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From weed to health bomb: The power of Ribwort plantain

Discover the healing power of Ribwort Plantain. In my detailed guide I share with you how you can use this plant for your health.

from Martin Gebhardt | Plants / fungi | no comment yet | reading time 9 Min
Updated on 28 February 2024 7.244 views 100% found this guide helpful
From weed to health bomb: The power of Ribwort plantain

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.


👉 The key facts from this guide

  • Ribwort plantain is a versatile, inconspicuous plant with healing effects and is nutritious as a wild herb salad.
  • The plant has anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, helps with skin inflammation, insect bites, and respiratory infections.
  • Ribwort plantain is easy to identify and can be collected by beginners due to its unmistakable nature.
  • As an emergency helper in the wilderness, it can be used for wound care and insect bites.
  • The herb is edible, its young leaves, flowering stems, and flower buds can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • For sustainable harvesting, only take as much as needed, and harvest plants in a distributed manner.

Today we are talking about a plant that is so wonderfully unassuming that most people overlook it.

Plantain - this green hero is a versatile plant with numerous possibilities upon closer inspection.

For many years now, I have been a collector of herbs. What I am describing to you here is not a gimmick - but the result of years of experience and numerous projects.

I will show you how to use ribwort plantain as a remedy, food source, and survival tool. Once you master the art of identifying and applying it, the wilderness will become a less threatening place.

Are you ready to meet your new outdoor companion?

Let's go!

Green Magic by the Wayside: What is Plantain?

Imagine strolling through the forest, the ground cushioning under your feet, and suddenly, you see them - the small green rosettes of the plantain.

This inconspicuous medicinal plant is more than just a decoration on the forest floor.

Plantain is known for its diverse healing effects, including anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. The plant is effective in treating skin inflammations, insect bites, and supports healing in respiratory infections.

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It contains active ingredients such as aucubin (which has astringent, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties) and polysaccharides, which have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. Despite its long history of use, there are almost no studies available.

Before we go into detail, let us introduce: Plantago lanceolata - its botanical name - is a true wonder of nature.

With its elongated leaves arranged in a rosette and the characteristic flower stalk, it has more superpowers than you think.

She grows almost everywhere, where the sun kisses the earth and there is enough space for a little life - on paths, in meadows, and even in your backyard.

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Historical Roots

Even the ancient Romans called it Plantain because it grew along roads, where travelers used it for wound healing.

This herb has a story!

And it's a long, heroic one.

But ribwort plantain, also known as Plantago lanceolata, was not only valued by the Romans, but has played a role in many cultures worldwide.

Its use ranges from Europe across Asia to the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

In many cultures' traditional medicine, it was used for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties in skin and respiratory diseases.

Ancient Egyptians used it, for example, for wound healing, while in traditional Chinese medicine its properties were used to treat fever and colds.

This versatile plant has also been used in the folk medicine of many European countries as a remedy for various ailments.

Why Ribwort Plantain is an Essential Item in Every Survival Kit

Once you know how to use ribwort plantain, it will become your must-have faster than you can say "cut."

In my endless wanderings through the wilderness, the plant has been loyal to me on multiple occasions.

Whether as a first aid ally or as a spontaneous snack - ribwort plantain won't let you down.

Plantain Detectives: How to Find the Green Treasure.

Decipher the code of nature, and you will find a treasure that not only goes into your pocket, but straight into your outdoor heart. So, lace up your boots tightly, we are going on an adventure.

Identification - Your Eyes Become Detectives

You are standing in the middle of the wilderness and wondering: Is this now the plantain or just someone who looks similar?

The ribwort plantain proudly presents itself with its lanceolate, which means "sword-shaped" leaves.

They are usually three to five centimeters wide and up to 30 centimeters long.

On the flank, you will find five to seven distinctive longitudinal veins, as if Mother Nature had built rails there for raindrops.

Botanical features at a glance:

  • Leaves: Pointed-elongated leaf shape and in rosette form.
  • Flower stalk: Long, thin, with a single flower.
  • Flowering period: Its peak season runs from April to September.
  • Location: Roadside, meadows, open spaces - the ribwort plantain is not picky.
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Can I confuse plantain?

