Ribwort plantain : Uses, medicine and homeopathy, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

Ribwort plantain Uses, medicine, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

Ribwort plantain is native to all of Europe, North and Central Asia, and the plant has been naturalized in Australia and America. The drug material comes mainly from cultures in Eastern European countries and Holland and to a small extent from wild occurrences.

The dried leaves and flower stalks of buckhorn are used in herbal medicine.

Ribwort plantain: characteristics of the plant

Plantain is a perennial, widespread plant with basal rosettes consisting of leaves about 20 cm long with parallel veins.

The suffix lanceolatae in the Latin name of the plant means something like skewer and is based on the lanceolate shape of the leaves. The plant bears inconspicuous brown flowers in cylindrical spikes at the end of a long stalk. Striking whitish stamens protrude below the flowers.

Broad plantain (Plantaginis major) and common plantain (Plantaginis media) are also used as medicinal plants.

Characteristics of the drug

The leaves of the plant are light to grey-green and not at all hairy or only very slightly hairy. The whitish nerves on the underside of the leaves are clearly visible. The green to brown-black petioles and fragments of the flower spikes are also part of the drug.

Plantain is largely odorless. The  taste  of buckhorn is slimy, salty and at the same time somewhat bitter.

Plantain – application

Plantain leaves can be used internally and externally. The internal use is mainly for the treatment of colds and inflammatory processes of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat and the upper airways (catarrh).

External use of plantain

Applied externally, plantain can be used to treat inflammatory skin changes, skin diseases, skin injuries and insect bites. Traditionally, the plant is used in general to strengthen the respiratory tract.

Plantain in folk medicine and homeopathy

Ribwort plantain has been used in folk medicine for centuries to stimulate expectoration, treat ulcers in the mouth and to treat primary wounds. It is also sometimes used for local hemostasis.

Ribwort plantain is also often used to treat coughs. The contained iridoglycosides have an antibacterial effect, the mucilage forms a protective film over the mucous membranes, which relieves the urge to cough. Ribwort plantain is therefore a popular ingredient in cough syrup or  tea .

Homeopathy mainly uses the fresh broadleaf to treat toothache in caries.

Constituents of plantain

Plantain leaves contain 2-3% iridoglycosides with the main components aucubin, catalpol, asperuloside and globularin. The content of iridoglycosides is influenced by the age of the leaves and the time of year.

The drug also contains mucilage, tannins, caffeic acid derivatives, chlorogenic acid,  flavonoidsminerals  and essential oils.

Plantain: Indication

Ribwort plantain is used medicinally for:

  • Inflammation of the mouth and throat mucosa
  • a cold
  • catarrh
  • inflammation of the skin
  • skin diseases
  • skin injuries
  • insect bites
  • wound healing

Plantain – Dosage

Ribwort plantain can be taken or applied as a  tea  or in other preparations. The drug is available in specialist shops in filter bags or as a component of tea mixtures from the group of cough and bronchial teas. In the field of herbal  medicines  , plantain extracts and pressed juices are processed in numerous juices and drops in the group of bronchial therapeutics.

Plantain: average daily dose

Unless otherwise prescribed, the average daily dose is 3-6 g of the leaves.

Ribwort plantain – Preparation as a tea

To prepare a tea, pour boiling water over 2-4 g of the chopped plantain leaves (1 teaspoon corresponds to about 0.7 g), leave to stand for 10 minutes and then strain through a tea strainer. The leaves can also be mixed with cold water and briefly boiled.


The leaves should not be used if there is a known hypersensitivity to buckhorn. For the first wound care, fresh, cleaned (!) plantain leaves can be placed on the fresh wounds and continuously replaced with new ones.

What should be considered when storing?

Plantain should be stored dry and protected from light. If the freshly harvested leaves are dried too slowly or if the leaves are stored too moist (can be recognized by the brown discoloration of the drug), the antibacterial effect may be lost.

Plantain – synonyms

German plant name: buckhorn
German synonyms of the plant: Healing plantain, wound plantain, way rich, dog ribs, lung leaf, lie leaf, Lägen leaf, lamb’s tongue, ribwort, horse ribs, seven ribs, sheep’s tongue, snake’s tongue, medicinal leaves, spitweed, pointed way leaf, pointed featherich, cart tear leaf, path width, step
Latin plant name: Plantago lanceolata L.
Latin synonyms of the plant: Arnoglossum lanceolatum, Plantago flexuosa, Plantago lanceofolia, Plantago longistipes, Plantago sylvatica
German drug name: plantain leaves
Latin drug name: Plantain lanceolate leaf
Latin synonyms of the drug: Plantaginus leaf, Plantaginus leaf, Herb Plantaginus angustifoliae
English name: Plantain leaf (Droge); Buckhorn, Buckhorn plantain, English plantain, Lanceleaf plantain, Long-leaved Plantain, Small plantain, Narrow-leaved plantain, Narrowleaf plantain, Ribwort Plantain, Ribgrass, Ribwort, Small waybread
Plant family Latin: Plantaginaceae
Plant family German: plantain family


Plantain – effect

The mucilage contained in the drug has a soothing effect, the tannins have an astringent effect and the iridoids have an antibacterial effect.

Aucubin in particular has inhibitory effects on the growth of certain bacteria, such as:

  • Klebsiella pneumoniae, a causative agent of urinary and respiratory tract infections, and
  • Staphylococcus aureus, a causative agent of skin infections, muscle disorders and  pneumonia

The anti-inflammatory properties of plantain are also due to aucubin, as this presumably inhibits the synthesis of certain inflammatory mediators (e.g. prostaglandin).

Plantain leaves also have a wound-healing and pain-relieving effect.

Plantain: side effects

When used as intended, no side effects are to be expected. There are currently no known interactions with other agents.

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