Plantain is a common weed found everywhere around the world. But wait until you learn the secrets that herbalists have known for generations. You can use plantain to help and heal your dog, even soothe a common ailment. Instead of pulling up plantain to get rid of it, you’ll be saving every leaf from your yard – and your neighbor’s too!
Don’t Confuse Plantain Herb With Fruit
There are two types of plantain … the leafy lawn variety and the banana-like fruit.
Plantain (the vegetable) is a starchier version of the banana. It’s as common in tropical countries as the potato is in North America. Plantain is a source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, B6 and magnesium and potassium.
It’s safe for your dog to eat the plantain fruit but it needs to be cooked. You can cook it the same way as potatoes. To help retain the most nutrients, steaming plantain is best. In small amounts the plantain vegetable can ease digestive problems. But in larger amounts it can cause digestive upset. And to be honest, there are better options for your dog to get these vitamins and minerals.
But today let’s talk about the herbal version of plantain … because it’s much more impressive. Throughout history, herbalists have prized the plantain plant for its long list of benefits. And those apply to your dog too! Let’s look at 10 of those benefits.
What Is Plantain?
Plantain (Plantago major) is easily recognized. It’s made up of a series of wide green leaves from 1-6 inches in length. They extend from a central rosette close to the ground. Veins run from base to tip with flower stalks that rise from the centre. You may find them as a single plant or they’ll be in clusters if allowed to spread. You don’t want to confuse it with plantain lily which is a variety of the shade-loving hosta. Hostas are planted in gardens for their attractive foliage; they are not edible.
Plantain Is Everywhere
You’ll find plantain everywhere. It’s in the wild. And in almost every lawn and yard especially in mild climates of North America, Europe and Asia. It thrives in the cracks and crevices of walkways, on dirt roads and in the cracks of roads and highways.
Can Dogs Eat Plantain?
You bet they can. Your dog can eat all parts of the plantain plant. And when they do, they’ll benefit from powerful antioxidants and other nutrients:
- Vitamins C, A and K
- Minerals potassium and zinc
- Dietary fiber from seeds and husks
But this isn’t the only reason to give your dog plantain …
9 Reasons To Give Your Dog Plantain
Most people focus on getting rid of plantain from their lawns and walkways. But its benefits far outweigh its nuisance factor. So before you start pulling this weed, think about some other ways you can use it.
1. It’s A Valuable Anti-inflammatory
Plantain has important anti-inflammatory properties that inhibit pro-inflammatory immune cells called cytokines. It can reduce bladder, kidney and urinary tract inflammation.
Plantain also contains allantoin, an anti-inflammatory phytochemical. (Many commercial cosmetic creams and lotions list allantoin as an active ingredient.) It’s taken internally to reduce ongoing inflammation. You can also use it to reduce swelling when your dog gets an injury.
2. It Works For Both Constipation And Diarrhea
Plantain seeds and husks have dietary fiber that works to help constipation and diarrhea. They are soaked when used for constipation. For diarrhea, the opposite is needed. Seeds should be fed dry. Here’s how the seeds perform 2 different functions.
Seeds have laxative properties to help with constipation. Plaintain seeds contain psyllium, a type of fiber. They are known as psyllium husk or black psyllium. Seeds absorb water as they move through your dog’s digestive tract. When they come into contact with moisture, the seeds create mucilage. If you soak the seeds and then feed them to your dog with his food, they help soften the poop. That makes it easier to pass out of your dog’s colon.
When your dog has diarrhea, the dry seeds absorb moisture to slow urgent elimination. So sprinkle dry seeds on food. They will pass through the digestive tract and absorb liquid to make the poop firmer and less liquidy.
3. Plantain Can Help Manage Diabetes
Plantain seeds (psyllium husk) provide dietary fiber that can help regulate your dog’s blood sugar.
Diabetes mellitus occurs in dogs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Insulin is required for your dog’s body to efficiently use sugars, fats and proteins.
