You've seen it. It grows in the sidewalk cracks. It grows along the hard, clay-like woods trail. It is all over Ohio and many urbanized areas of the US. This versatile plant is herbaceous (meaning not woody like a shrub or tree) and tends to grow in some of the most inhospitable places, like abandoned buildings and roads less frequently traveled. This herb is of great value to those hiking in the woods and the urban wildcrafter alike.
The herb has been described as astringent, anti-toxic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine, as well as demulcent, expectorant, styptic and diuretic. What do all of those mean? Let's break it down.
Astringent: plaintain can be used to aid the appearance of skin. Astringents usually tighten the skin, possibly also reducing pore size. This could be of aid in conditions like acne. Paintain leaves can be soaked in 100 proof grain alcohol for no less than six weeks and used on a cotton ball to aid in skin ailments.
Antimicrobial: it is said that plaintain kills infections. This may be one reason why some sources list it as being used in cases of skin irritations like athlete's foot.
Anti-inflammatory: plaintain "removes the heat" from a situation. For example, when the crushed leaf is rubbed on an insect bite, the swelling is removed.
Styptic: got roadrash? Pack it down in clean plaintain leaves that have been slightly macerated. This, some sources say, can help to stop the bleeding or oozing.
Demulcent: plaintain seems to soothe dry skin. The "juice" in the leaves may help to leave skin moisturized.
Expectorant: plaintain is a main ingredient in some herbals to soothe cough. It helps to rid the body of excess mucus, in a mild, soothing way.
Diuretic: plaintain is a mild diuretic. Using plaintain tea or eating the leaves in a salad mix, can help move fluid from the body's tissues and push it through the kidneys.
Plaintain can be eaten (although I would only eat plaintain I know has not been sprayed with various chemical herbicides), made into a tea, dried and encapsulated and more.