Now where to start?
In my last blog, I mentioned that you may have herbs basically at your own back door and not know it. For many people this is true, no matter where you are in the world, but for some this isn’t true. So what is at least one answer to deal with a lack of useful herbs, that’s easy, you import your herbs, no I don’t mean ordering a plant or cuttings or seeds online, although this is okay, and you may have to do this, but what I am suggesting first is to literally go and find a herb in your area, that’s not illegal to take of course, or at least you should ask, and then shove it in a pot a grow it yourself.
A simple place to start
A common herb, which is found in many countries and found close to or reasonably near to civilisation and most would declare a weed is “Ribwort” or it’s botanical name is Plantago lanceolata. Yes I know, it is not a very flattering name is it? But, it is simply excellent for upper respiratory issues as it’s actions are expectorant, demulcent, astringent, anti-inflammatory, anticatarral, antiseptic, mucus membrane tonic, and wound healing. And this being a list of so many human aliments, why wouldn’t you want such a useful herb right there. Which can be used for common conditions such as coughs, rhinitis, sinusitis, nasal catarrh, laryngitis, plus topically for wounds from cuts and abrasions, boths fresh or slow healing, haemorrhoids and mouth ulcers, and that is just for starters.
The Weed File
Plantago Lanceolata does have a few look-a-likes or close brothers if you will, the common one it is confused with is typically called Plantain, which has nothing to do with the thing that looks like a banana. The easiest way to recognise ribwort from plantain is th esize of the leaf, ribwort is long and skinny, and Plantain is broad and wide. Thankfully, they both function the same and mixing them up poses no safety issues.
Some other similar species with possible mix ups are Buck’s-Horn plantain (Plantago coronopus), Sago weed (Plantago cunninghammii, P. drummondi)
Some different species that can be mixed up especially as young plants are: Wireweed (Polygonum aviculare), Corn Spurry (Spergula arvensis), Purple Calandrinia (Calandrinia menziesii)
So how do I do this?
First you need to go and get it, typically it is found where man has interfered with the environment and people traffic through such as foot paths, road sides, fields and vacant lots. Plus it is found more often in areas or groun that tends to more moisture, meaning, if water was moving on top of the ground or just underneath, that little spot tends to stay damper for longer, it is near low lying areas or creeks or slightly more shaded areas, then that is where it is likely to be.
Take with you either damp paper or clean damp cloth and a long philps screwdriver or some other pointy object, locate the plant and use that pointy object to loosen around the roots and lift it out. Roll the damp paper or cloth around the plant and take it back home.
Ribwort is just so simple to plant and care for, Prepare container that’s about 150mm or 6″ in diameter, with some good potting mix, or good soil with compost, and slightly moisten the mix. Then poke a hole about as deep as the root system and just put it in the hole and with your fingers, press around it to stand it up, water inand keep the soil moist from then on, and there you are, it’ll just keep going and going. Always just sitting there, fresh and ready to be used. Personally, I would suggest always keeping it in pots, so as not to spread it all over the country side as this will encourage others to use herbicides, and we frankly just don’t need more poisons.
Ribwort is quite easy to grow from seed, and you can obtain this seed from the plant itself or buy then online. With any plant which some will call weeds, you may not be able to buy into your state or region.
- Simply prepare a container with potting mix
- Make a few holes in it
- Drop a few seeds into the holes
- Cover over
- And well water in
- In a short while up they come and your away
Ribwort does get pests such as aphids and some moths and other diseases, generally these are not so serious and so long as it is given basic care, that is, some water every now and again, and a spot of fertiliser, it will be fine. Of course it won’t survive snow and ice, but some seed can survive at times until spring.
Due to having a ‘tap root’ it tends to indicate, that the soil in that area has or is becoming compacted, therefore a simple help to remove it out of your lawns and fields is to open up and loosen the soil. This is why regular cultivation, that is, loosening it up reduces it population.
How do you use it?
So how would you use it for coughs or a sore throat, for example; simply cut off two of the fresh leaves about the same size as the photos above, chop them up a bit with a knife, chuck them into a cup or mug, pour in some freshly boiled water and cover, and wait a 10 minutes. You don’t have to, but you can then strain out the leaves add a suitable sweetener if required such as stevia, raw honey, monk fruit or erythritol, and drink. To help, and not too hot, you can gargle it as well.
You can make a similar tea as above out of the seeds, just use one teaspoon instead of the leaves, or use one tablespoon of dried leaves.
It can add many additional herbs to this simple recipe above if you wish, such as lemon balm or lemon grass, parsley or oregano, even sage, who knows really? An excellent herb to add is echinacea root, which is stronger than the echinacea leaf. In this case, I would make a decoction of the root by boiling it for 30-40 minutes, then add the Ribwort (or any other herbs) once you have turned off the heat, and leave it covered for about 10 minutes. Then drink slowly, but try to finish the drink before it gets cold, as hot teas seem to soothe sore throats and softens mucus.
The young leaves can be used in salads, with a slightly bitter taste, older leaves are not very good for salads, butu are fine for teas and decoctions.
The seeds, husks and flower heads are edible and are an excellent source of fibre for your diet. The famous ‘psyllium husks’ sometimes called Fleaseed, Plantago psyllium, is in the very same family as ribwort. The seeds due to their mucilage content can be placed into hot boiling water, which then turn into a jelly-like consistency, these can be added to fruit drinks and smoothies to add a thickener.
If your a rabbit or similar such as a guinea pig you also can eat ribwort.
The leaves can technically be harvested at any time, but for used in fresh salads only choose young ones, but for herbalism, teas and decoctions it is better to be collected just before or during blossoming time. Don’t remove all the leaves as you don’t want the plant to die off, and you may need some later, only harvest no more than 1/2 to 2/3rds of the plant maximum. Always make sure that the leaves are free from defects, such as insect bites, discolouration and any fungi, plus any chemicals, sprays and other poisons.
Simply place the leaves on a dry, clean kitchen towel, or paper towel in a well ventilated room, once the leaves are completely dry, place them into a sealed glass container and label. If kept dry, clean and cool and in a dark place, it should keep for up to two years. If you see or smell mouldiness then throw it out.
The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.
Leaf and flower and seed head
6.0 – 12.0 grams
Expectorant – global, demulcent, astringent, anti-inflammatory, anti-catarrhal, antiseptic, mucus membrane tonic, and wound healing
All types of coughs, nasal catarrh – rhinitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, slow healing wounds – topically, haemorrhoids, and mouth ulcers
Anthraquinone glycosides, phenolics, and tannins
Pregnancy and lactation, in high doses, otherwise none known
Adulterated with similar species of Rheum
As I continue this blog I intend to add more useful, yet easy to grow herbs, which you can keep at your back door, veranda, patio, carport or even on the landing of your apartment. So follow along as there’s so much more to discover.
Please remember, this blog cannot replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.
Russell a.k.a. The Herbarius