The biological name of ribwort or ribwort plantain is Plantago lanceolata. Common plantain is known as Plantago major. Ribwort is not exactly common plantain, which is also known as wagbread, broadleaf plantain, white man’s foot and rippleseed plantain. Ribwort is called plantain majeur in France, groblad in Sweden, wegerich in Germany, græðisúra in Iceland and piharatamo in Finland.
The common plantain was a native to Europe but is now grown across temperate Asia. Ribwort plantain is widely grown across the temperate regions on both hemispheres. Ribwort plantain and common plantain have lots of similarities, including their benefits and uses.
What is Ribwort Plantain?
Ribwort is a perennial plant hailing from the family of Plantaginaceae. The low growing plant has heart shaped or oval dark green leaves with flowers in the narrow stem shaped like a cylinder. The flowers have brownish yellow petal lobes and the anthers are purple. The stalk of each flower is as long as the flower itself.
The seeds of ribwort are sticky and they spread by clinging onto animals and humans. All aerial parts of ribwort are used widely in medicine, mostly herbal treatments. You could use the fresh leaves and juice them or use the extract in some concoction. You can also use the dried leaves. The seeds are primarily used as laxatives and in foods.
Ribwort Plantain Medicinal Uses
Ribwort plantain has a plethora of benefits including medicinal uses, primarily owing to the various constituents. The plant is rich in iridoids such as aucubin, tannins, flavonoids such as apigenin, mucus, enzymes and silicic acid. Aucubin helps the kidneys to get rid of uric acid. The flavonoid apigenin has inflammatory properties.
Ribwort is also rich in iron, calcium, vitamins C, K and A. It is not hard to imagine the ribwort plantain medicinal uses given the composition of micronutrients. Common plantain has been in use since ancient Rome and Greece, dating back to 90 BC when extracts of the plant were used to heal wounds, burns and dog bites.
Ribwort plantain medicinal uses include applications to cure inflammation in the mouth, infections in the throat, asthma, earache, epilepsy and dropsy. Ribwort plantain is used for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. It can indeed heal minor cuts, scrapes and even open wounds. The herbal extract can stop bleeding, quicken healing, alleviate pain and stop any itching sensation that is common as wounds tend to dry up.
Traditionally, the herbal extract has been used to treat stinging nettle rash, bites from insects and snakes and first degree burns. The extract can also be used to treat psoriasis and eczema. Many of these traditional uses have scientific backing. There are enough studies published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology that provide evidence of the herb having the ability to disinfect injuries, reduce inflammation, to neutralize pathogenic organisms and to speed up the healing process.
However, the same studies also inferred that the maximum benefits of ribwort plantain can be derived from its fresh leaves.
Ribwort plantain can help with digestion. It can cure diarrhea, colitis, gastritis and other metabolic or digestive problems. The plant is a natural astringent. It can also restore the pH balance inside the body, especially in the blood.
It can regulate the acidic content in blood, contain gastric secretions and also heal inflammations in the bowels and stomach. As a result, the herbal extract is widely used in medicines to cure bowel infections, stomach problems and urinary tract infections. The plant is a natural antispasmodic as well as demulcent. The extract from its seeds is widely used in laxatives.
Ribwort plantain is used in various medicines meant to treat respiratory ailments including infections. The herbal extract regulates the secretion of mucus, thereby freeing up the airways or the respiratory tract. This helps in curing cold, sinusitis and bronchial & lung allergies including hay fever. The extract provides relief from asthma and catarrh. Ribwort plantain extract provides relief from sore throat, cough and tonsillitis.
Ribwort Plantain is Edible
Ribwort plantain is edible. You can juice the fresh leaves. Go for younger leaves as they have the maximum micronutrients and hence the benefits. You can use raw leaves in salads. You can boil or cook older leaves. The older leaves are thicker and thus tougher.
They are not ideal for juicing or to be consumed raw in salads. You can cook them just as you would cook spinach. You can cook the seeds too or you can eat them raw. You can cook the seeds just as you would treat sago.
Make your own Ribwort Tea
Ribwort tea has all the essential benefits of the herb. Take three tablespoons of dried ribwort plantain, add one quarter of hot water, let it steep for around fifteen minutes then pour the tea through a sieve. Ribwort tea can cure diarrhea. It can help cure urinary tract infection. You don’t need to drink the whole quart at a go. Consume moderate servings through the day. You can cool the tea and use it chilled to heal burns.
Other Uses of Ribwort Plantain
You can make ribwort plantain poultice. Get up to three tablespoons of dried leaves of ribwort plantain and pour some boiling water over them, just enough to submerge. As the leaves become soft, you can drain the water and use the leaves on burns or cuts and scrapes. This facilitates cellular regeneration and you will have new cells grow quickly on your skin. The remedy also alleviates pain.
You can repeat the application once in twelve hours or so for speedier recovery. Moist leaves of ribwort plantain can provide relief from painful tooth, swollen lymph nodes and ingrown toenail.
You can make your own ribwort plantain oil. Take dried leaves, pour some olive oil and let the leaves be submerged. Let the mix rest for up to two weeks. Take the leaves out and use the residual oil for topical healing.
Ribwort oil can cure bee stings, bug bites, shingles, eczema, dermatitis, chicken pox, irritation and itchiness caused poison ivy, chapped lips, burns, dry skin and diaper rash.
You can use the fresh leaves of ribwort plantain by crushing them and making a paste or you can chew and apply it to stings and bites. The best way to use the leaves is to treat them with boiling water and then allowing the leaves to cool down so you can have a softer texture during application of the leaves or the resulting extract should you choose to use other ingredients.
You must always use healing salve or honey before you apply such extracts on an open wound. A wound must be cleaned effectively before applying fresh leaves or a poultice.
Side Effects of Ribwort Plantain
There are no known side effects of ribwort plantain. You should not exceed half a teaspoon or up to three grams of fresh or dried leaves when making a cup of tea. You can increase the dosage of the leaves if you are making a quart jar of tea, as mentioned above.
Limit your intake of ribwort tea to a maximum of three servings or cups in a day. There is no stringent limit to how much of the leaves you can use topically. Make sure you change the bandages or poultices twice a day if you are applying them regularly.
If you are using any extract you have bought in a bottle or jar, always abide by the instructions of the manufacturer. It is best not to expose breastfeeding and pregnant women to ribwort plantain, its extracts or tea. This is more of a precautionary measure.