Ribwort – Slánlús

The humble plantain or Ribwort “weed” is a plant you’ll find everywhere, growing out of cracks on the side of the road, popping up on your lawn and scattered across gateways and carparks.

Slánlús in Irish it roughly translates as goodbye pains or goodbye troubles and its no wonder when you look into its medicinal uses. This was a wild herb that everyone kept handy in the past!

But first, how to identify it…

There are two types of plantain commonly found in Ireland and both work in much the same way. Common plantain or Ribwort has rounded leaves, which have a slight leathery feel and strong veins on the back, running from the stem to the tip.

The flowers are small and stubby on the common plaintain but on the narrow leaf plantain, they are tall with brown heads and delicate white petals forming a halo.

The plant grows year round but obviously only flowers in the summer months. It has been noted that they often look like little microphones popping out of the grass!

Plantain or Ribwort “weed”

The uses of the plantain are huge! Check out this list…

Insect bites, cuts and wounds: For fresh insect bites, chew, or pound a fresh (clean) leaf to release the juices and apply directly to the itchy or cut area. Leave on for half an hour before washing off. Unlike the doc leaf, this will work!

Blisters: Out for a hike and have a blister, chew up a leaf, spit it out onto another leaf and place it around the blister to prevent it bleeding or getting worse.

Trapped splinters: Have a splinter that you can’t get out? A plantain poultice applied every day for 30 min or so will have it easing out on its own within a day or two.

Hayfever and sinusitis: A traditional infusion containing plantain leaves harnesses the plantains unusual dual mucilaginous (gloopy and soothing to irritated membranes) and astringent (drying to runny secretions such as a runny nose) properties.

Sore and itchy eyes: Whether its from the hay fever of a heady night before, dry eyes can be eased by squeezing a little of the sap into the corner of your eye. look for a young leaf for fresh sap.

Digestive disorders: The same properties above can also be used in combination with other herbs for irritated digestions such as a runny tummy, IBS and colic.

Urinary tract infections: The soothing and antibacterial properties are used in combination with other herbs e.g. marshmallow, thyme, buchu, cornsilk as an infusion.

Coughs: Juice the leaves using a masticating juicer, and add equal parts honey. If you dont have a masticating juicer, you can blend the leaves in a little water and strain out the liquid.

Sunburn: Mix some finely chopped or crushed plantain with a little ice water and place it over the burnt area for instant relief!

Infected cuts or hangnail: place a poultice of shredded plantain mixed with a spoonful of honey over the infected area and wrap with a piece of cloth, change every few hours and the infection should disappear with a day or so. For a painful swollen infected area add a little meadowsweet for pain relief!