English Plantain

English_Plantain_jpgThis family (Plantaginaceae), commonly called the Plantain Family, consists of 3 genera and 255 species of herbs and shrubs. The Romans called this family the “plantago” from “planta” which means “sole of the foot” and refers to the shape of the leaves.  It is also the root word for “plant”.  Two Eurasian species are of medical importance, Plantago afra which provides the laxative psyllium (Metamucil is one brand) and Plantago ovata which is used to treat dysentery.  In Enland, English Plantain is called “Kemp” after a childrens game. An eighteenth-century European botanist recommended binding plantain leaves to sore and tired feet to relieve fatigue. Early American colonists used plantain on insect and venomous snake bites and used the seeds to expel worms.  Chewing the root was reported to stop toothaches.  The 1998 edition of the Physician’s Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines reports that the herb is used internally for upper respiratory inflammation (common cold, cough, inflammation of the mouth and pharynx) and externally for inflammatory reaction of the skin. Commercial preparations include: gels, liquid extract, lozengers, and syrups.  The drug is included in many antitussives and expectorants.


Ribgrass, Buckhorn, Chimney-sweeps, Headman, Ribwort, Ripplegrass, Soldier’s Herb, Kemp


Plantago lanceolata




Naturalized. Native of Eurasia




2 to 20 inches


Early June to mid November


Found throughout the United States ~ Statewide in NJ


Late April to Mid-October


Leaves in  basal rosettes, lance-shaped, 3 to 5 deep ribs ~ Fibrous root ~ Flowers small, almost colorless, calyx is divided into 4 parts, 4 long stamens ~ Seeds oblong, 2 mm, black