The common plantain is of Eurasian descent, but has since been naturalized around the world with particular prominence in the United States. Native American populations referred to it as Whiteman’s Foot due to its tendency to spring up around European settlements.
Plantain has been used by many cultures the world over, and the Saxons considered it one of their nine sacred herbs. It was considered an early Christian symbol and many cultures today refer to it as an aphrodisiac. Despite its usefulness, plantain is considered a noxious weed in some regions outside of its native range.
Medicinally, plantain leaf is approved by the German Commission E for respiratory catarrhs and mild inflammation of the oral and pharyngeal mucosa. It is traditionally used for upper respiratory support, and is topically used for minor cuts, bruises, and stings. The leaves of plantain are quite edible, and are often cooked as greens or used raw in salads. Older leaves have a stronger flavor and may be considered objectionable. These older, stringy leaves may still be used in herbal teas, and are particularly suitable for survival situations where the tough fibers may be converted to rope or fishing line. Plantain is very high in vitamins A and C and is also a rich source of calcium.