The Healing Power of Plaintain

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Plantain (Plantago major) is a plant used in herbal medicine. Available in dietary supplement form, extracts of the plant's leaves and seeds are used to treat a variety of health conditions. It's thought that plantain extract might help improve health in part by reducing inflammation and stimulating the immune system.

Research shows that plantain contains many compounds that may offer health-enhancing effects.

These compounds include a number of antioxidants and polysaccharides (a class of carbohydrates that appear to affect immune function), as well as caffeic acid (a chemical with anti-inflammatory properties).

Uses for Plantain Extract

In alternative medicine, plantain extract is typically used as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

In addition, plantain extract is said to alleviate pain, protect against some forms of cancer, and promote liver health.

When applied topically (i.e. directly to the skin), extract of the plantain leaf is said to speed up the healing of wounds.

Benefits of Plantain Extract

Despite its long history of use in certain systems of traditional medicine (including traditional Chinese medicine), plantain extract and its potential health benefits have been the focus of few scientific studies. Still, preliminary research shows that plantain may offer some beneficial effects.

For example, several preliminary studies indicate that plantain extract may help destroy certain viruses. These studies include a laboratory study published in Antiviral Research in 2002, which determined that caffeic acid and other antioxidant compounds found in plantain extract may help knock out the viruses known to cause cold sores and genital herpes.

The study also found that plantain extract may help fight several adenoviruses (a class of viruses that cause many respiratory illnesses, as well as conjunctivitis, diarrhea, and cystitis).

A preliminary study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology in 2009 suggests that plantain extract may also help fend off liver disease. In tests on rats, the study's authors observed that animals treated with plantain extract experienced a lesser degree of liver damage when exposed to chemicals known to be toxic to the liver. Treatment with plantain extract was also associated with a decrease in inflammation.

What's more, a rat-based study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention in 2011 found that plantain extract may help combat disease by reducing oxidative stress. Plantain extract appeared to curb oxidative stress by fighting off free radicals.


Although little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of dietary supplements containing plantain extract, there's some concern that plantain may trigger a number of side effects (including diarrhea and a decrease in blood pressure).

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label.

Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here.

If you're considering plaintain for a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Alternatives to Plantain Extract

There are many ways to rev up immune function naturally and strengthen your body's defense against the common cold and other virus-related ailments. For example, there's some evidence that herbs like garlic and Asian ginseng may boost immunity. Following a diet high in immune-enhancing foods, getting sufficient sleep, exercising regularly, and managing your stress are also essential for shoring up your immune system.

For help in preserving your liver health, herbs like milk thistle, turmeric, and burdock may be beneficial. Limiting your alcohol intake and keeping your cholesterol in check are also considered crucial for optimal liver function.

Where to Find It

Dietary supplements containing plantain extract are sold in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in nutritional products. You can also purchase plantain extract online.


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Oto G1, Ekin S, Ozdemir H, Demir H, Yasar S, Levent A, Berber I, Kaki B. "Plantago major protective effects on antioxidant status after administration of 7,12-Dimethylbenz(a)anthracene in rats." Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2011;12(2):531-5.

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Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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