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Plantago major


Plantago major


Plantago lanceolata

Vernacular Name

Broadleaf Plantain, Common Plantain, Cuckoo's Bread, Englishman's Foot, Great Plantain, Greater Plantain, Ribwort plantain, Ripple Grass, Snakeweed, Waybread, Waybroad.  


Plantago major is a perennial herb found throughout the world. In some areas, P. major is considered a common and noxious weed, in others a commonly used medicinal herb. Many areas of the world also depend upon P. major as a food source. P. major is a staple food in tropical regions of the world, much like potatoes in European based cultures.


P. major has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, dating back to ancient Roman and Greek times. The traditional uses of P. major include: astringent, demulcent, cough suppressant and diuretic.[1] Native Americans carried powdered roots of P. major as protection against snakebites or to ward off snakes. As a traditional Chinese medicine, P. major has long been used for treating viral related diseases from colds and influenza to viral hepatitis.[2] The German Commission E lists P. major useful for treating catarrh of the respiratory passages and inflammation of the mouth and throat. The Commission E also recommends P. major leaf externally for treating skin inflammation and folk medicine recommends the leaf juice for treating blisters, sores, ulcers, insect stings and bites, earaches, eye ailments and to reduce the heat and pain of inflammation.[3] P. major is most frequently used internally to suppress coughs and soothe mucous membrane inflammation associated with bronchitis, colds and upper respiratory congestion.

P. major is an herbaceous perennial from the Plantaginaceae family.  The herb is characterized by its broad rosette of large leaves.  P. major can reach a height of 40cm at the tip of its flowering spikes, and a diameter of 30cm across the leaves.  The leaves of P. major grow directly from its taproot, leaving it stemless.  Each leaf is ovate, broad, and has distinguished veins.  The light-green to green leaf can grow up to 20cm long and 9cm wide, and lay prostrate along the ground.  Between the months of August to October, stem-like flower stalks shoot up from the center of the rosette to a height of 40cm.  The stalk is covered densely in green, white or purple flowers to form a spike shape.  The flowers creep out of the calyx and are no more than 1cm across.  The seeds borne of the small flowers are tiny nutlets that number ten to twenty to each flower.  Each seed is no more than 2-3mm across.

Origin / Habitat

Though now naturalized throughout the world, P. major is thought to originate in Eurasia. This self-fertile plant is commonly thought of as a weed, growing on the sides on the road, in lawns and pastures.  P. major cannot grow in shade as it needs lots of sun and extremely moist soil, therefore thriving in warm, moist climates.

Chemical Constituents

2-6.5% mucilage; 6.5% tannins; iridoid glycosides including aucubin (0.3-2.5%) and catalpol (0.3-1.1%); the aglycone, aucubigenin; five phenylethanoids, including acteoside, cistanoside F, lavandulifolioside, plantamajoside and isoacteoside; > 1% silicic acid; phenolic carboxylic acids. P. major also contains flavonoids including apigenin and luteolin and minerals including zinc and potassium.

Plant Part Used


Medicinal Uses


Catarrh of the respiratory tract
Mild inflammation, especially of the oral cavity and throat
Topically – wound healing
Cough suppressant
Diuretic Antioxidant


Most Frequently Reported Uses

Catarrh of the respiratory tract
Mild inflammation, especially of the oral cavity and throat
Topically – wound healing



Dosage Range

3-5g powdered herb, 1-3 times per day.

External use: Infuse 2 teaspoonfuls of the herb in 150mLcold water initially for 1-2 hours and then bring to a boil. After extracting for 10 minutes, pass through a filter or tea strainer. This “tea” can be applied externally on wounds and sores as a compress, 3-4 times daily. Fresh pressed juice (succus) may also be used topically as a compress/poultice.


Most Common Dosage

As an infusion: Steep 2 teaspoonfuls of ground leaf in 150ml (one cupful) of hot water, 3-4 times a day.

Standardized to

No standardization known.



