Plantain is a perennial 'weed' you probably have growing in your yard or garden. Not to be confused with the banana type fruit you see in some stores. There are about 250 different species of plantain but we're looking at 'Plantago major'. That's it's official name although it's nickname is "Englishman's foot" by Native Americans because it seemed to appear everywhere in European settlers colonies. It's said that it was once called 'snakeweed' because it helps with snakebites, but don't go trying that just cause I said so! (see a Dr of course!) It is believed to be brought to the Americas by Puritan settlers for medicinal uses. As much of an annoyance as it is, it has many great uses also. The leaves can be crushed up and applied to cuts and scrapes to help stop bleeding and pain. They also help with insect stings or bites. They are edible and the younger leaves are great in salads while the older leaves are tougher and are better cooked into soups and stews. The seeds can be ground into a flour substitute. The roots can also be used for pain. Today though I'm focusing on the leaves and their uses as a tea.
A strong tea can be made of the dried leaves and cooled then applied to sunburn or brush burns to speed healing. It's also good for rashes and poison ivy. Some people have found it helps with excema also as it is very soothing to the skin. I prefer to drink the tea as it has many internal uses. It can soothe a sore throat and cough. It helps with digestion, ulcers, heartburn, IBS, mouth sores, and is great to drink when you have diarrhea since it will replenish vitamins and minerals lost through sickness. It is also drank as a tea to help with kidney and bladder problems.
Make sure the plantain you gather has not been sprayed with weed killers, insecticides or any other chemicals. I only gathered leaves this time and since I was drying them, I didn't worry about size. Don't worry about breaking off the stems, they can be left on. It's better to gather plantain leaves after it begins to flower, but I wasn't into waiting so I went ahead and picked this early stuff. I'll just pick more in a few weeks, it's literally growing everywhere!
I washed the leaves by putting them in a bowl of warm water and adding about a tablespoon of baking soda then swishing them around by hand. I let them sit a few minutes while I got the oven set to convect at 170 then rinsed them off. I shook them to get the water off then placed them all in a lint free towel. Then I wrapped up the corners and sort of swung it around to get the rest of the water out. Then I placed them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper trying to keep them from touching, and put them in the oven. I used the method I wrote about here in How To Oven Dry Fresh Herbs. You can also use a dehydrator on a medium setting. It should only take a few hours with this method.
Once dry I put them in a jar. I crushed some, but I left some whole. I really prefer to crush them right before I use them, but there's not always room in the jar. I'll leave the lid off for the next few days. In case there's any moisture left in them it will have time to evaporate off. Any time I want to make a tea I just crush up about a tablespoons worth and steep as normally for tea. Strain then drink. It's definitely a natural tea taste, but I just add a little local honey and it is so good! I hope you like it too.