If you feed your dog plantain seeds that you have soaked, they will create mucilage. It’s been shown that this type of fiber slows the absorption of carbohydrates to control blood sugar levels. This supports the American Diabetes Association’s recommendation to include daily amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber in the diet to control insulin levels.
It’s also been shown that plantain stimulates the secretion of insulin in those where blood sugar levels were higher than normal. Feeding plantain seeds in mucilage form (by soaking in water) to your dog can be a preventative way to avoid diabetes.
4. It’s Great For Other Digestive Issues
Plantain is a lubricating herb. It has a unique ability to bond with the mucous membranes of the digestive and urinary tracts. Plantain is known as a demulcent for its ability to produce mucilage. It forms a soothing film over mucous membranes. So if there are ulcerations, inflammation or infections within your dog’s digestive system, plantain can soothe and promote healing.
Plantain functions much the same way as slippery elm. It coats and lubricates the digestive tract to reduce inflammation.
Plantain also has antiseptic and antibacterial properties so it stops transmission of bacteria and prevents further infection. It protects against common food borne bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilus. This happens inside and outside your dog’s body.
Here are other ways plantain helps with the digestive system.
Plantain seeds and husks are useful here too. They form mucilage that can coat the inflamed walls of your dog’s gut.
Leaky gut is the irritation of cells within your dog’s intestines. Inflammation causes the gut lining to become permeable to allow toxins and allergens to leak into the blood. That causes an immune response that triggers inflammation. The mucilage prevents foreign bodies from getting through to the bloodstream.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Plantain seeds have been used for inflammatory bowel disease. This is long term inflammation of the digestive tract that prevents nutrients from being absorbed. When mucilage from plantain coats the digestive tract, it reduces inflammation. It slows elimination allowing nutrients to remain in the system longer to be absorbed into your dog’s body.
Even the World Health Organization recognizes the important role of plantain. It approved its use to treat constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as reduce blood sugar after a meal.
5. It Can Help Your Dog Pass Foreign Objects
Plantain can be the first step if you think your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t. You can feed your dog plantain to help him pass foreign objects. It can be a squeaker from a toy or even shoe parts. It coats the digestive tract for protection and to ease movement. If you think your dog has a bowel obstruction you’ll need to seek medical treatment.
6. Plantain Can Alleviate Kennel Cough
Plantain can soothe your dog’s kennel cough and ease throat inflammation.
If you’ve ever had a dog with kennel cough you know that painfully awful bark. Just put some leaves through the blender with some bone broth. Your dog should lap it up. The mucilage it creates will coat his throat and respiratory tract. It also coats inflamed bronchial passages and the lungs to relieve discomfort and irritation. Some holistic veterinarians report benefits to dogs with upper respiratory infections.
European research supports the use of plantain as a treatment for dry coughs, as well as sore throats and cold symptoms in humans.
RELATED: Cough medicine for dogs
7. It Builds Immune Health
Plantain contains the compound plantamajoside. It helps modulate immune response, like Echinacea. That stimulates the human body’s defence system.
But plantain is much more available and easier to grow than Echinacea. It also has better availability in Europe and Asia.
8. It Improves Dental Health For Your Dog
Plantain can support your dog’s dental health. Studies show that plantain’s antibacterial properties reduce the bacteria associated with gingivitis and periodontal disease. Just blend leaves and seeds in a blender and rub it on your dog’s gums. You can also mix it with broth so he can lap it up.
9. Plantain Is The Band-Aid Plant
Plantain is multi-functional when it comes to injuries. It’s great for treating minor cuts, scrapes, burns and bug bites. It heals and fights infection. And it’s also good for other skin issues like dandruff and eczema. That’s why it’s known as the bandaid plant.
You learned earlier that plantain is a demulcent that lubricates. But it also has astringent properties … so it can dry wounds and stop bleeding as well. All while soothing and lubricating the injury. This helps speed wound healing and stimulates the growth of new skin cells.
And plantain is antibacterial. That’s because it contains aucubin and tannins that fight infection and kill germs. So it’s great for on-the-spot first aid.
There’s even research that shows applying plantain extract to wounds increases the rate of healing. But of course herbalists have known plantain can support wound healing and relieve pain for centuries.
