The Health Benefits of Ribwort

Ribwort has many health benefits for those brave enough to utilize the weed as a food or supplement.

  • Broad leaf plantain (ribwort) in seed.
    Photo courtesy Chicago Review Press
  • "Guide to Wild Foods, Second Edition" comes from Christopher Nyerges, a leading voice for the promotion of the health and lifestyle benefits of wild edibles.
    Cover courtesy Chicago Review Press

More than a listing of plant types and general facts, Guild to Wild Foods and Useful Plants, Second Edition (Chicago Review Press, 2014) is full of fascinating folklore, personal anecdotes, and tasty recipes perfect for anyone who is interested in living closer to the earth. Christopher Nyerges — co-director of the School of Self-Reliance — offers hikers, campers and foragers an array of tips for harvesting and consuming wild edibles. Ribwort, also known as plaintain, is a common weed that yields a number of health benefits.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants, Second Edition.

Plantain Plantago major and P. lanceolata
Plantain Family: Plantaginaceae
Common Names: ribwort, English plantain, white man’s foot

Most Prominent Characteristics of Ribwort

Overall Shape and Size: P. major was named “white man’s foot” by the Native Americans, since the plant closely followed the European advance in North America. P. major grew around all of the earliest frontier settlements. Today, plantain is as common a city weed as dandelion, although not as commonly known by name. If left alone, the entire plant can grow to about 1 foot across, with the seed stalks rising from 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall. Typically, the plants hide in lawns, much like dandelion.

Leaves: The plant’s leaves all radiate from the base in a rosette fashion, with the basal leaves reaching from six inches to one foot. P. lanceolata’s leaves are prominently ribbed with parallel veins, which converge at their bases into a broad petiole about two inches long. P. major has large glabrous leaves, up to six inches long, roundish or ovate shaped. P. lanceolata has erect lanceolate leaves covered with soft short hairs; they reach up to a foot long and taper at the base into a slender petiole.

Flowers: The 1/8- to 1/4-inch flowers are arranged in dense spikes on simple leafless stalks arising up to two feet. Each greenish flower is composed of four sepals, a small corolla, and four stamens (sometimes two). The flowers are covered by dry, scarious bracts.

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