Thursday, April 19, 2012

Plantain 'Vitamin' Tonic

Photo from The Naturopathic Doctor

Plantain grows like crazy all over my yard and especially in the gravel driveway, so it is a good thing it turns out to be edible! It makes a nice addition to salads, but I'm also using some to make a natural vitamin tonic (tincture) for winter use when I don't get many fresh green vegetables.

Plantain leaves are rich in Vitamins C and K, plus beta-carotene which the body converts to Vitamin A, and it is also rich in amino acids, calcium and potassium. Use the leaves in a salad, or steamed and used as a spinach substitute. The leaves do get tough quickly, so make sure to harvest only the youngest leaves. The immature flower stalks may be eaten raw or cooked, and some folks use the seeds ground for flour.

By the way, I'm referring to the green weed named plantain (Plantago major), NOT the Caribbean banana that must be cooked to eat.

The first 'vitamin tincture/tonic' I made was a chickweed multi-vitamin and mineral tincture, and this one from plantain is the second. It's an easy process and I'll probably make others as I discover more vitamin and mineral properties among my edible weeds. Plantain may not be my first choice in a vitamin tonic since there are others that contain more vitamins, but it's good to have on hand in an emergency situation.

Photo of Plantain with flower/seed stalks from

You should pick plantain leaves just before the flower/seed stalks emerge (mature stalks shown above) as that's when they are most potent... unless you want a bitter tonic or salad. Best time to pick the leaves is early mornings when they are fresh with dew. Hasten to process them ASAP as the vitamins flee rapidly once picked.

To make a tincture requires only a base liquid, and the herbs or whatever you want to incorporate. Generally an alcohol like vodka, rum or Everclear is the liquid of choice, but I'm going to use raw apple cider vinegar for some added nutritional properties. (Actually I'm out of Braggs ACV, so I used regular apple cider vinegar for this batch.)

I was out of Bragg's ACV, and so was my local store, but at least the Heinz ACV is made from apples, not chemicals, and it's somewhat better than just cheap vinegar with apple flavor added.
To make the tincture: thoroughly clean and rinse the leaves as soon as possible after harvesting. (Vitamin loss starts immediately from any harvested fruit, vegetable or herb.) You can use a salad spinner to spin off most of the water.

Chop the plant leaves, enough to partially fill a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Fully cover the leaves with either the alcoholic beverage, or my choice: apple cider vinegar. Tighten the lid securely (I'm using the plastic Ball storage lids because the acid content of the vinegar will eat through regular canning lids in a short time.) Store the jar(s) in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks, shaking often. After 2 weeks, strain the infusion into clean jars, re-label and store... again in a cool, dark place.

I take a spoonful or two of raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) every morning anyway, so it is easy instead to substitute some ACV infused with extra vitamins and minerals as a healthy tonic.

Plantain has other uses, too. The best known is probably as a poultice for skin abrasions, and relieving the itch of poison ivy, stings and bites. You can make the poultice by boiling a few leaves in water, let steep a few minutes, strain and soak a cloth in the brew to apply to the skin. In a pinch you can just crush a few leaves by hand and apply directly to the affected area.

You make a similar brew with a liquid vegetable oil and let it sit in the sun for a few days; be sure to strain before use. It makes a great emollient to soften and soothe the skin! (Also works great on a sunburn.) Please be aware that oils that have had greens and/or vegetables soaking in them are a great place for botulism to thrive, so mark these oils "For External Use" only and do not be tempted to use them internally! Tinctures made with an alcohol or vinegar base are safe, as they prevent the nasty botulism bacteria from growing in them.


  1. Great article, I took the liberty of posting it to my community page for Sumter, SC.

    1. Glad you did, it's useful information for everyone!


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