In laboratory studies, P. major leaf extracts have been reported to reduce plasma lipid, cholesterol, beta-lipoprotein and triglyceride concentrations in rabbits with atherosclerosis.[4] In vitro studies support the cholesterol lowering activity by suppressing HMG-CoA reductase activity.[5] The leaf extracts have also been reported to  increase uterine smooth muscle tone in guinea pigs and rabbits.[6] The extracts were also reported in animal studies to inhibit effects of arachidonic acid-induced inflammation and edema.[7] Another animal study found that extracts from Plantago species also suppress inflammation and leukocyte infiltration normally associated with caraginan and prostaglandin E1 in laboratory studies.[8]

P. major leaf juice and cold fluid or aqueous extracts also have reported wound healing and antibacterial activity, attributed to the constituent aucubigenin.

The extracts of P. major have been reported to have anti-tumor, immunomolatory and antiviral activity in laboratory studies.[9],[10] The extracts possess significant antitumor activity on the proliferation of lymphona and carcinoma (bladder, bone, cervix, kidney, lung and stomach) cells and on viral infections (HSV-2 and ADV-11) in laboratory studies.[11] In vitro, P. major extracts have been reported to enhance immunity by increasing lymphocyte proliferation and secretion of interferon-gamma at low concentrations (50mcg/ml).[12] P. major extract seems to be an activator both on the classical and the alternative pathway of activation of the immune system and contributing to its wound healing activity.[13]


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

There are no known or theoretical drug interactions with the use of P. major leaf extract.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

P. major has been reported safe in recommended doses. 


The laboratory studies have reported uterine stimulatory activity, so P. major should only be used under medical supervision during pregnancy.[14] Discontinue if allergy occurs.

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

Read More

  1) Botanical Info

  2) South Central America Herbs


  1. Samuelson åB. The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activites of Plantago major L. A. review. J Ethnopharmacology. 2000;71(1-2):1-21.
  2. Chiang LC, Chiang W, Chang MY, et al. Antiviral activity of Plantago major extracts and related compounds in vitro. Antiviral Res. 2002;55(1):53-62.
  3. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Publ. by Integrative Medicine Communications, 1029 Chestnut Street, Newton, MA 02464: Copyright American Botanical Council. 2000:307-310.
  4. Shipochliev T. Uterotonic action of extracts from a group of medicinal plants. Vet Med N auki. 1981;18(4):94-98.
  5. Chung M, Park KW, Kin KH, et al. Asian plantain (Plantago asiatica) essential oils suppress 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glucarlyl-coenzyme: A reductase expression n vitro and in vivo and show hypocolesterolemic properties in mice. J Nurt. 2008;99(1):67-75.
  6. Shipochliev T. Uterotonic action of extracts from a group of medicinal plants. Vet Med N auki. 1981;18(4):94-98.
  7. Murai M, Tamayama Y, Nishibe S. Phenylethanoids in the herb of Plantago lanceolata and inhibitory effect on arachidonic acid-induced mouse ear edema. Planta Med. 1995;61(5):479-480.
  8. Shipochliev T, Dimitrov A, Aleksandrova E. Anti-inflammatory action of a group of plant extracts. Vet Med Nauki. 1981;18(6):87-94.
  9. Chaing LC, Ng LT, Chiang W, et al. Immunmodulatory activityes of flavonoids, monoterpenes, triterpenoids, iridoid glycosides and phenolic compounds of Plantago species. Planta Med. 2003;69(7):600-604.
  10. Velasco-Lezama R, Tapia-Aguillar R, Roman-Ramos R, et al. Effect of Plantago major on cell proliferatin in vitro. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;103(1):36-42.
  11. Chiang LC, Chiang W, Chang MY, et al. In vitro cytotoxic antiviral and immunomodulatory effects of Plantago major and Plantago asiatica. Am J Chin Med. 2003;31(2):225-234.
  12. Ozaslan M, Didem KI, Kalender ME, et al. In vivo antitumoral effect of Plantago major L. extract on Balb/C mouse with Ehrlich ascities tumor. Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(5):841-851.
  13. Michaelsen TE, Gilje A, Samuelsen AB, et al. Interaction between human complement and a pectin type polysaccharide fraction, PMII, from the leaves of Plantago major L. Scan J Immunol. 2000;52(5):483-490.
  14. Shipochliev T. Uterotonic action of extracts from a group of medicinal plants. Vet Med N auki. 1981;18(4):94-98.

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