The Health Benefits of Plantain

Treats Wounds, Stops Itching

Plantain powder, extract, tincture, and capsules

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

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The plantain plant is also known as Plantago lanceolata or Plantago major. Not to be confused with the banana-like vegetable that is commonly eaten in many Hispanic cultures, it is a perennial plant with almost worldwide distribution.

For decades, herbalists have considered it a useful remedy for a cough, wounds, inflamed skin, and dermatitis.

Bruised or crushed plantain leaves are applied topically to treat insect bites and stings, eczema, and small wounds or cuts. The leaves and seeds are used to extract the beneficial compounds of this plant.

Plantain comes in nearly 250 species, the most widely distributed being P. lanceolata and P. major. Grown mainly in India, the seeds of Plantago ovata contain psyllium (a soluble fiber and the main ingredient in Metamucil), which is used to treat constipation.

Health Benefits

Animal studies have suggested that P. lanceolata extract may aid in wound healing, potentially due to its properties as an:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-ulcerative
  • Astringent

It may also act as a pain reliever (analgesic agent), as well as exhibit immunomodulatory properties (relating to the immune system).

How It Works

The most important components of P. lanceolata leaves are bioactive compounds such as catalpol, aucubin, and acteoside. These compounds possess different pharmacological effects. They are:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Antineoplastic (meaning they prevent tumors)
  • Hepatoprotective (meaning they protect the liver)

Plantago Lanceolata

In a study published in the journal Biotech and Histochemistry, researchers examined 72 wounded mice and applied an ointment that contained a specific percentage of P. lanceolata extract (PLE). This was compared to ointment containing Vaseline.

They found that different concentrations of PLE exhibited positive effects on wound healing. More research is needed, but, specifically, the application of 10% PLE ointment may be a useful strategy for wound healing.

Plantago Major

In a 2018 paper, researchers examined two of the most commonly used plants found in the Balkans: P. lanceolata and P. major. They confirmed the traditional use of these plants in wound healing.

Previous studies have indicated a variety of pharmacological activity of P. major, such as anticancer, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory effects.

In one study, researchers tested this theory by extracting parts of the plant and testing those extracts against different types of cancer cells.

They found that, of the various parts of the plantain plant, the seeds exhibited the greatest antiproliferative activity, meaning that they best inhibited cell growth on tumor cells.

The roots exhibited antiproliferative and cytokine-inhibiting activities as well. (Cytokines are substances secreted by certain cells of the immune system that have an effect on other cells.) In this study, the roots inhibited inflammatory cytokines comparably to the leaves and petioles.

Researchers concluded that the seeds of the plant exhibit the most anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

In a study conducted in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing, researchers tested the efficacy of using P. major extract (PME) in the treatment of mucositis (a common oral side effect present in patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation).

They concluded that, compared to double sodium bicarbonate solution, healing time took longer, but the differences were not significant.

Some manufacturers claim these two types of plantain aid in "cleansing and detoxifying" the body as well as promoting respiratory health. However, no research to date justifies these claims, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved this statement.


Psyllium, which is derived from the seeds of P. ovato, is used as a dietary supplement and is usually found in the form of husk, granules, capsules, or powder. You can also find psyllium as an added ingredient in cereals and baked goods.

Psyllium husk is the main active ingredient in Metamucil, a fiber supplement often used to reduce constipation.

Studies have found that psyllium, which is rich in fiber, helps to bulk stools while also increasing the amount of water in the stool.

Psyllium a good remedy for constipation, since it makes stool easier to pass.

In addition, studies suggest that fiber supplementation, such as with psyllium, may help to reduce after-meal blood sugar concentrations.

Psyllium is a rich fiber source that increases the amount of time it takes to metabolize carbohydrates, thus slowing down how quickly blood sugars rise.

Studies suggest that increasing fiber in your diet, such as via psyllium use, can help to reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Psyllium is able to bind to fat and bile acids, which promotes the excretion of these substances from your body.

A study examining adolescent males found that dietary supplementation with six grams per day of psyllium over six weeks improved fat distribution and lipid profile (parameters of metabolic syndrome).

Possible Side Effects

According to the American Botanical Council, plantain has no known side effects or contraindications. However, some people report experiencing diarrhea and low blood pressure when ingesting plantain.

If you have allergies, such as skin allergies or food allergies (for example, to melon or the vegetable plantain), you may be allergic to plantain, too.

