Ribwort plantain – characteristics, cultivation and use

Flower of ribwort plantain
Flower of ribwort plantain

Ribwort plantain is undoubtedly one of the most important medicinal plants. The ribwort plantain grows inconspicuously on roadsides and on meadows. Anyone who knows it, recognizes it in early spring by its long narrow leaves, which shoot like lances from the ground. It is an important cough medicine and also has good healing skills. If you have been injured in the wild and have no patches or disinfectants with you, it helps to chew a few ribwort plantain leaves and apply them to the wound. With an unbroken leaf you can cover the whole thing.

Profile of ribwort plantain:

Scientific name: Plantago lanceolata

Plant family: plantain family (Plantaginaceae)

Other names: buckhorn, ribwort plantain, narrowleaf plantain, English plantain, ribleaf and lamb’s tongue

Sowing time / Planting time: March – April

Flowering period: May – September

Harvest time: May – October

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, buds, seeds, shoots

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: nutrient-rich and slightly moist soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: cold, cough, sore throat, candida, wound healing

Use as aromatic herb: wild herb pesto, wild herb salads

Plant characteristics and classification of ribwort plantain

Origin and occurrence of ribwort plantain

The ribwort plantain is a plant native to Europe. Since the plant is very resistant and fairly easy to propagate and spread, ribwort plantain is now distributed over much of the world. It quickly gained popularity in many colonized countries. Everywhere the Europeans invaded the new land of America, the ribwort plantain followed.

In the wild, it is found mainly on sites with nutrient-rich soils. It is often found on roadsides, forest clearings, meadows and on some brownfields. It can grow even in heights of about 1,800 – 2,100 meters (5,900 – 6,900 feet).

Plant order of ribwort plantain

The ribwort plantain belongs to the plantain family (Plantaginaceae) and is related to other medicinally interesting plants such as the common toadflax, the foxglove or the speedwell. In the narrower sense, ribwort plantain belongs to the genus of the plantain (Plantago), which, with about 200 species, is very species-rich. It also includes the plantain or broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) and the maritime plantain (Plantago maritima).

Ar ibwort plantain growing on a street
A ribwort plantain growing on a street

Look and characteristics of ribwort plantain

Plant

The ribwort plantain is a perennial hardy plant. The height is usually between 10 cm to 60 cm (4 to 24 in). Much more powerful is the subterranean rhizome, which reaches up to 60 cm (24 in) deep into the ground.

Leaves

The leaves of ribwort plantain are arranged in the shape of a basal rosette. Remarkable on the medium green, about 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 in) long leaves, are the clearly recognizable leaf ribs. These five to seven ribs run parallel to each other and meet at the leaf end. Due to the number of leaf ribs, the ribwort plantain is sometimes referred to as a seven rib. Mixing up with broadleaf plantain can be ruled out solely on the basis of the shape of the leaves. Ribwort plantain leaves are narrow, tapering and lanceolate. The leaves of the botanically related plantain are, however, ovate.

Flowering

The flowering period of ribwort plantain usually takes place from May to September. From the rosette grow several, up to 30 cm (12 in) tall flower stems, which are of stable, vigorous growth and stand upright. The end of the flower stem is formed by a spike having the shape of an oblong oval. At the heyday, white-yellow flowers spring from the flower spike.

Ripeness

After flowering, capsule fruits develop in the inflorescence, producing slightly sticky and notched seeds with a brown to brownish-red color.

Ribwort plantain – cultivation and care

Ribwort plantain is primarily a wild plant, which is increasingly cultivated due to the high demand for medical purposes. As a result of which wild gardens or even herb gardens are becoming more popular among gardening enthusiasts, ribwort plantain is occasionally cultivated. Ribwort plantain is generally a fairly undemanding plant and is easy to grow.

Location

Ribwort plantain prefers sunny locations, but thrives even in partial shade.

Soil

The soil should be loose, humic, nutritious and always slightly moist. Medium-heavy soils with a good balance between loam and sand are best suited. Heavy soils should be loosened with quartz sand or pumice, otherwise there is always a risk of waterlogging. Preference is also lime-poor soils with slightly acidic pH.

Sowing and cultivation

The best time to sow is between the end of March and the middle of April. The ribwort plantain should be worked into the soil about 1.5 cm (0.6 in) deep. After sowing, a little watering should be done. Usually, the seedlings appear after about 10 to 14 days after sowing the seed. When sowing or planting it is important to note that plantain has quite deep root layers. Between the individual plants should be kept at least a distance of 20 cm (8 in), otherwise there is an increased nutrient competition and make the plants vulnerable to pests. The cultivation on the balcony is relatively difficult and therefore not recommended.

Fertilization

Only a few fertilizer applications should be given throughout the year. Frequently, some compost is sufficient before sowing. At the beginning of the summer it is possible to fertilize with herbal swill (Nettle dung water), but only sparse gifts should be used here. Too much fertilizer may cause the harvest to be even lower. After harvesting, green manuring may also be carried out.

Watering

Under normal weather conditions, no special watering is necessary. Ribwort plantain is a very tolerant plant and lasts even longer dry periods. Only in midsummer should be poured moderately in the evening hours. Ribwort plantain usually shows when water is needed. The leaves curl slightly at the edge and the top tend towards the ground.

Propagation

Ribwort plantain can be easily propagated through seeds as well as by the division of the mother plant. The seeds are quite easy to beat out after fruit ripeness.