You can easily recognize ribwort plantain by its pointed-elongated leaf shape and the angular longitudinal furrows. These distinctive features are due to the prominent, parallel leaf veins.

This is how you can easily distinguish the ribwort plantain from other plants and there are clear identifying features.

Even if you should confuse it with ribwort plantain or other types of plantains, that's no problem.

The beauty is: All plantain species are edible and safe. They are perfect for those who want to start foraging wild herbs. They even have similar ingredients and help in the same way.

Plantain is easy to recognize and you don't have to worry about mistaking it for poisonous plants.

For beginners in collecting wild herbs, ribwort plantain and broadleaf plantain are great plants. They are safe and easy to find.

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When and where to collect ribwort plantain?

The beauty of it? Plantain is no diva. You can find it from spring to autumn, spread across all kinds of habitats.

His favorite spots are sunny to semi-shady. Whether on the outskirts of town or deep in the forest - the ribwort plantain makes it easy for you to love him.

The ribwort plantain thrives carelessly over meadows and pastures, lines paths, and sends you an inviting wink from almost every sunny spot of earth.

He is a true globetrotter and feels particularly comfortable in temperate zones.

Discover. Find. Use. The ribwort plantain is just waiting to be showcased by you!

beim kraeuter sammeln

Plantain as Medicinal Plant: The Green Doctor in the Emergency Kit

No need to have studied medicine to use ribwort plantain as a first aid assistant in the great outdoors.

This herb is a true medic in the world of wild herbs.

Helps with coughs and scratches

Remember, the next time your throat scratches like a rebellious hedgehog, Plantain is your green ally. Chewed or prepared as a tea, it will quickly provide relief.

Recipes of the Indigenous Peoples: Plantain as a Panacea

Indigenous peoples used ribwort plantain to heal wounds and treat snake bites. This shows how universally applicable this plant is.

A plaster made from ribwort plantain directly on the cut and nature will show its healing powers.

Or you can infuse ribwort plantain leaves for a cough syrup.

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First Aid in the Wilderness

Are you on the go and get bitten by an insect?

No reason for hysteria. Crush ribwort plantain leaves (some plant juice should come out), press onto the sting, and your skin will silently thank you.

spitzwegerich gegen insektenstiche

Here is an overview of the multi-talented plantain:

Complaint Application with Plantain
Cough Drink tea made from leaves or chew leaves.
Cold Inhale steam from leaves.
Cuts Use fresh leaves as a bandage.
Insect Bites Apply crushed leaves to the bite.

Even science gives him top marks.

Plantain has proven antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties.

It is no coincidence that pharmacies and supermarkets sell almost all ribwort plantain cough syrup.

selbstgemachter spitzwegerich sirup

Try it out! Next time you're outdoors and in need of a helper in distress - look for ribwort plantain.

Your outdoor adventure will be even more memorable because you know: In case of minor accidents, you have first aid readily available right by your side.

Plantain as a Food Source: The Salad of the Wilderness

Now let's get down to business - or rather, Plantain on your outdoor plate.

This herb is not only a must-have for your medicine cabinet, but also a real treat for your stomach.

Green stuff to feast on? Absolutely!

Imagine sitting by the campfire, stomach growling, and the nearest supermarket is light years away. Plantain can also help with that.

Young and tender, it fits perfectly in any wild herb salad and makes many greens from the organic store look old.

Eat without worries: Which parts are safe to consume?

  • The young leaves nutty in taste, a true delight for the palate. Nutrients: Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, phytochemicals.
  • Flower stems slightly dry, but delicious in salads or steamed. Nutrients: Vitamin C, potassium, fiber.
  • Flower buds taste slightly like mushrooms.
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From raw food to wilderness feast - recipes that rock:

  1. Raw Plantain: Pluck the leaves, wash them, and snack on them directly.
  2. Sautéed Plantain: Sauté briefly and serve as a side dish, the forest as your 5-star restaurant.
  3. Plantain Tea: Brew and enjoy - nature is your tea shop.
  4. Plantain Chips: Dry the leaves and fry them - crispy, crunchy, munchy!

