Benefits of Plantain with jim mcdonald


Share this!



Though often dismissed as a “beginner herb,” the health benefits of plantain leaf – and ways of working with this versatile herb – are many. Please join me to explore all things plantain with my dear friend and fellow herbalist, jim mcdonald.

For those of you who don’t yet know jim, here’s a bit more about him:

In 1994, jim mcdonald's life changed when he drank tea from a wild plant he harvested from the land he lived upon.  Since those first sips of strange tea, his life in the woods and meadows of southeast Michigan has been centered on the plants and ecosystems of that land, and how he might share their virtues to restore wellness with those around him. jim's approach to herbcraft is deeply rooted in the land he lives upon, and blends traditional european folk influences with 19th century eclectic and physiomedical vitalism, which he conveys with story, experience, humor, common sense and lore to students, clients, random passersby and readers of his website www.herbcraft.org. He's taught classes throughout North America and is currently alternately writing “Foundational Herbcraft” and “A Great Lakes Herbal,” in addition to articles for journals and other publications. jim is a community herbalist, a manic wildcrafter and medicine maker, and has been an ardent student of the most learned teachers of herbcraft… the plants themselves.

Listen in for:

► jim’s experience of working with plantain in his own life

► The most effective way to work with plantain for itchy, irritated, insect-bitten skin

► How other herbal traditions can be a springboard for exploration

jim shines at bringing curiosity, critical thought and common sense to working with herbs, matching herbs to people rather than mixing and matching herbs for X, Y, Z problem or disease. He’s an engaging teacher with a world of wisdom to share and I’m delighted to bring our conversation to you today!



-- TIMESTAMPS -- 

  • 01:15 - Introduction to jim mcdonald
  • 03:30 - jim’s early experiences with herbs
  • 08:37 - Herbal knowledge is constantly evolving
  • 12:54 - Why jim loves plantain (Plantago major, Plantago lanceolata, Plantago rugelii)
  • 15:18 - The energetics of plantain and various ways to work with plantain leaf
  • 21:36 - Working with plantain as a drawing agent
  • 33:03 - Working with plantain for insect bites
  • 34:47 - jim’s plantain handout
  • 35:17 - Working with plantain as a chew for mouth ulcers, canker sores, cold sores, etc.
  • 38:32 - jim shares current projects and upcoming classes
  • 44:23 - Exploring how to work with invasive plants that are used medicinally in other herbal traditions

Download Your Benefits of Plantain Handout!

Click here to download your Benefits of Plaintain handout.


Connect with jim


Transcript of the Benefits of Plantain with jim mcdonald Video

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Hello and welcome to the Herbs With Rosalee Podcast, a show exploring how herbs heal as medicine, as food, and through nature connection. I'm your host, Rosalee de la Forêt. I created this channel to share trusted herbal wisdom so that you can get the best results when relying on herbs for your health. I love offering up practical knowledge to help you dive deeper into the world of medicinal plants and seasonal living. Each episode of the Herbs With Rosalee Podcast is shared on YouTube, as well as your favorite podcast app. Also, to get my best herbal tips as well as fun bonuses, be sure to sign up for my weekly herbal newsletter at the bottom of this page. Okay, grab your cup of tea and let's dive in.

In this conversation, I am joined by my dear friend and fellow herbalist, jim mcdonald. I met jim over a decade ago at an herbal conference and I instantly loved his wit, his wisdom, and his often hilarious herbal analogies. Over the following years, I would study with him every chance I got, sometimes even traveling long distances for weekend intensives. Jim is an energetic herbalist who's brilliant at getting to know the plants, while also understanding tissue states in very practical ways. If that doesn't make sense to you yet, I think you'll get more of what I mean through this insightful conversation. For those of you who don't yet know jim, in 1994 jim mcdonald's life changed when he drank tea from a wild plant he harvested from the land he lived upon. Since those first sips of strange tea, his life in the woods and meadows of Southeast Michigan has been centered on the plants and ecosystems of that land and how he might share their virtues to restore wellness with those around him.

Jim's approach to herb craft is deep-rooted in the land he lives upon and blends traditional European folk influences with 19th century eclectic and physiomedical vitalism, which he can phase with story, experience, humor, common sense, and lore to his students, clients, random passersby and readers of his website, herbcraft.org. He's taught classes throughout North America and is currently alternately writing Foundational Herbcraft and A Great Lakes Herbal and children's herbs books, in addition to articles for journals and other publications. Jim is a community herbalist, a manic wildcrafter and medicine maker, and has been an ardent student of the most learned teachers of herb craft, the plants themselves.