Avoid During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, using herbal supplements may not be prudent. There isn't enough information on herbal supplement safety, and, therefore, it's probably safer to simply avoid them when pregnant or breastfeeding.

Avoid With Blood Thinners

It's suggested that people taking the blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin), avoid plantain because it contains vitamin K. When you're on warfarin or another blood thinner, you need consistent amounts of vitamin K or you risk making your medication less effective.

Signs You Should Discontinue Use

Gas or stomach cramping may occur when ingesting psyllium. If these symptoms do not go away, or if they get worse, be sure to contact your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible.

People who have a history of bowel dysfunction, such as obstruction or spasms, should not take psyllium supplements.

If psyllium isn't taken with adequate amounts of water, it can cause constipation and possibly even choking, intestinal obstruction, or bezoar (indigestible material in your digestive tract).

Plantain tincture

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak


Whenever supplementing with fiber, it's always a good idea to start slowing and gradually increase your dose. Companies such as Metamucil typically put instructions on their products to help consumers reduce side effects.

It's difficult to cultivate a generic dosage considering the wide use of plantain. The amount and type of delivery will depend on what you are using it for. For example, the herb can be infused in tea, ingested in capsule or tincture form, or gargled in a rinse.

If you're unsure how much to take, ask your healthcare provider for help. Before beginning supplementation, it's important to speak with a medical professional.

In addition, there's no reference to recommended dosing of capsule or tincture form of plantain; therefore, if you decide to use these types of delivery systems, be sure to consult with a medical professional.

Daily Fiber

It's best to aim to get your daily fiber intake from foods first before supplementing with psyllium fiber.

Fiber-rich foods include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Seeds

Aim to make half of your plate contain vegetables at each meal; choose whole grains instead of white grains; and snack on fruit, nuts, and seeds on a daily basis.

Daily Fiber Recommendations by Age


  • 51 and under - 25 grams
  • 51 and over - 21 grams


  • 51 and under - 38 grams
  • 51 and over - 30 grams

Source: Institute of Medicine

If you cannot reach your daily fiber needs with foods only, adding psyllium in some form can help you to achieve your daily goal.

The way in which you should take it will vary based on the form of psyllium and the reason you are taking it.

For example, if you are taking psyllium capsules for constipation, you may need to gradually work up to taking capsules multiple times per day. On the other hand, if you are taking psyllium powder, you may only need to use one scoop with water a few times per day.

When supplementing with psyllium, it's very important to drink adequate amounts of water. Failure to do so can actually cause constipation. Additionally, be mindful of when you take your medicines. Some companies recommend taking a fiber supplement at least two hours before you take any other medications.

Why Dietary Fiber is Preferred

Dietary sources of fiber are always recommended as a primary means of achieving your daily fiber intake. Fiber-rich foods contain other beneficial properties, such as vitamins, minerals, protein, and so on.

Also, supplementing with psyllium incorrectly could cause potential side effects (including constipation, choking, and more).

However, if you do find you need to take psyllium to supplement your fiber intake, it's best to consult with your doctor to make sure you are taking it as intended.

What to Look For

According to the University of Michigan Medicine, plantain that's contaminated with the herb digitalis has led to reports of dangerous side effects in both Switzerland and the United States. It's important to buy herbs from companies that carefully test their products for quality and contamination.

Because plantain extracts in the form of P. lanceolata or P. major are not approved by the FDA, it's always a good idea to purchase brands that are tested by an accredited third party, such as:

  • The National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • Certified for Sport
  • United States Pharmacopeia (USP)

Certification programs confirm that a product contains the ingredients listed on the label. They do not ensure a product’s effectiveness or safety.

When possible, it's best to choose supplements that are organic, as this will certify that the plants have been grown organically without herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals.

When purchasing foods with added psyllium husk fiber, you may read claims such as: "Soluble fiber from psyllium seed husk may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). This statement is approved by the FDA."

The FDA has taken many precautions to ensure these claims are stated accurately. This information has been derived from many clinical trials. It's important to note that most subjects who benefited from increasing fiber in their diet also followed a lower-fat, lower-cholesterol diet.

A Word From Verywell

Though there are many species of plantain, the most commonly used extracts come from P. lanceolata, P. major, and P. ovata.

Remember, though, that derivatives of plantain are not approved by the FDA and should be sought from reputable companies.

It's always wise to consult with a physician before beginning any kind of supplement. Make sure to start slowly, increase gradually, and take any supplement (including psyllium) with adequate amounts of fluid.

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