Tlahui-Medic. No. 7, I/1999

Dr. Mario Rojas Alba
Founding president of the Mexican Institute for Traditional Medicine Tlahuilli A.C.

Translation by Natasha Bonilla

English common name: Plantain
Spanish common name: Llantén
Additional common names
South America: Siete Venas, Plantago Llantén, Llantén de Cinco Nervios
Guatemala: Raq'tzí, Tzo'lij
Castilian Spanish: Llantén Mayor, Llantén Común, Llanté, Lanté, Lantén, Lengua de Carnero
Catalan: Plantatge
Basque: Zain-belar
Kechua: Sakkarara
Aymara: Chiraya
Quebec: Plantain majeur
Scientific name: Plantago major
Family: Plantaginaceae

Botanical characteristics and habitat: Plantago major L. is a weed of European origin. In the Americas, it is frequently adventitious in disturbed soils. Plantago mexicana Link. grows in the Sierra del Ajusco and Pedregal de San Angel in the valley of Mexico, as well as in various parts of Mexico's central high plateau. Plantago major is a perennial rhizomatous herb, with a rosette of ovate to elliptic long-petioled leaves with an obovate blade and prominent venation. The flowers are in dense spikes at the apex of scapes.

Properties: Antiseptic, antidysenteric, anti-inflammatory, astrigent, vulnerary, antivenomous, and febrifuge.

Uses in traditional medicine: Plantago major L., Plantago lanceolatum and mexicana Link. have similar uses. Plantago is traditionally used to purify the blood, lungs and stomach. The plant is efficient in the treatment of digestive tract ailments, inflammation, diarrhea, and minor internal hemorrhages. The leaves are also used in the treatment of burns and mouth sores.

Ancient uses: Some people say that Alexander the Great used Plantago major to alleviate his migraine headaches. In the time of Pliny the Elder Plantago major was used for the treatment of 24 ailments. The plant is classified as warm and somewhat moist. If people carry with themselves the entire plant, they are protected from evil spells. It represents the zodiac signs of Aries and Leo. In Europe and in the United States plantain poultices were used to treat snakebites and scorpion stings. Rubbing with leaves neutralizes poisonous effects of bee, hornet, and wasp stings, as well as mosquito bites. Leaves used to prepare poultices help wounds heal faster. This poultice is used to treat contusions as well.

In Morelos, Mexico, the plant is used to treat mumps, tonsil inflammation, bumps, eye inflammation, wounds, ulcers, and kidney inflammation. In Honduras, Plantago major is used mostly as antispasmodic for bronchitis and influenza; Plantago ovata is used as a laxative. Traditional uses in South America are based on the principle that it is cold and dry to a second degree. Its decoction is used to treat throat inflammation. If the juice is applied inside fistulae, it heals them. If it is applied in the ear, it alleviates the pain. It also heals gum sores and prevents decay. The juice of plantain is applied with a piece of gauze. Seeds that have been cooked in wine are used for those that suffer from ailments that cause blood to come out of the mouth (TB, gingivitis...). Eat the seed to stop urinary incontinence. Cook the seed with oil and salt to treat dysentery. Pharmacological studies reveal effects on the central nervous system such as passivity, loss of auricular reflux, bradypnea, and other effects on the peripheral nervous system such as enophthalmos due to arterial hypotension and abdominal cramps. There are other effects that have not been explained, such as the repetitive "grooming" accompanied by erection of the penis in rats. Other effects include the relaxation of smooth muscles. That is, relaxation and inhibition of tracheal musculature and mucous membrane tonus. It also expands the pendulum-like movements in the jejunum of rabbits.


  • Use 60 to 100 grams of leaves in 2 cups of water to make tea. Take three times a day to treat chronic diarrhea. Use Plantain infusion as a gargle to heal mouth and throat sores as well as inflammation.
  • Wash fresh plantain leaves and crush to apply locally as a compress for the treatment of hemorrhoids.
  • Plantago landeolatum may be used as an oral antiseptic rinse two to three times daily. Put crushed leaves in 2 cups boiling water for 20 minutes, strain and use 3 teaspoons for each rinse.

Constituents: Many constituents have been identified, but not all have been accurately recognized as active principles. The plant's antibacterial action against S. aureus has been proven in vitro. The phytochemical characteristics of plantain's aqueous extract contain a pH of 6, phenols, unsaturated sterols, 2-desoxygenate sugars, and free diterpenic acids. A bactericidal substance, aucobosyde, has been found in Plantago lanceolatum leaves, as well as certain natural acids that have an anti-inflammatory effect. Plantago is an antiseptic that has an irregular effect. Plantago's anti-neoplastic action has not been fully proven. As an ocular rinse it alleviates conjunctivitis and blepharitis.

Precautions & contraindications: There are no references to toxic reactions from its traditional use. Consult your doctor.

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