Welcome so much to the show, jim, I'm so happy you're here.

jim mcdonald:
Hey, it's good to see you.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah, likewise. Well, I want to hear how your life was changed with that sip of tea that you took one day, a couple years ago.

jim mcdonald:
It was a few years ago, yeah. So, funny story about that, it was burdock. And I had a little trowel maybe about that long and I was like, I read in my herb book about how good burdock was. And I started digging and I started digging and I started digging and digging and digging. And then all of a sudden, the pile was that deep and the root's still that big around going down and I'm like, "Oh my gosh." There was a lot of soil displacement in that. And I took it inside and I washed off the rest of the dirt and I chopped it up and I put it into tea and steeped it for until it was not too hot to drink. And then I kind of was like, "Do I feel anything happening?" And with burdock, you don't really get an immediate, strong "Oh my gosh, these things are happening." I knew that it was supposed to be really good for me in all kinds of different ways. And now, retrospectively, I think all the stuff that's happened ever since then is what happened from that one cup of tea.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Do you remember if it was a compelling taste or if you were like nah, or do you remember that at all?

jim mcdonald:
I remember thinking, it wasn't bad, it wasn't delicious. I wasn't like, "Oh my God, this is the greatest thing ever," which later on when I started trying more stuff, I would drink teas and be like, "This is awful." I remember the valerian decoction as I wanted it to be strong. That was bad.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Bad. Yes.

jim mcdonald:
I drank it before bed and I remember laying there trying to go to sleep. And I was just like, "My God, how can I possibly go to sleep when my mouth tastes this terrible?" I had to brush my teeth and gargle a bunch of times. Didn't get the great effect of it.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
So this is the story of jim as a young herbalist, prior to herbalist even. You read a book, you hear about burdock, you decide you're going to go dig up burdock, make a tea. That's a very go-getter attitude. You weren't like "Oh, let me go read 20 other sources" or, "Oh, let me get this from the store," you were into it. So my question is, I know that's just who you are, I'm wondering, has that ever steered you wrong?

jim mcdonald:
Yes, it has. Like you're trying stuff without adequate research has steered me wrong a few times. But I don't think if, in what I remember, and I think this would've been the mid nineties. I'm vague on what year anything happened in my life happened. But it was the mid nineties and there was the occasional health food store that would have a white box of Alavida brand, whatever dried herb that you could make and stuff in capsules. And I don't think that if that would've been my introduction to herbs, that it would've drawn me in. I wasn't super into specifically plants at the time, but I was really into hiking and being outside. And I had this convergence of living on 30 acres of overgrown farm when I was in college and finding this herb book and walking past the botanical gardens every day and saw the plant that was growing next to the barn in the botanical gardens. And it said burdock, and I looked it up in the book and it said it was good for everything. So I thought I'll dig it up and make stuff with it.

I also chipped, actually unfortunately, outer bark of Willow trees and made tea with that, because I didn't know inner bark, outer bark back then. It was going around. I remember walking also next to the barn and going "Ow, what just happened? Oh, that must be stinging nettle. I'll make tea with that." That was a lot of stuff. My friend Dave lived with me at the time and for a while, every night, I would make a tea or he would make a tea and then we would sit and drink it and try and feel if anything happened. And after things like nettle or burdock, where there wasn't any immediate, profound effect, we started getting into sleeping potions and we would go to, there was the East Lansing Food Co-Op at the time. And they had probably Frontier, Starwest, or at that time maybe Blessed Herbs. And we would get every single combination of nervines that we can think of and try one or try the other or mix them all together. That's where the valerian decoction came from, trying that stuff out.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I love that story that you're just walking around and getting stung or seeing the plant next to the barn. In that way, it's like a very practical, the plants called to you. It's not esoteric. It was like no, I was out there and there was the plants and they were peeking my curiosity. And then I found this book and voila.

jim mcdonald:
Yeah, yeah. And like I said, it's all still happening. And I think this is the thing that is why a distractible scatter brain like myself is still so into herbs is because it's never ending. I've never gotten close to the point where I'm like, I figured all that out. There's always more plants or there's always more ways of looking at the plants that I know, or there's always, I've been looking at something in a particular way. And then I just look at it a slightly different way and I'm like, "Oh wow. There's a whole new way to think about that." A big thing that I try and do every year that happens when I revamp my handouts, I try to revamp my handouts every year or two so they're not old and wrong, is I look and I'm just, oh that was only two years ago I wrote that.

And either it's totally wrong, oh my gosh, I can't believe that's still in there, or, oh, the way that I said that, there's a better way to think about it now. And I think that for someone that generally teaches a lot, when you're in classes and you're saying this stuff, every time you say it and students ask questions, all the different questions and all the different fine tunings, the way that I would present a certain idea or concept get tweaked as I go. And then I look back and I'm like, "Oh, I haven't been keeping the handouts up with that." And the same thing is true of old recordings that I might see, or someone might comment, "Oh on YouTube or on your website, you said this." And I'm like " I didn't say that, that's totally wrong." And then I'll look on my website and be like "Oh no, I said that."

