Anyone who likes to walk would do well to get more familiar with this little plant, broad leaf or common plantain (Plantago major).
It is rumoured that Romans sprinkled the seeds along their roads as it is such a useful travelling companion both as a wound herb (especially good for infected or septic wounds) and for stuffing the boots with the leaves to relieve tired feet and prevent blisters, pretty important for a marching soldier.
It was introduced into North America with the European settlers, the Native Americans called it ‘white mans foot’ because it seemed to spring up wherever the white man went. They quickly saw its potential as a healing herb and used it for all kinds of poisoning, for insect bites and stings, even snake bites apparently.
Pick the leaves, crush then slightly and use as a poultice for wounds/bites/stings or place them in your footwear to cool and soothe tired and achy feet.
The leaves are of course edible but a little tough and stringy unless very young. Make a tea instead from the leaves for blood poisoning, kidney cleansing, headaches and other aches and pains and as a general restorative tonic drink rich in nutrients. The long ‘rat tail’ seed heads can be picked when brown and the dried ripe seeds ground into flour to make basic but nutritious survival cakes.
Next time you’re out walking in nature, have a look around the path you’re travelling, you’re almost guaranteed to spot it.
I couldn’t help but pay my respects to this fab little colony growing up the middle of this dusty road, right where it should be. I always get a huge buzz from witnessing mother natures generosity and healing in action, poised and waiting to help the weary traveller.