Broadleaf plantain (BP; Plantago major, Plantaginaceae), also known as great plantain, is a flowering perennial which often grows in disturbed soils, in fields and along roadsides.1 The roots can break up compacted soil and aid in stopping erosion. The leathery, elliptical leaves span 2-8 inches in length and 2-4 inches in width. The spiked, white-green flowers emerge in spring and summer, and the small, brown-copper fruit, which forms in capsules, appears in late summer and fall. Native to Europe, Central Asia, and Eurasia, it also grows in eastern North America where it was known as "white man's footprint" due to its propensity to grow in areas disturbed around European settlements. Wind-pollination can distribute around 20,000 small bitter, orange to black seeds from one plant. The leaves are nutritious, containing calcium as well as vitamins A, C, and K, and chemical compounds such as flavonoids, polysaccharides, terpenoids, and lipids. Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads, while the older leaves can be boiled in stews.
The earliest recorded medicinal use of broadleaf plantain comes from the Greek botanist, Pedanius Dioscorides (40–90 CE).2 His Materia Medica was extensively circulated and referenced. Persian physicians, such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna; 980–1037 CE) and al-Biruni (973–after 1050 CE), discussed the various properties of this plant, including the classification of its temperament. In traditional Persian medicine, where it is known as “Lesan-ol-haml” or “Barhang”, broadleaf plantain has been used medicinally as a wound healing agent and for a range of gastrointestinal and dermatological problems.3 Therapeutic applications include anti-inflammatory, analgesic, diuretic, wound healing, laxative, antiulcerogenic, astringent, antioxidant, anti-pyretic, antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, and hemostatic effects.2,3 The plant’s temperament was considered to be cold and dry, effective in stopping bleeding. It was also used to treat constipation and coughing.
In an article published in March 2021, researchers determined that 2 grams of broadleaf plantain seeds twice daily for 12 weeks was more beneficial than placebo in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and improved serum levels of triglycerides, aspartate aminotransferase, and alanine aminotransferase, as well as reducing waist circumference.4
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1Plantago major. North Carolina State University Extension Plant Toolbox. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/plantago-major/. Accessed Mary 24, 2021.
2Najafian Y, Hamedi SS, Farshchi MK, Feyzabadi Z. Plantago major in Traditional Persian Medicine and modern phytotherapy: a narrative review. Electron Physician. February 2018;10(2):6390–6399. doi: 10.19082/6390.
3Soltani GM, Hemati S, Sarvizadeh M, Kamalinejad M. Tafozoli V, Latifi SA. Efficacy of the Plantago major L. syrup on radiation induced oral mucositis in head and neck cancer patients: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. June 2020;51:102397. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102397.
4Jazayeri SF, Ghods R, Dabagian FH, et al. The efficacy of Plantago major seed on liver enzymes in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a randomized double-blind clinical trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. March 2021;2021:6693887. doi: 10.1155/2021/6693887.