But that's good, it's good to find out that you're still learning and growing and finding more and more nuance. And so much of herbalism is in not the big claims of this does that, or this is that, or this is anti-bacterial or anti-inflammatory for this reason or that reason. It's finding the nuance of "Oh, this works best like this for this presentation and this kind of person." And that's constantly being updated based on experience and questions and other people's telling me what worked for them or didn't work for them. I find that not having something that I figured out and am right about is really helpful to learning new things.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. I love all of that. And I love that in herbalism, it really is the longer you work with the plants and spend time with the plants, the more you know, and it's just impossible. You can't just read something about a plant and then be all knowing. It really does take several decades of deeper and deeper and something I've always valued within the Western herbalism community, as well as other herbal communities out there, is that reverence for elders in that they have those decades of experience and being able to hear that, the things they've learned over the many years.

jim mcdonald:
Yeah. Sometimes I think, because I like music a lot and we all have our different kinds of music that we like. And we might be thinking "Oh, that band was really great for those two or three albums back then, and then they kind of lost it." And that doesn't really happen in herbalism. No one's like, "Oh, back in 2002 and 2003, jim did some really good classes and then he lost it. I don't don't know what happened. He doesn't have it anymore. I don't want to go to his new classes, they're not so good. I wish he would do old classes again. Maybe he could do a tour where he does his old classes and says his old stuff." I'm happy that's not happening. It's my retirement plan to just keep knowing things and hoping that people learn there.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
That's a great analogy. I can see how that might happen to the music you like, but that doesn't happen to Tori Amos fans out there... All right. And we're going to move on. So jim finds a book, he finds plants, he works with herbs more and more. And we're going to talk about plantain today, which is a plant that you kind of like, and you've talked about before.

jim mcdonald:
I like plantain immensely. I think it's one of the plants that I use the most. It's a great example of a plant that's often taught as a beginner plant, which is a weird concept to think that there's a beginner plant and an advanced plant. And the reason people say that it's because it's really benign, it's really safe. I don't really know how you could cause any harm with it. And it works on so many different kinds of things and systems. It doesn't work in everything. But if I think about it, and I should say, when I'm talking about plantain and if I was really prepared, I would've brought the banana looking thing and I would've made a joke, "Look, plantain fruit." But that's not the plantain we're talking about.

We're talking about usually what herbalists, using common names, we call broad leaf or narrow leaf Plantain. And most of the time they would say narrow leaf plantain is Plantago lanceolata, or English Plantain, and broad leaf plantain is Plantago major. Except where I live, there's two broad leaf plantains. There's the non-native Plantago major, and there's the native Plantago rugelii. And they look almost exactly the same except the rugelii, it's got a reddish purple magenta stem going into the root. That would be the easiest way to probably be right that one is the native Plantago rugelii and not the non-native Plantago major. And there's a whole bunch of different species of Plantago. And once we get outside of those three, those are the ones that I use, I don't know that they're all interchangeable. But I would say the narrow leaf and the two broad leaves are pretty much interchangeable.

The one thing that I notice is that the broad leaves, they tend to dry better. So if you're drying your Plantain to make tea out of, which I highly recommend, the broad leaf Plantains seem to dry nice and green and crispy and the narrow leaf Plantain blackens. If you try to dry a whole leaf of basil and it looks beautiful green, and then it looks all black, you can cut it into little strips, against the veins, and that will help it dry quicker. You can put it in a dehydrator that will help it dry quicker and black and last. But in general, for dried stuff, I use the broad leaf Plantains. And if I'm making tinctures or oils, I'll use any of those three species interchangeably. And it's mild, it's astringent, but it's only slightly astringent. It's demulcent, but it's only slightly a demulcent. It's, I would say, cooling in nature.

And is it moistening or drying? I would say it's moistening and toning, not so much drying. Old Persian medicine says it's cold and dry, but I would say cooling, moistening, toning, as in restoring tone to tissues. And you could make it in all the ways. So you can chew on it, you put it in your mouth and you just chew on it and suck the juices. That's a great way to use herbs that people never seem to talk about. You can eat it as a food. It's just green tasting. You could make teas with it, you could make compresses with it. You can crush it up and make poultices with it. You can chew it up and make poultices with it. You can make teas with it and soak your foot in it, as a soak. You could make teas and drink the teas. You could make tincture with it. You could make oils with it. You could make salads with it, you could make vinegars. All the different ways you can make stuff, you could make stuff with Plantain and it works pretty good.

And which one works best? I don't think there's one that works best. I would say make it all the ways and try it out all the different ways and see what works best for you. And also what you like best. I really like the tea. I've read people, even the eclectics who I like. Some of the eclectics, and I think it might be in King's American Dispensatory, it says that the dried herb doesn't work. That's just wrong. I don't normally say things are wrong, because that seems condescending, but that's just wrong. The dried herb definitely works.

