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Plantago (Plantains)

Greater Plantain (Plantago major)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Lamiales
Family: Plantaginaceae
Genus: Plantago

There are 5 subgenera in Plantago.

Plantago is a genus of about 200 species of small, inconspicuous plants commonly called plantains. They share this name with the very dissimilar plantain, a kind of banana. Most are herbaceous plants, though a few are subshrubs growing to 60 cm (23.5 in) tall. The leaves are sessile, but have a narrow part near the stem which is a pseudo-petiole. They have three or five parallel veins that diverge in the wider part of the leaf. Leaves are broad or narrow, depending on the species. The inflorescences are borne on stalks typically 5-40 cm (2.25-15.75 in) tall, and can be a short cone or a long spike, with numerous tiny wind-pollinated flowers.

Plantains are used as food plants by the larvae of some species of Lepidoptera - see list of Lepidoptera that feed on plantains.

They are found all over the world, including America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Europe. Many species in the genus are cosmopolitan weeds.



Plantago species are often used as herbal remedies. The herb is astringent, anti-toxic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, as well as demulcent, expectorant, styptic and diuretic. Externally, a poultice of the leaves is useful for insect bites, poison-ivy rashes, minor sores, and boils. In folklore it is even claimed to be able to cure snakebite. Internally, it is used for coughs and bronchitis, as a tea, tincture, or syrup. The broad-leaved varieties are sometimes used as a leaf vegetable for salads, green sauce, et cetera.

Plantain seed husks expand and become mucilaginous when wet, especially those of P. psyllium, which is used in common over-the-counter bulk laxative and fiber supplement products such as Metamucil. P. psyllium seed is useful for constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, dietary fiber supplementation, and diverticular disease. Recent research is also showing it to be promising in lowering cholesterol and controlling diabetes.

Psyllium supplements are typically used in powder form, along with adequate amounts of fluids. A dose of at least 7 grams daily taken with adequate amounts of fluid (water, juice) is used by some for management of elevated cholesterol. There are a number of psyllium products used for constipation. The usual dose is about 3.5 grams twice a day. Psyllium is also a component of several ready-to-eat cereals.

In India, mucilage from (Plantago ovata) is obtained by grinding off the husk. The mucilage is sold as Isabgol, a laxative which is used to control irregular bowel syndrome and constipation. It is also used in cereals as a treatment of mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia and for reducing blood glucose. It has been used as an indigenous Ayurvedic and Unani medicine for a whole range of bowel problems including chronic constipation, amoebic dysentry and diarrhoea.

In Romania and Bulgaria, leaves from Plantago major are used as a folk remedy to preventing infection on cuts and scratches because of its antiseptic properties.


There are about 200 species of Plantago, including:

  • Plantago afra
  • Plantago africana
  • Plantago aitchisonii
  • Plantago alpina
  • Plantago arborescens
  • Plantago arenaria - Branched Plantain
  • Plantago argentea
  • Plantago asiatica
  • Plantago aucklandica
  • Plantago bigelovii
  • Plantago canescens
  • Plantago coreana
  • Plantago cordata
  • Plantago coronopus - Buckshorn Plantain
  • Plantago cornuti
  • Plantago cynops
  • Plantago eripoda
  • Plantago elongata
  • Plantago erosa
  • Plantago fernandezia
  • Plantago fischeri
  • Plantago gentianoides
  • Plantago glabrifolia
  • Plantago grayana
  • Plantago hawaiiensis
  • Plantago hedleyi
  • Plantago heterophylla
  • Plantago hillebrandii
  • Plantago himalaica
  • Plantago incisa
  • Plantago krajinai
  • Plantago lanceolata - Ribwort Plantain
  • Plantago lanigera
  • Plantago longissima
  • Plantago macrocarpa
  • Plantago major - Greater Plantain, Common Plantain
  • Plantago maritima - Sea Plantain
  • Plantago maxima
  • Plantago media - Hoary Plantain
  • Plantago melanochrous
  • Plantago moorei - Moore's Plantain
  • Plantago musicola
  • Plantago nivalis
  • Plantago obconica
  • Plantago ovata - Blond Psyllium
  • Plantago pachyphylla
  • Plantago palmata
  • Plantago patagonica
  • Plantago polysperma
  • Plantago principes
  • Plantago pusilla
  • Plantago psyllium - Sand Plantain
  • Plantago raoulii
  • Plantago rapensis
  • Plantago remota
  • Plantago reniformis
  • Plantago robusta
  • Plantago rugelii - Blackseed Plantain
  • Plantago rupicola
  • Plantago schneideri
  • Plantago sempervirens
  • Plantago sparsiflora
  • Plantago subulata
  • Plantago spathulata
  • Plantago tanalensis
  • Plantago taqueti
  • Plantago tenuiflora
  • Plantago triandra
  • Plantago triantha
  • Plantago tweedyi



Cho, Y.; Mower, J. P., Qiu, Y.-L. & Palmer, J. D. (2004). Mitochondrial substitution rates are extraodinarily elevated and variable in a genus of flowering plants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 101: 17741-17746

Dagar, J. C.; Kumar, Y. & Tomar, O. S. (2006). Cultivation of medicinal isabgol (Plantago ovata) in alkali soils in semiarid regions of northern India. Land Degradation and Development 17: 275-283

Rahn, K. (1996). A phylogenetic study of the Plantaginaceae. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 120: 145-198

Rønsted, N.; Chase, M. W.; Albach, D. C. & Bello, M. A. (2002). Phylogenetic relationships within Plantago (Plantaginaceae): evidence from nuclear ribosomal ITS and plastid TrnL-F sequence data. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 139: 323-338

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Plantago". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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