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Note - the monographs are provided for informational purposes only, and are not to be used for self-medication.

Plantago lanceolata (Ribwort, Plantain)

Botanic Name Plantago lanceolata
Common Name Ribwort, Plantain, Snake Plantain, Black Plantain, Long Plantain, Ribble Grass, Black Jack, Jackstraw, Lamb’s Tongue, Hen Plant, Wendles, Kemps, Cocks, Quinquenervia, Costa Canina (Grieve)
Family Plantaginaceae
Habitat Very common on pastures, roadsides, banks, wasteplaces, preferring dry sandy soil, throughout Briatain and all the temperate world (Mills).
Description A perennial plant that has erect, hairy, lanceolate leaves, which grow from the rootstock on margined petioles in a basal rosette. Several grooved flower stalks may grow from 6 to 30 inches high, tipped by a short spike of tune white flowers whose brownish sepals and bracts give the spike its predominantly dark colour. (Lust)
Similar Plants Plantago major
Parts Used Leaves (& Seed Husks)
History Some old books call the species Costa canina in allusion to the prominent veinings in the leaves that earned it the name Ribwort and it is this feature that caused it to earn the mediaeval name of Quinquenervia. (Grieve)

Another old popular name was ‘Kemps’. The stalks of the plant are particularly tough and wiry, and it is an old game with country children to strike the heads one against the other until the stalk breaks. The Anglo-Saxon word for a soldier was cempa, and we can thus see the allusion to kemps. (Grieve)

The plant was at one time considered a fodder plant, but cultivation was never seriously taken up (Grieve).

Gelatinous substances extracted from the seeds has been used at one time in France for stiffening some kinds of muslin and other woven fabrics. (Grieve)

Highly respected in folk medicine from Africa and Vietnam (Stuart)

Constituents Mucilage (Mills)

Glycosides (including acubin)(Mills)

Tannins (Mills)

Silica, zinc, and high levels of potassium (Mills)

Actions Soothing and healing locally (Mills)

Relaxing expectorant (Mills)

Tonic to repiratory mucous membranes (Mills)

Calming urinary spasm and pains (Mills)

Astringent (Lust)

Demulcent (Lust)

Haemostatic (Lust)

Antibacterial (McCarthy)

Antiinflammatory (McCarthy)

Vulnerary (McCarthy)

Anticatarrhal (Mills)

Applications Bronchial spasm (Mills)

Nervous and dry coughing (Mills)

Allergic and other cases of rhinitis (Mills)

Nasal and middle ear catarrhal conditions (Mills)

Painful and irritating urinary conditions as at least a short-term palliative (Mills)

For the restoration of lungs after serious pulmonary diseases (Mills)

Locally as a wound healer (Mills)

Gastritis and enteritis (Lust)

Worms (Lust)

Sores, scratches, insect bites, haemorrhoids (topically) (Lust)

Dosage 2 – 4 mls tds (McCarthy)
C/I Cautions Can be safely consumed when used appropriately (McGuffin)

Some commend the juice of it to be given before the returning of the ague, to lessen its effect - Culpeper

Plantago lanceolata (Version II)

(Mediherb, Modern Phytotherapist)

Common name: Ribwort

Part Used : * Leaves

Constituents : * Mucilage

* Iridoid glycosides (aucubin – aglycone: antibacterial)

    • Silicic acid
    • Tannins
    • Potassium, Zinc storage


  • Expectorant
  • Astringent & anti-catarrhal to mucous membranes (aucubin probably)
  • Demulcent
  • Anti-diarrhoeal (mucilages & tannins)
  • Aspamodic to urinary spasm & pains
  • Topically: vulnerary, styptic (blood clotting), antibacterial, emollient

Indications: Internally:

    • Upper Respiratory Catarrh (allergic rhinitis & middle ear congestion)
    • Chronic mucous membrane discharge, esp. bronchial & upper respiratory
    • Asthma
    • Acute & Chronic Bronchitis
    • Nervous & dry coughs
    • Pertussis
    • Dysentry & diarrhoea
    • Gastric & peptic ulcer
    • Colitis
    • Incontinence in children


    • Laryngitis & hoarseness – gargle
    • Wounds (vulnerary action – Zn?)
    • Conjunctivitis & blepharitis (eyewash)
    • Boils & varicose ulcers (poultice)
    • Otitis media
    • Haemorrhoids

Preparations & Dosage:

    • FE 1:2 1-2ml tds
    • Decoction: 1-4 gm tds dried herb


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Revised: May 20, 2002 .