And for such a common herb, it's really, in a lot of ways, underutilized. So I remember a few years ago, I was just looking through commercial tea blends that you could get for various respiratory or digestive or urinary issues. And almost none of them had Plantain in them. And a lot of times, when people think of the type of herb that Plantain is, which in Western herbalism is what we would call a vulnerary or a wound healer, or I think a better way to wrap your head around it is to consider it a tissue healer. Anywhere there's tissues that are irritated or injured or damaged or inflamed or in some cases infected, Plantain usually helps. It covers most of the bases across the... Topically, you could use that. And that includes stuff like eye washes or you could put it in an mini pot, pour it through your nose. That works good. You should just always have one of these around.

One time I was in a thrift store and I saw one of these hanging on the shelf with all the gravy boats. They must be so frustrated by this little hole that they have. I wish I would've took a picture, but I didn't. You can use it for topical issues. It's really great for a lot of upper and lower respiratory issues. It's great for digestive issues. It's great for urinary issues. It's got anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. So it's good for different applications of immune system issues. Probably not so much for cardiovascular issues, at least that I can wrap my head around, not so much for endocrine issues, as far as I'm aware. I don't really use it a lot for musculoskeletal issues, other than if you hurt yourself and you have an open wound, you could use it topically in some way.

Not so much for nervous system issues except Plantain is considered a drawing agent and I have occasionally kind of esoterically, non-tangentially said, if you got stuff in you that's causing you mental or emotional turmoil, one of the things you can do is use Plantain to help to draw it out of you. Chew on it, carry some on your body, rub some tinctures on your wrist or over your heart or on your third eye. Maybe your third eye is here, could be there. We don't know where our third eye is. People can have them in different places.

But in general, if I thought about it as a nervine or for physical nerve issues, I don't think about it too much. But especially anything affecting the skin or the mucous membranes in the body, Plantain, it's just always helpful. It always helps with inflammation. It helps with many different kinds of infections, but obviously not all of them. And it's a vulnerary, it's a tissue healer. It really helps to heal the tissues. And it can be used for simple things, like mosquito bites or bee stings, or it can be used as a part of a more nuanced formula for something that we would consider super complex, like leaky gut syndrome or like hyperpermeable gut tissue. We might say it that way too.

And it just tastes green and it's easy to add into tea. It mixes well with lots of different herbs and it's outside where a lot of people live, just growing. You don't need to do anything to cultivate it or to care for it. It just grows. And you pick a leaf and you come back. You can use it all throughout the year. You pick a leaf and you come back and it grows more leaves and you pick some more leaves and it grows more leaves. It's totally sustainable. It's a great plant to use. It's got everything going for it.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Wow. That's a whirlwind of so many uses of Plantain. It's almost like you could teach a three hour class just on Plantain.

jim mcdonald:
I've kind of done that. I don't know if it's been three hours.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Not three hours? Maybe 2023 or something, then it'll be your revamped class.

jim mcdonald:
Revamped class.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. I'm curious if you have any specific stories of a time that you've turned to Plantain for a specific issue, and just go ahead and put you on the spot.

jim mcdonald:
So we think about Plantain as a drawing agent. And what does that really mean? Because it sounds kind of nebulous. It sounds one of these weird things that herbalists think exists that doesn't have any rational thing. But if you get stung by something or bit by something and you crush up or you chew up some Plantain and then put it where you got stung or bit, it seems to pull out the venom or pull out the inflammation. You can put it on splinters, it'll help to pull out splinters. I believe it's Emily Ruff who told the story about how she had got a car accident and had glass embedded in her palm. And she started doing Plantain poultices long after it had healed over. And it started pulling the glass out. But one time I had swept up a bunch of the sanded dust of drywall and you're sweeping it up or trying to vacuum it up and it gets all up in the air.

And so you breathe it in and it comes into contact with your moist respiratory tissue. And then it just sticks there because it's dry and it sucks moisture into it and then creates a film. And so after I spent the day, and I had a bandana on or something, after I spent the day doing that, I had this terrible dry cough. I would occasionally get something up. It's mostly nonproductive and I could see white stuff in there. And I was "Oh, I need something to pull this out." And I think I made a blend that had just Plantain and Mullein in it and took that frequently as a tincture.

And Plantain being a little bit demulcent is really good for dry coughs more so than if you had a really damp cough. And I feel what it does is it causes the lung tissue to moisten more, which loosens the stuff that's dried onto it, whether that's mucus or, in this case, dry wall dust. And one of the things that'll happen that can confuse people is that you'll start coughing more because you're actually loosening the stuff up and getting it out of you. And it's easy to misinterpret that. It's like, "Oh wait, now I'm coughing more. My cough is getting worse." But really if you think about it, what's happening is you're going from an unproductive, dry cough, to a more productive cough where you're actually expectorating and getting the stuff out of your lungs that you need to get out of your lungs.

