Ribwort Plantain is an old remedy for coughs and catarrhal inflammatory disorders of the airways, and is used to relieve dry irritating coughs and to promote expectoration. Making this cough syrup has become part of our seasonal preparation for winter, and we literally can never make enough of this. This medicinal syrup tastes so good that you will find kids asking for it, and its especially tasty drizzled over ice-cream or baked goods. The recipe for this syrup is below.
When harvesting the Ribwort leaves for this, please make sure that you only gather leaves that grow in a meadow that is not sprayed with fertiliser or dung by the farmer and not piddled on by furry friends. Also, make sure the leaves you select are healthy looking, young, supple and without any blemishes or spots. We have used both narrow and broad leaf plantain in our syrups and both turn out exactly the same.
Here is an overview of this amazing wild native plant medicine...
English Plantain, Lanceleaf Plantain, Narrowleaf Plantain, Snake Plantain, Black Plantain, Long Plantain, Ribble Grass, Ribwort, Black Jack, Jackstraw, Lamb's Tongue, Hen Plant, Wendles, Kemps, Cocks, Quinquenervia, Costa Canina.Scientific Name: Plantago lanceolata L.Family: Plantaginaceae (Plantains)
Ribwort Plantain is found throughout Europe, rarely also in North and Central Asia, North and South Africa and New Zealand and Australia
Mucilage, bitters, flavonoids, silicic acid, the glycoside aucubin, antibiotic substances
We are seldom aware of how often Ribwort Plantain grows by the wayside. Its inconspicuous flowerhead, from which the small flowers with delicate stamens peer out, looks more like the spikelet on the end of a long stem of grass and is almost lost amongst the colourful variety of
meadow flowers. On the ground, however, the narrow lance-shaped leaves that give the plant the specific epithet lanceolata, form a large rosette. The veins on the 20 to 40 cm long leaves are not branched like in other plants but run the length of the leaves. This is a characteristic that is otherwise usually found only in grasses. Thus, there are two ways in which Ribwort Plantain imitates the grasses with which it lives side by side in the meadows. The perennial plant grows happily anywhere on dry meadows, fields, wasteland and waysides and flowers from May to September.
Ribwort Plantain was already valued in ancient times. Pliny the Elder reports its healing effect in bad coughs and in shaking chills. In the Middle Ages it was used to treat burns, ulcers, inflammation of the eyes and nose and dog bites. Kneipp used it to stop bleeding and treat wounds. The leaves are the part used. They are dried for tea or pressed to obtain a fresh juice. Ribwort Plantain is an excellent cough remedy because of the mucilage, astringent bitters and silicic acid it contains. Its antibiotic action makes it effective in febrile disorders of the lungs and bronchi. Its use as cough remedy was so proverbial that, in Germany, the expression "Ribwort Plantain juice" was until recently synonymous with cough mixtures in general. In folk medicine the juice is used for blood cleansing cures in the spring; diluted with chamomile tea it is used for the treatment of poorly healing wounds. Crushed, freshly picked leaves are placed directly on fresh wounds. Application of crushed ribwort plantain leaves to insect bites relieve the itching and swelling. When you are out walking, you can thus pick an emergency plaster from the meadow.
The plant's common name derives from the prominent veins on the leaves. The Latin name is derived from the Latin planta = sole of the foot, a reference to the leaf shape of some plantain species. Plantain seeds are sticky when they are moist. As such, they stick to the feet of anyone who walks on them and are rapidly spread over long distances. This may be one reason why Ribwort Plantain can be found almost anywhere and is probably also the way the plant was introduced to America by the white settlers. The American Indians therefore call it "White Man's Foot". And why does Ribwort Plantain always grow by the roadside? One legend tells of a young girl who waited in vain by the road for her lover and was in the end transformed into a plantain. In Germanic lore, plantain was thought to embody the souls which had come back to the light from the underworld and now pursued human beings on the earth. And for the ancient Greeks and Romans this plant was also connected with the underworld: with Orcus and his wife Proserpina. In ancient times the highly esteemed medicinal plant was also used as food. And even today fresh young plantain leaves make a pungent and healthy addition to salads and dips. The leaves taste best before the plant has flowered and can also be used as a vegetable and in soups. The Institute of Medical History at Würzburg University named ribwort plantain the medicinal plant of the year 2014.
Ribwort and Lemon Cough Syrup Recipe
350g ribwort leaves
3 measuring cups of water
1 thick slice of an organic lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
900g coconut blossom sugar or honey (or sweetener of choice)
*one inch fresh organic ginger (optional)
Wash the leaves and chop them up roughly. In a pot bring the water, lemon, and lemon juice to a boil, add the chopped leaves and then let it simmer on the lowest possible heat for 20-30 minutes. Now sieve it through a cheese cloth lined sieve, pressing out the juices thoroughly. Add the sugar to this liquid and let it simmer for about an hour, until it becomes thicker, more syrupy. The longer you leave it simmering, the thicker the consistency, so just take it off the heat when it has the thickness you are happy with. Pour this syrup into prepared bottles and keep it in the fridge until needed. This cough syrup will keep for up to one year and it is recommended that you take 1 teaspoon of syrup 3-5 times a day until symptoms improve.
*We normally add fresh ginger to this syrup, however alot of children are not crazy about the taste of ginger, so we've left it optional. If you would like to include it, then all you have to do is remove the skin, cut it up finely, add to the pot at the same time as the ribwort, and strain out accordingly. InJoy!
Disclaimer: Please note that this recipe is not a substitute for any medical treatment or advice you may need, or currently be receiving.