The Plantain Salad that Strengthens You: A Celebration of Nutrients

Not only a winner in terms of taste, but ribwort plantain is also a true champion in terms of its nutritional value.

Rich in vitamin C and iron, it will recharge your energy reserves gently and effectively.

And because it's simply more fun together, why not combine the ribwort plantain with other wild friends.

How about adding a touch of dandelion or a dash of nettle for a change? Your taste buds will thank you.

spitzwegerich salat

How to Prepare Plantain Wilderness Tea

Nothing beats a soothing ribwort plantain tea outdoors. Follow this recipe:

  1. Collect and clean leaves.
  2. Pour boiling water over them.
  3. Let steep until the strength is to your liking.
  4. Sip slowly, letting your soul unwind.

Take a break and discover that ribwort plantain is more than just a green side dish on your outdoor expedition. It is a forest gourmet snack for in between.

spitzwegerich tee 2

If you want to unleash the healing power of ribwort plantain, prepare the tea (recommended by Dr. Johannes Mayer) like this:

  1. Take two teaspoons.
  2. Infuse in cold water.
  3. Let steep for about two hours.
  4. Then heat to a good drinking temperature.
  5. Drink strained tea.
  6. Drink tea very slowly, gargle repeatedly to keep the tea in the mouth for as long as possible.

Here you will find more recipes and inspiration on the topic:

Plantain as an outdoor tool? What's behind it?

Plantain in nature is more than just a plant. Many say it is edible, healing, and even a tool. But how much of that is really true?

Imagination on, and off we go: Plants turn into equipment items!

  • How about a plantain rope? Some claim that strong leaf fibers can be used to make emergency ropes.

    • The truth is: Making a rope from plantain is more difficult than you might think. The fibers are indeed robust, but not suitable for load-bearing structures. I recommend using materials like nettle fibers, lime bark, hemp, or paracord.

  • The tip that leaves could filter water by removing coarse particles sounds unbelievable.

    • Unfortunately, plantain leaves do not filter particles from your water - the plant parts are too coarse. They are not a substitute for real water filters.

The leaves are also unsuitable for durable tools, such as a ladle. They are too fragile for serious applications.

Although creative ideas are circulating, the capabilities of ribwort plantain often exceed reality. For ropes, water filtration, and tool making in Bushcrafting, you should rely on proven methods.

Time Travel: Preserving Plantain

Now it gets exciting, we are going to play around with time a bit.

The great thing about ribwort plantain is: you can preserve it to enjoy its benefits even outside the season.

Drying - the Old-School Way

You can dry the leaves of ribwort plantain in the sun or in a warm, dry place - it will become your survival snack or tea for the winter.

Drying Techniques:

  1. Natural sunlight: Spread the leaves out on a sunny day and let them dry.
  2. Room air: Hang the leaves on a string.
  3. Dehydrator or oven: Remove moisture at low temperature.
spitzwegerich getrocknet

How long can you rely on ribwort plantain?

With proper storage in a dry, dark place, you can expect one year or more.

Until then, it provides you with its versatility a constant repertoire for your outdoor cuisine or your emergency pharmacy.

Prepare yourself, be ready, and extend the availability of your green helper by simply drying and storing the ribwort plantain. This way, it will always be on hand whenever you hear the call of the wild again.

How to integrate ribwort plantain into your survival knowledge?

The greenery from the forest becomes part of your life, you're learning, and ultimately, your connection to nature.

Wilderness Courses - Experience Plantain Live

Experiencing is better than just reading, right? So how can you deepen your knowledge of plants?

Take part in a wilderness course and indulge in hands-on learning. You'll be digging and picking to your heart's content, learning what plantain looks like in the real wilderness where you once only saw a sea of leaves.

Here are exercises and recommendations on how you can further deepen your knowledge:

  • Seek emergency food: Learn how to identify edible plants and safely identify ribwort plantain as part of a survival workshop.
  • Expand first aid skills: Get hands-on experience on how to use ribwort plantain directly on wounds or for itching relief.
  • Master wild herb cuisine: Cooking with a twist - prepare a three-course meal using wild herbs, with ribwort plantain as the star of the show.
  • Yearly online program: Join the Wildimpuls yearly distance learning program, where we also explore plants.