So that's worked really well. And I've used that for other people, whether they get respiratory issues from drywall dust, which is really common, or you go in your basement, you sweep it all up and you stir up all the dust, you're cleaning up your garage or something, or you work on a roadside doing construction and cars are driving by and there's all kinds of fine airborne particulate matter. It helps with a lot of pollen-based allergies, any kind of fine inhaled airborne particulate matter that's causing dry respiratory issues, this really helps with.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. I would definitely add wildfire smoke to that one, which is something I experience out here more than you do in the Great Lakes area. But that combo that you mentioned, the Plantain Mullein is my go-to. Often add a couple other things to it for taste too, but that is an amazing combination for when you're just weeks and weeks of breathing in that smoke. It's a nice way to protect the lungs and get some relief.

jim mcdonald:
Yeah. And it's so simple. They're common, incredibly sustainable stuff. And I think sometimes when I talked about Plantain, people think about it as a beginner's herb. They're like, "Oh, it's a beginner's herb. And because it's a beginner's herb, you use it for simple stuff," which is true. But usually a lot of the causative factors of more complex things are simple. So another Plantain Mullein story, and this was Plantain Mullein Marshmallow as a tea. I was a little baby herbalist. No, I was maybe this big. Started off this big, maybe this big. I was not the herbalist I am now. And a friend referred me to someone who was really sick with lupus and the internet existed but only so so.

It wasn't really easy to look up lupus and what does everyone do for lupus. And I just knew some vague stuff about it. And I got to the person's house because I lived in an apartment. I was doing house calls and all that at the time. And this guy was so sick. His lung function was down to 14%. And I remember thinking in my head, and I'm trying to be all poker faced, I am out of my league, crap. And I just checked myself and I thought oh, but wait. And there's this saying that came into my head at that moment that I've kept in my mind all the time, which is just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you can't do anything. And I'm like, what's going on here? He has an inflammatory autoimmune disease and his lung tissue has been inflamed for a really long time and heat dries out fluids. And he's having a hard time breathing because his lungs are inflamed and super, really dry.

And without thinking I'm going to do the thing that cures his lupus, which is a little bit grandiose. I don't even think that now, but I was like, what makes sense to do here? And I was like, well, if we made a tea out of Mullein and Plantain and marshmallow and he drank that, that's a good respiratory demulcent. And within days, it made a huge difference. He went from not being able to walk to his mailbox because his respiration was so inhibited by how inflamed and dry and tight his lungs were to being able to get up and move around a lot more effectively.

And he used that for a period of time. And then it was like that gateway into, "Oh wow. This really simple thing that I did has helped more than anything else that I've tried or anything else that anyone has offered me. What else could I be doing?" So it's like Plantain is simple for simple things and it's simple for complex things because complex things always have some simple factors that we can look at and recognize a pattern and say, "What can I do to fix that pattern?"

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I love that story because even though you're a baby herbalist there...

jim mcdonald:
Yeah, about that big.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
What is so brilliant about your teachings and something that I've just loved learning from you, again and again and again, is that it wasn't that Plantain is for lupus, it's that you thought about it critically and thought about tissue state and thought about things energetically, which to me is the most exciting and fun thing when we're thinking about matching herbs to people, is really looking at those energetic things rather than mixing and matching herbs for X, Y, Z problem. Like herbs for fibromyalgia or herbs for back pain. It really is thinking about that. If listeners out there have not yet studied with jim, that really is the thing that he has honed and presents. And it is like... Just for me, I didn't grow up thinking about that. I grew up thinking about you have a headache, take this pill, you have this problem, you take this pill. Being able to switch our mindset and think about that in a different way really does open up the world of herbalism because, in that moment, you were able to give him something that brought such profound relief more than for lupus.

jim mcdonald:
It's interesting because if I think about what herbalist I am, I'm primarily an energetic folk herbalist. If I had to describe what I do, that's the best way. And for a brief moment, I was like oh, I'm talking about Plantain. Maybe I should learn or know some new stuff about Plantain. I did a couple searches and it was methanolic extracts of Plantain have such and such actions on such and such bacteria in the Petri dish. And it was all these citations. And I was like, I don't want to dismiss the value of people who perceive herbalism like that. Because I'm happy that they can do it because I don't do it very well. But I listen to a lot of that and I'm like, that doesn't make as much sense to me.

And there's a lot of times that I look at things that have happened to myself that have been very complicated or things that are happening with other people that are really complicated. And I was like, "Oh wait, there's something simple that people are missing." There was someone had cancer, and I don't really work with cancer. I feel you need someone who really knows cancer to work with cancer. But I have a few friends that do that and sometimes I share clients with them. And one person was asking me, "I got this formula, I just wanted your insight on it." And I was "I would put some marshmallow in there." And they were like, "I didn't know marshmallow had any anti-cancer properties." And I was like, "well I don't know that it does, but everything in there is really dry." Everything in there is really dry. The conventional therapies that they use for cancer are really dry.

