Plantago major

Plantago major

The Common Plantain (Plantago major L., 1753) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Plantaginaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subarign Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta superdivision,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Magnoliopsida class,
Subclass Asteridae,
Lamiales Order,
Plantaginaceae family,
Genus Plantago,
P. major species.
The following terms are synonymous:
– Plantago adriatica Campana;
– Plantago angustata Schur;
– Plantago borysthenica (Rogow.) Wissjul.;
– Plantago bracteata Moench;
– Plantago compressiscapa Opiz;
– Plantago crenata Blanco;
– Plantago dilatata Opiz;
– Plantago dostalii Domin;
– Plantago dregeana C. Presl;
– Plantago exaltata Hornem.;
– Plantago fonticola Kom.;
– Plantago gigas H.Lév.;
– Plantago gouanii J.F.Gmel.;
– Plantago humifusa Bernh. ex Rchb.;
– Plantago intermedia Gilib.;
– Plantago japonica Franch. & Sav.;
– Plantago jehohlensis Koidz.;
– Plantago laciniosa Domin;
– Plantago latifolia Salisb.;
– Plantago limosa Kit. ex Roem. & Schult.;
– Plantago limosa Kit. ex Sloboda;
– Plantago littoralis Nakai;
– Plantago loureiroi Roem. & Schult.;
– Plantago macronipponica Yamam.;
– Plantago major var. borysthenica Rogow.;
– Plantago major var. gigas (H. Lév.) H. Lév.;
– Plantago major var. intermedia (Gilib.) Decne;
– Plantago major var. jehohlensis (Koidz.) S.H. Li;
– Plantago major var. kimurae Yamam.;
– Plantago major f. major;
– Plantago major var. paludosa Bég.;
– Plantago major var. pauciflora (Gilib.) Bég.;
– Plantago major var. sawada i Yamam.;
– Plantago major f. scopulorum Fr.;
– Plantago major var. sinuata (Lam.) Decne.;
– Plantago minima DC.;
– Plantago namikawae Masam.;
– Plantago nana Tratt.;
– Plantago nitrophila A. Nelson;
– Plantago officinarum Crantz;
– Plantago polystachia Mazziari;
– Plantago rocae Lorentz;
– Plantago rosea Rchb.;
– Plantago sawadae (Yamam.) Yamam.;
– Plantago scopulorum (Fr. & Broberg) Pavlova;
– Plantago sinuata Lam.;
– Plantago sorokini Bunge;
– Plantago subsinuata Hornem.;
– Plantago tabernaemontani Baumg.;
– Plantago togashii Miyabe & Tatew.;
– Plantago uliginosa F. W. Schmidt;
– Plantago villifera Kitag.;
– Plantago vulgaris (Hayne) Pavlova.
They are also synonyms of the intermediate subspecies:
– Plantago intermedia Gilib .;
– Plantago major subsp. pleiosperm Pilger;
– Plantago major var. marshy Bég;
– Plantago major var. pauciflora (Gilib.) Bég;
– Plantago major var. sinuata (Lam.) Decne.
They are synonyms of the winteri subspecies:
– Plantago major var. fleshy Moricand;
– Plantago uliginosa var. winteri (Wirtg.) Shipunov;
– Plantago uliginosa subsp. winteri (Wirtg.) Chrtek;
– Plantago winteri Wirtg ..
Within this species, the following subspecies are recognized:
– Plantago major subsp. major. L.;
– Plantago major subsp. intermedia (Gilib.) Lange, 1859;
– Plantago major subsp. winteri (Wirtg.) W. Ludw., 1956.

Etymology –
The term Plantago comes from plánta sole of the foot: similar to the sole of the foot, referring to the size of the leaves of the greater plantain.
The specific major epithet is an incorrect orthographic form, but valid, for maior, us, a comparative of magnus grande: greater, larger or longer (compared to other species of the same genus).

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Common Plantain is a species originally distributed in Eurosiberian but has now become sub cosmopolitan. The species is present throughout central and northern Europe and in Asia, while in other parts of the world (such as in America) it has easily naturalized.
In Italy it is present in all regions.
Its habitat is that of semi-natural herbaceous vegetation and above all in trampled ruderal environments, on loamy-clayey soils that are quite fresh in depth and rich in nitrogen compounds, from sea level up to the upper mountain belt.