Or turn the next generation into little outdoor specialists.

How? By showing kids how to safely pick ribwort plantain and use it for simple, natural remedies. It's like scouting with plant power.

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Share your experiences and learn from others. In forums, at meetings, or on joint hikes - you will see, you are not alone in your enthusiasm for ribwort plantain.

Wilderness schools and online courses are waiting for you. From herbal seminars to survival camps - there are endless opportunities to deepen your knowledge.

Leaving No Trace: Collecting, but the Right Way

Finally, one important point.

Always collect in a way that does not harm nature.

Here are a few rules for sustainable collecting:

  • Only take what you need: The motto is "Take only as much as you really need."
  • Respect nature reserves: Collection bans often apply here - stick to them.
  • Pick plants distributed: Don't pluck all the leaves from one plant, but distribute your harvest.

In this context, a quick question: Have you already heard of the Leave No Trace principle? You can find more information about it here: Leave No Trace: Outdoor Code for Environmental Protection

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Myths and Truths: Plantain Q&A

Now it's getting serious because there are questions about ribwort plantain that are crying out for answers. It's time to debunk myths and shed light on facts.

Here are the answers to your burning questions!

Frequently Asked, Finally Answered

👉 How do I recognize high-quality plantain leaves? Fresh leaves are green, firm, and free of spots or damage from pests. The same applies to dried plantain leaves.

👉 Is ribwort plantain poisonous? No, it is not. But be careful not to confuse it with similar-looking plants.

👉 Can you really eat ribwort plantain? Absolutely. The young leaves are a delight both raw and cooked.

👉 What about allergies? Allergic reactions are rare. If you are sensitive, start with small amounts.

👉 Can I use ribwort plantain during pregnancy? When it comes to this question, it's best to play it safe and consult your doctor. Traditionally, it is often used, but every pregnancy is different.

Cleaning up with the Legends

What is spun around the plantain can fill novels.

  • "Plantain has magical powers." Not magical, but medicinal? Definitely!
  • "A tea made from plantain can cure any illness." It can support and alleviate, but for serious illnesses, always consult a doctor.
  • "Plantain is a weed and useless." That is probably the biggest falsehood. The plant is a true treasure of nature!

Personal Concerns?

And what if you suspect that ribwort plantain might not agree with you?

Listen to your body. Rare, but possible: Some people react sensitively to herbs.

  • If you have intolerances or allergies: Omit the plantain and inquire about alternatives.
  • Experiment cautiously: Test with small amounts and observe how your body reacts.

Now you are armed with knowledge and clarity - the next time plantain crosses your path, you will be the expert!

Plantain: Just the beginning of your wilderness library

We have learned a lot about ribwort plantain, but believe me, this is just the beginning of an exciting journey full of botany.

The ribwort plantain is a true treasure, but it is surrounded by a whole gang of other wild companions just waiting to be discovered by you.

If you are keen to know more about this, then take a look at the category: Plants and Fungi - Discover the Healing Powers

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Here is a list of his buddies that you should also get to know on your adventures through the wilderness:

  • Dandelion: The vitamin-rich all-rounder that jazzes up your salad and boosts your health. [Click here]
  • Nettle: Yes, it stings, but it's also full of iron and perfect for soups and teas. [Click here]
  • Yarrow: The wound healer that not only heals but also serves as a spice. [Click here]
  • Chickweed: The star among wild herbs, full of nutrients and great in spring salads. [Click here]
  • Sorrel: Brings a lemony freshness to your outdoor kitchen. [Click here]
  • Daisy: Tiny but mighty, ideal for a spring salad. [Click here]
  • Watercress: Zesty in taste and a health booster. [Click here]
  • Meadow sweet: Tastes sweet and helps with headaches, simply brilliant! [Click here]
  • Goose foot: An underrated leafy vegetable that belongs in every good wild soup. [Click here]
  • Garlic Mustard: Seasons your meals and keeps vampires away - what more could you want? [Click here]

And who knows, maybe soon the plantain will become a close friend of yours, accompanying you on your adventures.

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Author of the guide


Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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