Diseases and pests

Relatively often aphids can be observed, which suck the juice of the ribwort plantain. Ribwort plantains are quite resistant, so that occasional brewing with a fine garden spray is usually sufficient. Occasionally mildew occurs, but this is usually the result of too frequent watering or to little planting distances. If the plants are too dense, they should be thinned out. Severely infested plants should be separated from other less infested herbs. Stinging nettle or a horsetail extract can help alleviate mildew.

Wintering

No special preparations need to be made. Ribwort plantain overwinters with its storage organs in the ground and shoots again in the following year.

Ribwort plantain and its use

The ribwort plantain has long been known as a lung disease plant. The contained silica strengthens the lung tissue and the mucilages protect the mucous membranes, which also alleviates the pain of coughing. But ribwort plantain can also contribute to a healthy diet.

Plantain in the kitchen

Ribwort plantain is little known culinary. The leaves of the plants are rich in vitamin C and can be processed in a variety of ways. Especially in the spring when the tender leaves are sprouting, ribwort plantain is an interesting ingredient in wild herb salads. The taste unfolds best in combination with other edible wild herbs such as daisies, the leaves of sorrel, chervil, ashweed and dandelion.

Furthermore, ribwort plantain is suitable for egg dishes, herbal quark or cream cheese with herbs. Likewise, you can use ribwort plantain in wild herb pesto or in green smoothies. So that the taste of ribwort plantain is not too dominant, a maximum of three leaves should be pureed in a smoothie. For a glass of pesto a maximum of 8 leaves is recommended – as a supplement to the main ingredient of the pesto, such as dandelion, parsley or basil. Harvest is from spring to fall.

Ribwort plantain as a medicinal plant

Ribwort plantain has long been regarded as a medicinal herb, which supports the work of the immune system positively. Especially at the time of colds and especially for cough and bronchial diseases plantain is used.

In the large herbal books of the Middle Ages, there was usually no distinction between the broad-leaved and ribwort plantain. The differences between the two plantain plants in terms of their ingredients are also very small. In old herbal books the plantain was used for bladder and kidney problems, tuberculosis, epilepsy and fever. He was also recommended for external complaints such as warts, burns or open wounds.

ribwort plantain on a meadow
ribwort plantain on a meadow

First aid

The plantains are wonderful plants to use for first aid, not only because of their healing effects, but also because they are found almost everywhere. So the plantain is at hand when it is needed. For first aid, you can use both ribwort plantain and broadleaf plantain.

Gentle help with stitches of all kinds

An effective emergency aid are plantain leaves for insect bites, especially wasp stings. The leaves are crushed with a stone or chewed and placed on the stitch. This reduces the itching and swelling. Nettle stings can be treated the same way.

First wound care

In the wound care plantains can also make a valuable contribution through their hemostatic and antibacterial effect. However, there is also the danger that bacteria may enter the wound through the leaves or the spit and infect the wound. Therefore, everyone should decide for themselves how to proceed with wound care. For the wound care of small wounds you should use clean leaves, chew and then put on the wound. With a large sheet laid over it and long stalks an emergency plaster can be made.

Plant juice for wounds

If you are not on the move, you can prepare a vegetable juice from the leaves that you can drip on wounds. The plant sap helps against abrasions, minor burns, small open wounds, insect bites, bruises, boils and hemorrhoids.

For cough, lung disease, bronchitis and asthma, a tea or syrup from ribwort leaves can help. It may also be consumed for gastritis, irritable bowel and urinary tract infections and gargled in inflammation of the oral mucosa. The plantain is not only helpful for the respiratory system, but also promotes digestion, stimulates the metabolism and helps to lose weight.

Preparation of ribwort plantain tea

Time needed: 10 minutes.

This is how you prepare a ribwort plantain tea by yourself

  1. put 3-5 fresh or one tablespoon of dried leaves in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with boiling water

  3. let brew for about 10 minutes

Ribwort plantain can be used for these ailments and diseases

abrasions

  • abrasions
  • after itching
  • asthma
  • bladder weakness
  • bleeding wounds
  • boils
  • bronchitis
  • bruises
  • catarrh of the upper respiratory tract
  • cold
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • eczema
  • edema (dropsy)
  • eye infection
  • gastritis
  • hemorrhoids
  • insect bites
  • intestinal mucosal inflammation
  • liver weakness
  • lose weight
  • loss of appetite
  • obesity
  • slight burns
  • sore throat
  • thrush (Candida)
  • whooping cough

Medicinal properties

  • antibacterial
  • astringent
  • blood purifier
  • hemostatic
  • anti-inflammatory
  • diuretic
  • expectorant

In homeopathy, ribwort plantain is also administered for ear pain and toothache.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) ribwort plantain has a very wide range of applications. It is described as a herb with cool energy. Ribwort plantain has the organs lung and colon, kidney bladder and liver as a reference.

Side effects

There are currently no side effects that are known for the internal and external use of plantain.

Disclaimer:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy ribwort plantain – What is there to pay attention to?

As ribwort plantain is poorly pre-cultivated in pots, because the roots grow quite deep only a few online retailers offer plants. The price for a plant is about 2 to 4 € / $. Also, seeds can be purchased which range at the same price as the fresh plants for a package of 500 seeds.

Dried ribwort plantain leaves are much more common in the herbal specialist trade, in pharmacies, in online shops and occasionally in some supermarkets. Inasmuch as the herbs are also used for tea and other healing uses, care should be taken that the herbs were also grown for these purposes.

In addition to dried ribwort plantain weeds, it is also possible to buy ribwort plantain juice and other specific products such as sweets. Ribwort plantain juice is suitable especially in winter for cold symptoms.

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