And so it's not about the cancer, it's about are their tissues going to be all dried out and irritated and whatever the cause, whatever the reason is, no one wants to have dry, irritated tissues. So let's use something that's demulcent, and Plantain would work there as well.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I wanted to share a story of last summer. I was in my garden and I got bit by a horse fly three times on my same arm, which I don't know if everyone has experienced this before, but it's very painful. And I had three huge red welts on my arm that were very painful. And so I had Plantain everywhere and I was like, "I'm going to do an experiment." And so I put the Plantain on one of them and sat down, enjoyed the garden. I was doing a Plantain poultice. I chewed it up and got it all juicy, slapped it on there and had it there for 20 minutes, took it off. That one was gone and the other two were flaming red and I was like, "Oh, that's so cool." And I just stood and looked at it for a while and was just like, "Wow, that's cool." I told my husband, Xavier, "Look at it. It's so cool. Plantain works." And then after a moment, I was like "Oh, I should put on the other ones too." It doesn't have to be a long term experiment.

jim mcdonald:
Outside of other plants, what else can you put on bites and stings that works as well as Plantain?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I feel that over and over and over again, as an herbalist, what do people do who don't know about Plantain? And how much are people suffering needlessly when this plant grows all around them and could help. Like you said, if it's for a horse fly bite or some other venomous sting, or these more complex things that could really be helpful as well.

jim mcdonald:
I want to figure out all the different kinds of stings. And so spider bites, although a lot of things people say are spider bites aren't spider bites, they're little localized MRSA infections. Right? So a lot of people think "Oh my gosh, I was sleeping and a spider came and crawled in my bed and bit me." Probably not. But sometimes spiders do bite you. Mosquito bites, horse fly bites, it's only so so on chiggers. Chigger bites, oh God, they're horrible. It won't prevent Lyme disease, but it's a good idea to use after a tick bite, take the tick bite off and put some Plantain on there and maybe wet it with some echinacea tincture.

If you need to increase the anti-inflammatory or antihistamine action, you can add a little bit of ragweed tincture, or a little bit of peach leaf tincture along with the Plantain, and that can work good. But a friend of mine once was down in Florida and they're like, "I got stung by a stingray." And I was like, "Oh, can you find some Plantain? I don't know if it grows around here." And I was like, "Don't do anything until you can find some Plantain." And they're like, "Why wouldn't I do anything until I can find some Plantain, if I don't see any Plantain around here?" I'm like, "Because I want to know if Plantain works for stingray stings."

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Something tells me that they maybe weren't as dedicated to figure this out as you were.

jim mcdonald:
If it were me, I would've been like, "I will suffer with this until I find Plantain." Maybe not. And we don't have scorpions here, so I haven't tried it for scorpion stings. But audience, please, try it out, let me know.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Please write in with your sting stories.

jim mcdonald:
Your plantain testimonials are always welcome.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, for those of you who would like even more about plantain, jim has shared a handout with us and you can download your free plantain handout above this transcript.

jim mcdonald:
That's recently updated.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Recently updated, recently revamped.

jim mcdonald:
Yeah. I'm going to send you something, I was like, "Oh I got to look over this. Make sure it's still good."

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, did we leave out anything about Plantain? Is there anything you'd like to make sure we covered?

jim mcdonald:
I think that one of the things that Plantain really excels at, it works great as a chew. So you just grab some leaves, you give a couple chews and you stick it in your cheek. And that works good for all kinds of ulcerations. It works good for canker sores or stomatitis. It can work for cold sores on your lips if you chew it and then drool out over where the cold sore is at. It works good for sore and swollen throats and sore tonsils. Uvular prolapse or swelling, which is a thing that happens. And I think that chewed Plantain works all the way up to the lower esophageal sphincter. And what's so nice about it is that if you make tea of it and you drink it, and then eventually you run out of tea and you're not drinking it, or you take the tincture and then you can take the tincture again and again.

But if you just keep Plantain as a chew in your cheek, every single time, that's constantly infusing your saliva. And every single time that you swallow, those tissues are being bathed with Plantain virtues. It's just a great way to use herbs. I think that chewing herbs is highly underappreciated. And if you look in most of the herbal preparations book, they don't have a section of these herbs make great chews. And so I would encourage using Plantain like that, really easy to do, very accessible throughout most of the year when it's green and lush.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
It sounds another handout we could use from you or a class, the world of herbal chews.

jim mcdonald:
Stuff I've chewed.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I know you practice what you preach. I've seen you walk around chewing all sorts of plants all the time. You may be one of the most experienced herbalist out there when it comes to herbal chews.

jim mcdonald:
I was teaching a walk on Plantain and I said you can chew it up for poultice, and that's what I prefer. I think it works a little bit better. But if you don't want to chew it, you can just crush it up in your hands until it's juicy. And a student in the class is like, "Is there a time that you would prefer to crush it up rather than chew it up?" And I was like, "If you just got stung and the Plantain that's growing is by a fire hydrant in a place where you know a lot of people walk their dogs, you probably just want to crush that up."

