Preparation: Extract of Plantago Cordata

The root and tops of Plantago major, Linné.
Nat. Ord.—Plantaginaceae.
COMMON NAMES: Plantain, Rib grass, Ripple-grass, Ribwort.

Botanical Source.—This is a perennial acaulescent plant with a round scape 1 to 3 feet in height, arising from a fibrous root. The leaves are ovate, smoothish, somewhat toothed, 5 to 7-nerved, each of which contains a strong fiber which may be pulled out, and abruptly narrowed into a long, channeled petiole. The flowers are white, very small, imbricated, numerous, and borne on a cylindrical spike 5 to 20 inches long. Small plants are frequently found with the spikes only ½ to 2 inches long, and the leaves and stalks proportionately small. The stamens and styles are long; the seeds numerous (G.—W.).

History and Chemical Composition.—Plantain is a well-known herb, growing in rich, moist places, in fields, by the roadsides, and in grass plats, and is common in Europe and America. It flowers from May to October. The root has a somewhat sweetish, salty taste; the leaves are bitterish and unsavory. The plant loses its medicinal activity by drying. All its preparations should be made from the freshly-gathered roots and tops. Water or alcohol extracts the virtues of the plant. The leaves contain chlorophyll, resin, wax, albumin, pectin, citric and oxalic acids (Th. Koller, N. Jahrb. f. Pharm., 1868, p. 139). Upon incineration, they leave 12.8 per cent ash. Sugar is present, while alkaloids and glucosids are absent (D. Rosenbaum, Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1886, p. 418). The root, according to Strawinsky (ibid., 1898, p. 189), contains starch, wax, fatty matter, dextrose, saccharose, mucilage, traces of tannin, but no alkaloid or glucosid. The ash was 24.7 per cent, moisture 6.9 per cent.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Plantain is alterative, diuretic, and antiseptic, once considered vulnerary. The tops and roots, in strong decoction, have been highly recommended in syphilitic, mercurial, and scrofulous diseases, in the dose of from 2 to 4 fluid ounces, 3 or 4 times a day. It is likewise reputed beneficial in menorrhagia, leucorrhoea, hematuria, colic, cholera infantum, aphthae, diarrhoea, dysentery, incipient phthisis, pulmonary hemorrhage, dysuria, and hemorrhoids. The specific medicine may be employed in these disorders. The juice taken internally, in doses of 1 fluid ounce every hour, and also applied to the wound, is in high repute as an antidote to the bites of venomous serpents, spiders, and insects. It is a remedy for toothache from dental caries, the cavity being cleansed and specific plantago major applied on cotton to the sensitive pulp, renewing every half hour. Its internal use is said to control toothache through its effects upon the trifacial, tic-douloureux being benefited in the same manner. The same preparation, locally applied, often relieves earache. Bedwetting in children, due to relaxed vesical sphincter, with profuse colorless discharge of urine, is said to be relieved by plantago. Externally, the bruised leaves, or an ointment made with them, is useful in wounds, ulcers, ophthalmia, eczema, erysipelas, and some other cutaneous affections. The best forms of administration are the juice dissolved in diluted alcohol, and evaporated by gentle heat to the consistence of an extract; and specific plantago major, the dose of which is from 1 to 5 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses.—Locally, toothache and earache.

Related Species.Plantago lanceolata, Linné; Lance-leaved plantain, has properties similar to common plantain. Its leaves contain much bitter matter. Locally applied, it has proved a haemostatic for small bleeding surfaces.

Plantago cordata, Lamarck.—This is an indigenous perennial plant, known likewise as the Heart-leaved plantain. It is an acaulescent herb, with stout, naked scapes, 1 or 2 feet in height. Leaves radical, cordate-ovate, broad, smooth, somewhat toothed, thickish, about 6 inches long, 6 or 8-ribbed below, with a thick midrib, on long, stout petioles. Flowers small, whitish, somewhat imbricate, the lower one scattered, and on elongated spikes which are from 6 to 8 inches long; bracts ovate, obtuse. Calyx and corolla lobes very obtuse. Pyxis a third longer than the calyx, 2-celled, with 2 seeds in each cell (G.—W.). This plant grows in moist places, and along the banks of rivers, from New York and New Jersey to Tennessee, also from Ohio to Wisconsin, and flowers from April to August. The root is the part used, and it yields its properties to water. The root of Plantago cordata is astringent, anodyne, antispasmodic, and antiemetic. The decoction and extract have been successfully used in Asiatic cholera, checking the disease in a short time; they have likewise proved beneficial in dysentery. The plant is certainly deserving of more extended investigation, for it directly influences the nervous system, controlling irritation. A poultice of the roots is recommended as an application to old, indolent ulcers, bruises, wounds, etc. It allays inflammation and reduces swelling.

Plantago Psyllium, Linné; Flea-wort, Flea-seed plant.—South Europe and Barbary. The seeds of this species are flea-colored, boat shaped, and shining on the convex surface. They yield a mucilage, used in southern Europe as that of flaxseed, slippery elm, etc., is used in this country. The seeds, in tablespoonful doses, in a glass of water, before dinner, have been successfully employed to relieve chronic constipation. The Plantago arenaria, Waldstein and Kittaibel, and Plantago Cynops, Linné, also contain mucilage.

Plantago Ispaghula, Roxburgh (Plantago decumbens, Forskal), Spogel or Ispaghul seed.—This little plant is common throughout northwestern India, Arabia, and neighboring countries. The seeds are the parts used. They are about ⅛ of an inch in length, and half as broad, concave on one side, convex upon the opposite, and according to the Pharmacographia, are so light as to require 100 to weigh a single grain. Spogel seed have long been employed in India, and, in 1868, were admitted to a position in the Pharmacopoeia of that country. (For an illustration of this plant, see New Remedies, 1878, p. 68.) Spogel seed are very mucilaginous, and form a thick jelly with water. They are employed, either in substance or in decoction, in India, for the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery. In chronic diarrhoea, they are often given whole, in doses of from 1 to 2 drachms, mixed with a little syrup, or powdered and mixed with sugar and water. When bruised and moistened with water, the seeds are often used by physicians, in India, as an emollient poultice.

Dr. O. S. Laws (Calif. Med. Jour., 1899) calls attention to a plant of the Plantago family, growing in damp situations in southern California and Arizona, as a valuable local remedy for nasal catarrh. He applies equal parts of the tincture of the roots, water and glycerin, on cotton placed in the nasal fossae. He calls it Plantago aquatica; it is probably Alisma Plantago.

King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.