive tract, beneficial for the liver, and supporting the immune system. It contains several minerals, including zinc, copper, calcium, potassium and magnesium. The leaves contain vitamins A, C and K. Adding just a few leaves to your meal can really boost your nutrition!
Have you seen advertisements for broad leaf weed killer? This impressive plant is a nuisance to people who wish to have a yard like a golf course, and some people spend a lot of time and money eradicating it. Broad-leaf plantain can produce 15,000 seeds per plant, are wind-pollinated, and can live in the soil for 60 years! So it is a formidable foe! If you've given up eradicating it from your lawn, why not enjoy it? Just be sure to pick leaves from a yard that has not been sprayed-- the weed killer has been linked to lymphoma.
When you're ready to try this weed, merely walk out into your yard, or along a roadside, and begin plucking the leaves, both broad-leaf and lance-leaf are suitable. We prefer the broad-leaf for medicinal use, but use both for eating. A young, tender broad-leaf is perfect in place of lettuce on a sandwich, the tougher ones are better boiled like collard greens, or use them in my dip recipe below. Remove any tough stems. The lance leaf is tender when cooked, like spinach, but even more delicious!
After I recently boiled up a mess of plantain, I was still undecided about how to eat them. I put some butter, salt, pepper and garlic on them and picked out the most tender leaves to eat right then. Delicious! But the larger leaves were not yet tender enough. Instead of boiling them longer, I decided to make spinach-artichoke dip, but substitute the plantain for the spinach. It couldn't have been simpler. And the results were more than satisfactory! I may never use spinach in this dip again! 
Plantain-Artichoke Dip
2 cups boiled plantain leaves, well-drained
1 block of cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1-3 garlic cloves, to taste
minced wild onion or green onion
salt, pepper
1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
Place your cooked plantain leaves in the food processor and pulse until chopped small. Place into a bowl and add the softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, and spices, stirring after each addition until smooth. Add the artichokes last and stir gently. Spread into a shallow baking dish and bake in the oven at 400 degrees just until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Do not overbake. (Mine was a bit overbaked in the photo!)
Lastly, the flower on the lance-leaf makes a great projectile for kids-- if you get the knack for wrapping the stem around the head and popping it off in a directional manner. I made many a plantain shooter in my childhood days at Lost Camp Baptist Church near Hutton Valley. (Right, Jason Poor?) 
Let me know if you try plantain this week!
An avid student of natural health since 1987, Ann is a Missouri native, health coach, triathlete, and collector of rocks and children. She can be reached at

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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