Plantain Broadleaf, An Unassuming Weed for Healthy Skin

Photo by Jrtayloriv

It has been said that any unwanted plant growing free and wild voluntarily is a weed. But what if some of these weeds carry highly desirous benefits for beautiful skin? Is it still a weed? Plantago Major - Broadleaf Plantain is a herbaceous, perennial plant with a rosette of leaves that are considered a common weed. Plantain hails from Europe and Asia.(1) In the Americas, it was dubbed “the white man’s footprint” or “the Englishman’s foot” in Australia, by the natives of each respective continent who noted that Plantain sprung up with their arrival. 

Good for the Environment

It thrives well in compacted, damaged and disturbed soils and grows in conspicuous places like cracks in concretes, sidewalks and driveways, which often makes them undesirable and targets for pesticides. Truth be told, the Plantain species is important for soil rehabilitation. The roots break up hardpan surfaces and hold the soil together to prevent soil erosion. (2)

“Your Plantain leaf is excellent for that.”
“For what, I pray thee?”
“For your broken shin.”  
- Romeo & Benvolio in Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet
Dermatologic Benefits
Not only are they a friend to the soil, but their medicinal benefits have been studied and hailed. The Plantago Major perennial plant is a very healing agent to the skin. Poultices of leaves have been used for wounds, stings, sores, and bites. Plantain is rich in allantoin, a chemical compound found naturally in plants such as Comfrey. Allantoin is a cellular renewing compound that deposits protein on the skin and softens the skin, a process called the keratolytic effect.  Other active components in P. Major are Aucubin and Baicalein who play microbial and bacterial defense. Both are anti-inflammatory, shown to have antioxidants and anticancer properties.(4) Additional notable skin supporting compounds includes:
  • Chlorogenic-acid
  • Salicylic-acid
  • Citric Acid
  • Benzoic Acid
  • Ferulic-acid
  • Ursolic-acid
  • Oleanolic-acid(5)
There are multiple products on the marketplace that synthesize anti-aging compounds such as Salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is well known for its ability to exfoliate dead skin cells and its antioxidant activity. Salicylic acid products are usually synthesized by the process of biosynthesis of the amino acid phenylalanine. With Plantain, you get the natural activity of salicylic acid in holistic synergy with accompanying compounds and constituents!

Brief Nutrient Profile
There are multiple species of Plantago. Here’s a basic, generalized summary of their nutrient profile: Potassium, Iron, Calcium, Sodium, Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Phosphorus, and Zinc. It also has a good amount of Vitamin C along with fatty acids and nitrate.(6) 

Skin Uses and Conditions
Plantain extract is good for oily and problem skin. It can help tone and contract the skin. It can also be used on cuts, scrapes, and wounds. There are multiple testimonies on the quick and efficient work of plantain on bee stings. With over 400 Plantago species, plantain is rampant and easily found growing in disturbed and heavy traffic areas. 

Identifying the Plantago Species
Plantain is fairly easy to identify. Generally, it is a low-growing, stemless plant that grows in a rosette. Its leaves are broad and oval-shaped with approximately five veins running through them.  The veins are stringy and fibrous. When you harvest the leaves, you will see the strong fibers protruding from the base of the leaves/stem. You may see a purplish or reddish tinge at the base of the stem - this is a specific species called Plantago Rugelii - just as medicinally valuable as P. Major which has a green stem base. A narrower leaf version of the Plantago species has similar characteristics, except that the leaf will be a narrower oval shape. These species are called P. Lanceolata - also known as Narrowleaf Plantain or Ribwort. 

Plantain Facial Toner Recipe

If you can find Plantain growing wild in your yard or elsewhere (preferably in a pesticide-free, feces-free area), collect a handful for an impromptu facial toner.
  1. Set a pot of water to boil.
  2. Tear the plantain into large pieces and place in a mortar & pestle. If you don’t have one, a ceramic or glass heat-resistant bowl will do.
  3. Mash the plantain in the bowl or mortar with the pestle or a fork to release compounds.
  4. When the pot reaches a boil, add ¼ to ½ cup of boiling water to the bowl or mortar.
  5. Mash some more.
  6. Let the mixture cool and strain.
  7. Optional - Spray a few pumps of Rose Monsoon Hydrating Mist to the toner for a lovely rose scent!
  8. Add to a storage container.
  9. Keep in the fridge and use within three days.
Once the mixture cools, dip a cotton ball in the mixture and gently cleanse your face and neck with the cotton ball. Do this after gently cleansing your face and before conditioning. Can you find any plantains growing wild and free near you? Do you still view the Plantago species as a weed?

Label-Reading Tip: Allantoin can also be synthesized by the oxidation of uric acid(3) in a laboratory. When reading for natural sources of “allantoin” on ingredient labels, look of for Plantain and Comfrey extracts rather than “allantoin”.

1 - Invasive Species Compendium - Plantago Major L. -
2 - Wikipedia - Plantago Major - 
3 - Herbs 2000 - Allantoin  -
4 - Pub Med - The Effects of P. Major on the Activation of Neutrophil Respiratory Burst -
5 - The Medicine Tree - Plant Profile of the Month Plantago Major -
6 - Ecology of Food & Nutrition - Nutritional Composition of Plantago Species -

This article is written and presented in an informative manner and has not been reviewed or evaluated by the FDA and should be not be used to diagnose, cure or treat any diseases.


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