Description –
Plantago major is a perennial herbaceous plant with a 15-30 cm diameter rosette of leaves.
Each leaf is oval in shape, 5-20 cm long and 4-9 cm broad, rarely up to 30 cm long and 17 cm broad, with an acute apex, a smooth margin and a distinct petiole almost as long as the leaf itself. There are five to nine conspicuous veins along the length of the leaf.
The flowers are small, greenish-brown in color with purple stamens, produced in a dense 5-15 cm long tip carried on top of a 13-15 cm high and rarely 70 cm high stem.
The fruit is a pyxium with transverse dehiscence, ovoid, 2-4.5 x 1.5-2.8 mm, with numerous seeds of 1.4-1.6 x 0.5 mm, hemiellipsoid or polyhedral, brown, with flat inner surface.
The seeds are very small and oval in shape, with a bitter taste.

Cultivation –
Plantago major is a wind pollinated plant and is mainly propagated by seeds. Each plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds.
The plant is harvested in nature for local use, mainly as a medicine but also as a food. It is occasionally grown as a medicinal herb and is also sometimes marketed.
However, care should be taken when harvesting Plantago major in the wild for medicinal or edible purposes, as the plants can contain high concentrations of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, especially if they are growing along the roads.
This plant grows in any moderately fertile soil and in a sunny position. It tolerates water stagnation, compacted soils and trampling.
Its spread all over the world is linked to its resistance and also through human activity. Its seeds easily adhere to animals or people through their mucilaginous integument which favors their dispersion. They can also be transported by water.
Although it is a predominantly spontaneous herb, some varieties have been selected for their ornamental value.
Propagation occurs by seed, with sowing directly in the open field. Germination is best at temperatures of 25 – 30 ° C and with a long photoperiod (16 hours).
The seed is known to remain viable for more than 60 years in the soil.

