Grandma called it Medicine Leaf


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Categories: Health & Nutrition

by Laurie Neverman

When I was a little girl, my father’s mother, Catherine, and I were very close. Mom was awfully busy trying to raise six kids and run a farm by herself, so I spent a lot of time with grandma (I’m the baby of the family). She had ever-bearing strawberries that she would pick as soon as they showed a blush of red so the birds didn’t get them. There were always hollyhocks and poppies, the yellow transparent apple tree, lilacs, roses and a small vegetable garden. Grandma and I would dance and sing on the front lawn, and every Saturday night we had a “date” watching HeeHaw.

I remember grandma pointing to a broad leaf plant in the yard and calling it “medicine leaf”. She told me the Indians use to use it for medicine, but we never used it ourselves.
Fast forward about 30 years.  I’ve rediscovered “medicine leaf”, and it’s become a staple of my first aid kit.  It turns out grandma’s “weed” was actually common plantain (Plantago major).

From Alternative Nature Online Healer:

Plantain Medicinal Properties and Herbal Use

Plantain is edible and medicinal, the young leaves are edible raw in salad or cooked as a pot herb, they are very rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. The herb has a long history of use as an alternative medicine dating back to ancient times. Being used as a panacea (medicinal for everything) in some cultures, one American Indian name for the plant translates to “life medicine.” And recent research indicates that this name may not be far from true! The chemical analysis of Plantgo Major reveals the remarkable glycoside Aucubin. Acubin has been reported in the Journal Of Toxicology as a powerful anti-toxin. There are many more highly effective constituents in this plant including Ascorbic-acid, Apigenin, Baicalein, Benzoic-acid, Chlorogenic-acid, Citric-acid, Ferulic-acid, Oleanolic-acid, Salicylic-acid, and Ursolic-acid. The leaves and the seed are medicinal used as an antibacterial, antidote, astringent, antiinflammatory, antiseptic, antitussive, cardiac, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, haemostatic, laxative, ophthalmic, poultice, refrigerant, and vermifuge.
Medical evidence exists to confirm uses as an alternative medicine for asthma, emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, rheumatism and blood sugar control. A decoction of the roots is used in the treatment of a wide range of complaints including diarrhoea, dysentery, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhage, haemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, coughs, asthma and hay fever. It also causes a natural aversion to tobacco and is currently being used in stop smoking preparations. Extracts of the plant have antibacterial activity, it is a safe and effective treatment for bleeding, it quickly stops blood flow and encourages the repair of damaged tissue. The heated leaves are used as a wet dressing for wounds, skin inflammations, malignant ulcers, cuts, stings and swellings and said to promote healing without scars. Poultice of hot leaves is bound onto cuts and wounds to draw out thorns, splinters and inflammation. The root is said to be used as an anti-venom for rattlesnakes bites. Plantain seeds contain up to 30% mucilage which swells in the gut, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. The seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic worms. A distilled water made from the plant makes an excellent eye lotion.

I infused some olive oil  with plantain leaves last summer, but hadn’t used the oil.  I was planning on salve, I wasn’t sure how to use it, I’m new at this – all the usual excuses apply.  About a month ago, I noticed I was getting an itchy rash on my arms where I had gotten a little too much sun while gardening.  I got a little pinker than I probably should have, too.  Enter the plantain oil.  At the very least, I figured it would “do no harm”, so I spread it on the rash and sunburn.  Within a matter of days, the rash was gone, and the burn turned to tan – it didn’t peel.  Success!

I had this strange little patch of dry skin near my eyes for the longest time – on went the plantain oil to that, too.  That one took a little longer (about two weeks), but it’s cleared up now, too.

Use Plantain to Treat Bites and Stings

Next target – wasp string.  I was at my Great Uncle’s house scrubbing egg off a plate with a metal scouring pad, when “the pad” stabbed me.  I set the scrubber down and out crawls a large black wasp.  (Bill told me after the fact that, “Oh yes, he had seen some of those around.”  I guess it didn’t like being used to scrub plates.  My finger started swelling and burning.  I started running cold water on the sting, and hollered for my son to run outside and grab some plantain.  He comes back in a matter of minutes with a nice, healthy leaf, and into my mouth it goes.  Chew, chew, chew –  spit it out – onto the bite.  The worst of the pain started subsiding within minutes.  I wrapped the green blob onto my finger with a band-aid and left it there for the rest of the afternoon and evening.  (Plantain tastes very green, in case you’re wondering.)

Here’s what the sting looked like at the end of the day.......

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