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Good call.

jim mcdonald:
Pour some water over it beforehand. That would be a good example of when you would want to not chew. If you chew the Plantain and you're like, "This is kind of acidic and a little bit salty," just stop thinking about it. What's done is done. I'm just going to poultice it on there.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
But the next leaf.

jim mcdonald:
Sterile. Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Well, thanks for sharing all this wisdom about Plantain with us. I am sure that there are many people wondering about how they could learn more with you. And I'm curious what projects you have going on. What classes are you teaching soon?

jim mcdonald:
Hopefully bunches, because I really want to get back to teaching lots. It's almost like the whole world's been shut down, kind of. So things that are coming up, depending on when this comes out. My website is herbcraft.org or herbcraft.podia.com. So herbcraft.podia.com. That's all of the online classes and stuff that you can buy. There's also free stuff you can watch on YouTube if you type in 'jim mcdonald the herbalist', there's free YouTube stuff you can watch.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
You have some really fabulously edited videos on YouTube.

jim mcdonald:
Yeah. I had this really spectacular woman do that. There is... My website also has a ton of free information, but if you wanted to help me out and help me pay car insurance for my oldest son, I've got a bunch of classes you can do. Coming up or happening depending on when this airs, I'm doing some live open-ended ask me questions, which will just be-

Rosalee de la Forêt:
I'm so excited for this.

jim mcdonald:
Yeah. Just I'm going to be there and ask me stuff. One of the things that I miss about having a lot of classes is the questions that people ask me. Online stuff is really cool, but I've always had a lot of back and forth dialogue. And the thing that's exciting for me is not like I've prepared this great class and now I'm going to present it to you and it's this direction, but it's like oh, I'm going to pitch out the stuff that I think and the stuff that I wonder about and where I'm at in that wondering. And as I do it, people say "Oh, well what about this?" Or "I had this experience" or, "Oh, do you think this would apply to that?"

And I really enjoy thinking about that, playing with those ideas and thinking "Oh, I thought the way that I was explaining those worked really great, but maybe it didn't. So I'll try to think on the spot of a new thing, a new way to explain something," or just having that interaction. I think that a lot of people, because we've been locked down, because it's a crazy virus around, are missing a lot of the back and forth interaction. And so I'm looking forward to doing that then both live and in person here and also online, I have my April through October, lindera herbal intensive course, which is where we look at our energetic model that we're talking about in terms of recognizing patterns of hot and cold and dry and damp, and tense and lax. And what does that look like in people and what kind of herb, balance that out.

And then after we look at our model, rather than being oh, we covered energetics, let's move on to the next thing, we take that model and then we apply it to one system and then another system and then another system and then another system. And then we talk about a bunch of different plants using that model. And that's my favorite thing that I do all year, because it's the most cohesive put-together way that I can be super long-winded and talk about energetics. And it's not so much an introduction to herbalism course, it's a yes, there's a lot of information. There's tons of tidbits of information. But the real thing that I'm wanting out of it is to convey that there's this way of thinking that makes using herbs easier and often gets you better results using herbs.

And what I'm hoping to convey is that you can learn that way of thinking and adapt it to your practice in whatever way works best for you. It's not like the jim mcdonald method, and this is the way it is and everyone's supposed to do it the same. It's like I learned this from this person and this person and this person and I put it together like this, and then I can be one of the people that you might learn it from. And then you might put it together differently in a way that works for you, but learning to recognize how these energetic imbalances present and what they look like. And just again what makes common sense like, oh, there's dry tissues there. They need to be moistened, I need a demulcent. Which demulcent is the right demulcent to use? Is it corn silk? Is it marshmallow? Is it Plantain? Oh, the tissues are irritated, inflamed and slightly damaged and maybe hyper-permeable, it's probably Plantain.

