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Plantago lanceolata (Ribwort Plantain): Uses, Remedies, Benefits

Ribwort Plantain or Narrow-leaf plantain, botanically known as Plantago lanceolata because of the lance like leaves, is a dynamic edible and medicinal food and herb that has been used for thousands of years, from Traditional Persian Medicine to European Herbalism to modern day pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and urban foraging apothecarists.
A common weed all over the world, probably growing within 3 meters from where YOU are reading this right NOW.
Read on to find out its medicinal benefits and culinary uses…


Common names: Ribwort Plantain, Narrow-leaf plantain
Botanical name: Plantago lanceolata
Hindi: Safed isbagol सफ़ेद इशबगोल, Baltanga
Sanskrit: Asvagola अस्वगोल
Polish: Babka lancetowata


This remarkably widespread species is apparently native to Europe, North Africa and West and South Asia (USDA-ARS, 2003) but has been introduced extremely widely elsewhere and now occurs e.g. in every continental state of USA as well as in Hawaii, in Australia and New Zealand, ‘throughout Japan’ (Morita, 2002) and in many countries of Africa, where it thrives at high altitude. It is an important medicinal herb in Turkey.
India – Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and West Bengal, at altitudes of 1200-2400 m. Flowering: April-October.(2)Plantago lanceolata is one of over 250 species of genus Plantago L. (Plantaginaceae)(1). This genus also includes the commonly used food and medicine, Psyllium husk (Plantago psyllium), and other wild growing medicinal herb, Common plantain (Plantago major).


Botanical features of the leaves:
  • Grey green to green in colour.
  • Glabrous to sparsely hairy. (You can feel and taste the fibre).
Rasa Panchaka (Ayurvedic Properties) of Leaves:*
  • rasa (taste) – tikta (bitter), kashaya (astringent), madhura (sweet)
  • vīrya (energy) – śīta (cooling)
  • vipaka – madhura (undergoes sweet after digestion) or katu (undergoes pungent after digestion)
  • gunas (qualities) – snigdha (unctuous), gurukhara (rough) (when raw)
  • doṣa – PK- V+
  • mahabhutas:
    • vāyu (air) – because the leaves and flowers grow straight upward and are skinny
    • tejas (fire)? due to the lance like leaves
    • pṛthvī (earth) due to a long flower stem going up
  • Rakta Shodhana (alterative, cleanses and purifies the blood)
  • Stambhana (astringent)
  • Mutrala (diuretic)
*This rasa panchaka has been cognised and proposed by Dylan Smith, and he does not consider this the definitive truth. If you have any insights as to what you believe are the rasa panchaka of plantago lanceolata, please let us

Medicinal Benefits

  • Due to mucilaginous leaves. Also the astringency “pulls” toxins from digestive tract and respiratory tract.
  • The mild diuretic action (mutrala karma) helps remove water and kapha from the body and toxins in the urine. But due to it’s cooling, soothing, moistening and unctuous qualities, the mucous membranes of the urinary system and overall hydration of the body are protected.
Skin and Blood Health
  • For the same reason as above (astringency), when the leaves are applied topically they can help “pull” out infectious pus, a wood splinter stuck near the surface of the skin, similar small foreign objects or infections in the skin and swelling.
  • The leaves are also used in treating skin inflammation, cuts, stings etc. and to dress and heal wounds.
  • It’s alterative blood cleansing action (rakta śodhana karma) has anti-inflammatory properties, detoxifies the blood, and has an anti-infectious and bacterial action on the blood.(10)
  • When the blood is purifies and “cool”, this helps pacify dermatitis, acne and inflammatory skin conditions.
  • Ancient Greeks and Romans used it mainly for skin infections, herpes and as an anti-dote for rabies.
High Iron
Iron values ranged from 1.54 mg/100gm (P. lanceolata) to 2.62 mg (P. media). Compare this to other leafy greens high in our article 5 Leafy Green Vegetables High in Iron
Astringent (Stambhana)
  • The astringent taste in plantain exerts a firming, condensing and compacting action upon the stool. This helps stop  diarrhoea, which can be useful if diarrhoea continues after the point of the āma (toxins) have been dispelled.
  • This is also helps stop excessive discharges and secretion from bleeding wounds (haemostatic), as well as heal the skin, mucous membranes and wounds (vulnerary) especially used topically as poultice or plaster.
Respiratory tract
The leaves help remove inflammation and irritation (demulcent) and has a mild expectorant action, which helps in irratationg cough, asthma, mild bronchitis and other respiratory disturbances. 
The mucilage content provides a soothing effect on the gut lining. Fibrous leaves.(3)


  • Colour – light brown to dark brown. Can have white flowers around.
  • Mucilaginous like psyllium husk (same plantago family). Helps promote bowel motions due to polysaccharides, which are hydrophilic in nature. The seeds absorb water and increase stool bulk, stimulate peristalsis thus facilitating bowel motions.(6)
  • The same mucilage can support diarrhoea by extending the transit periods of bowels(6) and the astringency in the plant.
  • Food – Some countries pound into flower for cooking. Also added to other flours as a thickening agent.
  • Seeds are used like sago or tapioca in some countries.(4,5)
  • The mucilage obtained from the seed heads are also used as a thickener in cosmetics like creams and lotions(7) and in the ice-cream industry.(6)
The mucilage is obtained by macerating the seed in hot water.(8,9)


  1. Add 2 tablespons of ghee in a pan and heat to warm
  2. Add about 30 seed heads and half an onion thinly diced
  3. Add 3 crushed pippali fruits (pippali longum) or if not available, 3 black pepper corns, and a pinch of turmeric and salt.
  4. Fry till it becomes a bit crispy. A crispy yet unctuous delicacy, tenderly soft on the palate.
(Note some seed heads will have a thick stem running through them, so for those, you can pull the seeds/flowers off with your teeth while holding the stem)
Remember, Forage Safely, Sustainably and Respectfully.


  1. Hassemer G, Bruun-Lund S, Shipunov AB, Briggs BG, Meudt HM, Rønsted N. The application of high-throughput sequencing for taxonomy: The case of Plantago subg. Plantago (Plantaginaceae). Mol Phylogen Evol. 2019;138:156–73.10.1016/j.ympev.2019.05.013Search in Google ScholarPubMed
  3. Grieve, M. (1984). Tansy. A Modern Herbal. Penguin Books Ltd, Middlesex, Great Britain, 789-790.
  4. Plants for Human Consumption, Kunkel. G, Koeltz Scientific Books, 1984, ISBN 3874292169
  5. Cornucopia – A Source Book of Edible Plants, Facciola. S., Kampong Publications, 1990, ISBN 0-9628087-0-9
  8. Flowers of Europe – A Field Guide., Polunin. O., Oxford University Press, 1969, ISBN 0192176218
  9. The Useful Plants of Great Britain., Author, Johnson. C. P.

2 Responses

  1. This is such interesting information I am intrigued and grateful. It grows abundantly in our garden and I am forever uprooting them!!! Not anymore. Thank you

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