RELATED: More herbs for pain relief …
Look For Plantain In An Emergency –
Here’s how easy it is to find plantain. Have you ever been hiking with your dog when he gets a bee sting? Or he rushes through a thorny bush and gets an ugly scratch? Or have you ever clipped your dog’s toenails and cut the quick?
Next time that happens, find a clearing and look down. Once you find a plantain plant, pull up a few leaves of plantain. To perform instant first aid, put them in your mouth and chew them. Pile the mass on your dog’s injury then take a facemask and wrap it around the injury. Plantain is soothing, relieves pain and inflammation and fights bacteria.
Harvest and use plantain any time. All parts of the plant can be used.
How To Harvest Plantain
You can pick plantain any time for topical use. If it’s to feed, then you want the leaves when they’re young before it goes to seed. That means you’ll have tougher leaves.
But you want the seeds too. It will take a lot of seed stems to collect enough seeds to use as fiber in your dog’s diet. But there’s no shortage of plantain.
It’s best to harvest plantain from your own yard where you haven’t used pesticides. Avoid public areas which have probably been sprayed. Also avoid plants growing near roads or in areas where pets have been peeing.
You can pick plantain leaves and seed stems after the morning dew has dried. And you can use them right away. Save some and freeze loosely for the months you won’t have this wonderful plant underfoot. You can also dry leaves in the sun and keep them on hand like your dried herbs.
Once you’ve collected your plantain, you’re ready to use it for your dog.
How To Prepare Plantain For Your Dog
You can use plantain leaves and seeds, fresh and dried. Here’s how …
Plantain Juice: To make fresh juice, run the entire plant through your juicer or blender. Use a small amount of warm water. You can strain the liquid or use it as is. It will keep in your fridge for a week or two. Just add it to your dog’s dinner as needed. Start with a little bit, like a couple of teaspoons. Monitor the results if you’re using it for digestion or to relieve constipation or diarrhea.
Tea: Plantain leaves can be simmered into a tea. Your dog can drink it or it can be added to his dinner as needed. Monitor the results as above.
Fresh Leaves: The leaves must be crushed, chewed or bruised to release their healing oils. For minor skin irritations, rub fresh plantain leaves on the affected area. This is especially helpful if your dog gets an injury when you’re out. You can also make a soothing poultice of fresh mashed leaves and a little cool water.
Fresh Leaves With Food: If you’re going to add plantain to your dog’s dinner for internal ailments or general health, spring’s the best time. Pick younger leaves and get the benefits of the energy of the plant. Give your dog a teaspoon for every 20 pounds of body weight. Just tear them up and add them to your dog’s meals.
Dry Leaf Poultice: You can dry leaves for later use. For topical use, infuse dried leaves in your choice of oil such as almond or olive oil. Or create a poultice using dried leaves, a little water and a cloth.
Wet Seeds and Stems: You need to collect quite a handful of plantain seeds and stems. Then soak them in 8 oz of warm water or broth for 10-20 minutes until you see a gel form. Start by feeding a teaspoon for every 20 pounds of body weight. Add it to broth for your dog’s dental health, constipation or other issues. Monitor results and repeat if needed.
Dry Seeds and Stems: As above, you need a good amount of plantain seeds and stems. To help with diarrhea, add them dry to your dog’s food. Use 1 teaspoon of seed stems per 20 pounds of body weight. Monitor results and repeat as needed until stools are improved.
Commercial plantain supplements are also available in capsule form, as liquid extract, a tincture or a tea. You’ll find them at health stores and pharmacies.
Is Plantain Dangerous For My Dog?
Plantain is not toxic to dogs. Side effects are rare. If you feed large amounts it could cause diarrhea, skin rash or other allergic reactions. Be careful if your dog is prone to plant allergies. If you’re uncertain, apply a little plantain to the skin before giving it to your dog internally. Make sure there’s no reaction.
Now you know that plantain is much more than a weed. You’ll be glad you’ve got so much of it within reach … and lots of ways to use it.
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