Customs and Traditions –
The Common Plantain is a plant with properties similar to those of Plantago lanceolata and other species of the family.
The leaves have astringent properties and its use dates back to ancient times as it was used in ancient times against inflammation such as hemorrhoids and diseases of the respiratory system, or was given to anemic young people. The flower head of the inflorescence is much richer in mucilage and has laxative properties. Like all plantago it has strong healing qualities and in fact in herbal medicine the fresh leaves, which contain mucillatannin, minutely chopped, placed in contact with a wound by means of a bandage favor a rapid healing of the wound itself and block bleeding.
Recent studies confirm the effectiveness of this plant in the treatment of some diseases especially of the skin (wounds, burns, bleeding).
The plant is also used for food as it is possible to consume the young leaves, raw or cooked. These are quite bitter and complicated to prepare as the fibrous threads must be removed before use.
It is also better not to use the petiole as this is even more fibrous than the leaf. Many people blanch the leaves in boiling water before using them in salads to make them more tender.
A Chinese variety has more palatable leaves: it contains about 2.7% protein, 0.4% fat, 2.2% ash.
The seed can also be eaten raw or cooked; it has a nutty flavor and, due to its small size, is laborious to harvest. The seed can be ground and mixed with flour. It is very rich in vitamin B1. Additionally, the whole seeds can be boiled and used like sago.
The seed mucilage is an excellent thickener and is used as a stabilizer in the ice cream industry and in the preparation of chocolate.
An acceptable tea is made from the dried leaves.
The root has a sweet and salty taste.
The most interesting use is the medicinal one.
Plantago major is a commonly used traditional medicine. It is a safe and effective treatment as a hemostat; it quickly stops blood flow and promotes the repair of damaged tissues.
In tests with Plantago major, a series of pharmacological activities were found, including healing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibiotic, immunomodulatory, diuretic and anti-ulcer activities.
Active compounds include polysaccharides, lipids, caffeic acid derivatives, flavonoids, iridoid glycosides and terpenoids.
The aqueous extracts showed a double immunomodulatory effect by increasing lymphocyte proliferation and by secretion of interferon-gamma at low concentrations, but this effect was inhibited at high concentrations.
A decoction obtained from the dried leaves showed moderate diuretic activity.
The ethanol and methanol extracts showed significant in vitro activity against a wide variety of bacteria and fungi. The leaf extracts were also active against Giardia duodenalistrophozoites and the nematode Ditylenchus dipsaci, a parasite of garlic.
Saccharides, a polysaccharide, a galactoarabine and a galactan have been isolated from the leaves. Together these are referred to as “plantaglucides” and are used to treat ulcers. Reduces the development of peptic ulcer and reduces inflammatory edema, without toxic effects even after prolonged administration.
The seeds contain mucilaginous substances consisting of hydrophilic polysaccharides, mainly in the integument. These swell on contact with water and form highly viscous mucilages, which increase stool mass, stimulate peristalsis and facilitate bowel movements.
Numerous fatty acids have been isolated from seed oil, of which oleic acid (37.5%) and linoleic acid (25.5%) as main components.
0.2% lipids were isolated from the fresh leaves, with palmitic acid and stearic acid as main components and minor quantities of oleanolic acid and ursolic acid. The latter 2 compounds showed hepatoprotective, anticancer and antihyperlipidemic effects, while ursolic acid also showed anti-inflammatory activity.
Derivatives of caffeic acid, plantamajoside and acteoside (verbascoside) have been isolated from Plantago major. The plantamajoside showed anti-inflammatory activity and some antibacterial activity. Acteoside has antibacterial, immunosuppressive, analgesic and antihypertensive effects. Both have antioxidant activity.
The isolated flavonoids include baicalein, ispidulin, plantaginin and scutellarein. These have free radical scavenging activities and inhibit lipid peroxidation, and the first 3 are antioxidants. Baicalein has anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and hepatoprotective activities, has shown inhibition of human and rat cancer cell lines and, in vitro, is an HIV reverse transcriptase inhibitor. Spidulin has also shown anti-inflammatory activity and is a 5-lipoxygenase inhibitor, while scutellarin has anti-allergic and HIV reverse transcriptase inhibiting activities.
The glucosides luteolin-7-glucoside and homoplantagynine are also potent inhibitors of HIV reverse transcriptase.
Furthermore, aucubin is one of the main iridoid glycosides isolated from Plantago major; the content in dried leaves can reach up to 1.3%. It showed anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective activities in tests on mice, spasmolytic properties in rats, and antiviral activity against the hepatitis B virus.
Aucubin’s aglycone, aucubigenin, has antimicrobial activity against bacteria and fungi.
The leaves have astringent, demulcent, de-obstructing, purifying, diuretic, expectorant, haemostatic and refrigerating properties. They are used internally in the treatment of a wide range of ailments, including diarrhea, gastritis, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, bleeding, hemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, phlegm, sinusitis, asthma and hay fever.
For external use they are used in the treatment of skin inflammations, malignant ulcers, cuts, punctures, etc.
The heated leaves are used as a moist dressing for wounds, swellings, etc.
The root is astringent and febrifuge. A decoction is used to treat cough. As a remedy for rattlesnake bite it is used in equal parts with Marrubium vulgare.
The seeds are emollient, diuretic, stimulant and tonic. They are used as a remedy for dysentery and diarrhea and in the treatment of parasitic worms.
The seeds contain up to 30% mucilage which swells in the intestines, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. Sometimes the husks of the seeds are used without the seeds.
Distilled water is obtained from the plant which is an excellent eye lotion.
In the United States, Plantago major has been patented as a natural smoke deterrent, called CIG-NO (available in sprays, capsules or drops), which does not contain nicotine and is not addictive. However, the exact relationships of cause and effect are still not fully understood.
Among other uses, it should be remembered that seed mucilage is an excellent thickener that is used in cosmetics such as lotions and hair sets.
The seeds can be used as a low-cost gelling agent for tissue culture. The quality is comparable to that of agar at only about 10% of its cost.
Furthermore, due to the presence of aucubin, the plant is effective against insect bites and for the treatment of wounds. The young leaves are edible in salads.
It is also a plant visited by bees for its pollen.

Preparation Method –
The Common Plantain is a plant that is used both as a food plant, as a medicine and for various other uses.
For food use, the young, raw or cooked leaves can be consumed. It is also better not to use the petiole as this is even more fibrous than the leaf. Many people blanch the leaves in boiling water before using them in salads to make them more tender.
The seed can also be eaten raw or cooked, and it can also be ground and mixed with flour. Whole seeds can be boiled and used like sago.
The seed mucilage is an excellent thickener and is used as a stabilizer in the ice cream industry and in the preparation of chocolate.
An acceptable tea is made from the dried leaves.
The root has a sweet and salty taste.
For medicinal use, both the leaves, the seeds and the roots are used, preparing various decoctions or products for distillation.
Finally, due to the presence of mucilage, both the seeds and other parts of the plant are used both in the pharmaceutical, food or industrial fields.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
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Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

One thought on “Plantago major

  • Sunday January 2nd, 2022 at 10:12 PM

    En combinacion con achiote/bixa orellana y zacate limon/ citronela, combate a la helicobacter pylori.


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