Ribwort plantain, plant for inflammatory conditions

In antiquity, plantain remained a well-known and widely used plant . Beyond the pseudo-Apuleus who amply reported its use, there was during the 1st century AD, an author who held the plantain in great esteem. Like mallow, due to some of its properties, plantain is known to be an anti-inflammatory for both internal and external use .

A little history

While the followers of Hippocrates completely ignored the plant, Themison of Laodicea , a Greek physician, devoted an entire book to it. Dioscorides and Pliny supported him knowing how to distinguish between Plantago major and Plantago lanceolata .

At the end of the Middle Ages, people spoke of “vulnerary water” or “arquebusade water”. It is nothing less than a plantain water with refreshing, purifying, softening and astringent properties. At the time, the water had the same reputation as blueberry water for treating ophthalmia as well as other inflammatory eye conditions.

What are the main pharmacological properties of Plantain leaves?

Anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties, especially in the respiratory tract:

Aucubin and ursolic acid from plantain inhibit cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Furthermore, aucubin blocks nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB), which slows down the inflammatory cascade. This antioxidant compound exerts its anti-inflammatory activity by also inhibiting tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α).

Plantain acteoside is anti -inflammatory , by inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase (LOX 5), and by inhibition of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2).

Plantain notably decreases the production of nitric oxide (=nitric oxide = NO), which seems due to inhibitory effects on the expression of the inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) gene, or to an activity of elimination of NO.

The mucilages of plantain, with emollient properties , as well as its richness in tannins, explain its mucolytic and antitussive activity , and thus contribute to its anti-inflammatory action of the upper airways . These polysaccharides have shown a capacity for absorption on the mucous membranes, which contributes to the therapeutic effect of plantain in the treatment of irritated mucous membranes, particularly in the mouth.

Aucubin and catalpol , the two main iridoids of plantain, possess significant antispasmodic activity in vitro , similar to papaverine , by inhibiting extracellular and/or intracellular calcium. Experimental research from 1999 confirms the anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic and immunostimulant actions of plantain in the upper respiratory tract. It is antispasmodic of the smooth musculature , in particular of the trachea and the bronchi, thus constituting an excellent antitussive , but also at the level of the ileum.

A clinical study conducted on 25 patients suffering from chronic bronchitis for 25 to 30 days showed that plantain leads to a subjective and objective improvement in symptomatology in 80% of cases, with good tolerance. Another study carried out with an aqueous extract of P. major in this indication showed similar results.

Antiallergic properties:

In vitro , plantain exerts antihistamine activity , inhibiting histamine-dependent immunoglobulin E (IgE), as well as mast cell degranulation, which paves the way for the treatment of asthma and/or allergic diseases.

This inhibition of degranulation was confirmed by a 2011 study, which also offers the plant in the treatment of atopic dermatitis.

Plantain verbascoside not only inhibits leukocyte lipoxygenase, but decreases the formation of leukotriene B4, involved, like other leukotrienes, in allergic and inflammatory conditions .

Antioxidant and cytoprotective properties:

P. lanceolata is indeed one of the most active plantain species in the lipid peroxidation inhibition test. A strong correlation was therefore found between its antiradical activity and its total content of phenolic extracts as well as phenylpropane glycosides.

Anti-infective properties:

  • Anti-infective by releasing aucuboside dialdehyde:

Antibacterial , especially with the fresh plant, with bacteriostatic as well as bactericidal activity in vitro on hemolytic streptococci, Staphylococcus aureus , S. pyogenes , Bacillus cereus , pneumococcus, Escherichia coli , Corynebacterium , Pseudomonas aeruginosa , in connection with aucubin, which releases aucubinegin under the effect of a β-glucosidase. This is denatured by heat, which also suppresses the anti-infectious properties of aucubin. This leads to a preference for galenic forms which do not involve heat, such as cold preparations of fresh plants, for example.

Antiviral on adenoviruses (ADV-3, ADV-8, ADV-11) as well as on herpes viruses (HSV-1, HSV-2), mainly in relation to the caffeic and chlorogenic acids of the plant.

Peripheral actions:

  • Healing agent and activator of wound healing, in relation with the tannins and allantoin of the plant
  • Antiulcer
  • Hepatoprotector
  • Nephroprotection
  • Hypolipidemic
  • Hemostatic
  • Antipruritic
  • Analgesic

Are there any precautions for use concerning Plantain?


  • According to the EMA, the use of plantain is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women or for children under 3 years old.

Precautions for use:

  • In the context of self-medication, the appearance of dyspnoea, fever or purulent sputum when using plantain for its ENT and/or respiratory indications should lead to consultation with a doctor or qualified health professional.

How to take Plantain and in what dosage?

Dry form:

  • As a food supplement, in the form of totum powder extract of the plant in capsule .

Liquid form:


Medical bibliographic sources and clinical trials :


Clementine. M.
Writer of scientific articles
Naturopath – Aromatherapist / Herbalist – Phytotherapist
Consultant in clinical phyto-aromatherapy and Ethnomedecine

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