The more I read and study herbs, the more I realize that with every great herb comes a remarkable story. As if herbs weren’t cool enough all on their own, some come with a really interesting, if not downright amazing history. Every month I highlight an herb that not only has terrific healing abilities, but also comes with an extraordinary story. This month is no exception, as we highlight Plantain and the ‘steps it took to get to North America. I hope you enjoy this month’s Remarkable Herb, Plantain!
You can find plantain along roadsides, meadows, grassy pathways and vacant lots. It may even look like some nuisance weed that needs constant tending. Maybe you already know that Plantain is widely used to heal cuts, wounds and burns and is prized among herbalists, well, this this herbalist anyway.
Here in Vermont, it grows readily in my backyard along a well beaten path and my kids know that when they get a cut or scrape, they can pluck some up, crumple it and stick it right on the wound. It has a great cooling effect and it really does work on contact. However, plantain not only has great medicinal properties, it has such a great history that it has made my Remarkable Herb of the Month!
According to ‘A Russian Herbal’ by Igor Vilevich Zevin, centuries ago, plantain was especially prized by travelers in Russia. Back then, you didn’t travel often, so when you did it was usually only under great duress or necessity, such as to flee persecution, searching for a better way of life, or more favorable cropland. Before transportation, the simplest of trips in Russia were considered extremely difficult and very dangerous (remember they have wolves, yikes!) with many travelers getting sick, injured and even dying in route. The serfs believed this herb was a gift from God to travelers and many folks started to spread plantain seeds along the roadsides to help future travelers (how’s that for caring about others, love it!) They did this while praying to God and blessing the ground. Since the plantain seeds tended to stick to clothing and shoes, the plant was also inadvertently spread by travelers. Some believe that this is how it was spread to North America, literally on the soles of ones’ feet! How cool is that! Whether you believe the lore or not, most people can agree that plantain does have great medicinal properties and should be appreciated by all, especially travelers!
PURE AND SIMPLE
Michele Thurston, owner of Pure and Simple Herbals.