So that thinking is where it's at. And then I hope spring, summer, fall to be doing lots of walks and getting people outside to look at plants and see them growing in the ground, because that's always the best place to be, to talk about them.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. Studying with you, it's so much fun and it's so insightful and I can't recommend it more highly. I've spent many hours of class with you myself and I'm looking forward to the opportunity again as well.

jim mcdonald:
Yeah, absolutely. I'll let you come back.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Oh thanks. So the last question is one I'm asking everybody in season three and you already alluded to it already. But I'm asking this question because I believe that, whether someone's been working with plants for a week or for two decades or for six decades, there's still something new out there. And so my question to you is what's something new that you are learning or that you're trying, or just something new you're finding with plants these days?

jim mcdonald:
So many things. Let me think of one. So there's a non-native, slightly invasive shrub, it grows around this area, called burning bush. It's Euonymus alatus. And it's got these cool little, on the stems, these little winged stems on it. And they use it in Chinese medicine. I would only slaughter the Chinese name for it, so I'm not going to say that. But one of the translations of it is the winged arrow that kills demons. And I was like, "I just want to use that." I'm a Western herbalist and I get Western herbalism and there are some Western herbalists who are really good with Western herbalism and Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, or and this, and, and that. And I mostly just do Western herbalism. But if a plant from another tradition grows in my area, and especially if it's non-native, and even more especially if it's aggressive or invasive, I want to think, is there some way that I can utilize this plant? And the winged arrow that kills demons, can you get better than that?

And what it relates to is this concept in Chinese medicine called Gu syndrome where they said, basically you have a sickness, it's like a demonic possession related to some kind of parasite or infection. And my mind and my imagination just explodes with that. And I think about oh, Lyme disease or long COVID or these things where people get sick. And then the sickness really doesn't just derange their mucosa or affects this or affects that, it gets into all the different facets of their life and takes over and possesses their life and becomes this all consuming thing. And so the last couple years, what I've been doing is I've been going around and saying, even though something is non-native, and even though it's aggressive, and even though it's invasive, I'm still not just going to go in and chop it all down. That just doesn't seem respectful to plants to me.

So I've been going around and being oh, where can I find a bunch of this? I can trim off some stems. And I hope to start playing around with it, making different kinds of potions and giving it to... Probably when I'm doing something that, to me, not to another tradition of medicine, but to me is experimental, I'll look for old students or old clients who I know and have a relationship so that I can say to them, "I have no idea if this is going to work, do you want to try something? Do you want to be a part of an experiment?" Because if a client were just coming to me and they're like "I'm really sick and I feel terrible," and I was like "Oh, I have this protocol that works really well for a lot of people. But there's this other thing that I want to try that I've never tried before and I don't know if it's going to work. Do you want to do that?" They're probably not going to jump on that as the option, unless they're an herbalist and they're like, "Oh yeah, I'll try that."

So I'm excited to try that. I miss conferences. I miss going and spending time with a bunch of other herbalists who think different things than I do, or think the same things that I do in different ways. And there's always the classes, but I think the thing at conferences that I miss the most is all the interstitial time where conversations break out and it's between classes or over lunch or after the conference is over and people playing Jenga with their feet. A lot of stuff that I've taken home from conferences has been from those interstitial times and not from specifically this person said this in a class and I've got that. So I hope that there's a way that that can become more feasible as a means for people to get more exposure to different ideas and to break out of just the way that they're doing and seeing things.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Yeah. I miss conferences too. They're such a formative part of my life and it's an odd thing that it's been so long now.

jim mcdonald:
We met at conferences.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
We met at conferences.

jim mcdonald:
We know each other before from online stuff, but we met at conferences, yes. There's a bunch of people, like my closest friends, that I can say oh yeah, I've met them here, met them there, met them there. And people will always ask me sometimes, they'd be like "What's the best conference?" And the pertinent thing to say is the Great Lakes Herb Faire, because I helped to run it. But honestly, it's usually the one that I'm at, at the moment. They've all got their different flavor and their different flare. Definitely, some are more organized than others. But it's really just, you get around different groups of people. And if you have a whole bunch of people that are excited about plants, getting together and learning and sharing, how could you go wrong?

Rosalee de la Forêt:
So true. Well, I look forward to seeing you in person this year and beyond, and hopefully it'll be at a conference. And thank you so much for being here, jim. And it's been great to have you and I'd love to have you on again sometime.

jim mcdonald:
Oh, yeah. Part two.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Part two.

jim mcdonald:
Plantain, part two.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Absolutely.

jim mcdonald:
The second hour of three. It can be a trilogy.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
There we go. Well, thank you so much, jim.

jim mcdonald:
All right. So long, everyone.

Rosalee de la Forêt:
Thanks for watching. Don't forget to click the link above this transcript to get free access to jim's Plantain handout. You can also visit jim directly at herbcraft.podia.com. If you enjoyed this interview, then before you go, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter below so that you'll be the first to get my new videos, including interviews like this. I'd also love to hear your comments about this interview and this lovely versatile plant. I deeply believe that this world needs more herbalists and plant-centered folks. I'm so glad you're a part of this herbal community. Have a beautiful day.

Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal and co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.  



Choose the best herb for you!

The secret to using herbs successfully begins with knowing who YOU are. 

Get started by taking my free Herbal Jumpstart course when you enter your name and email address. 

By signing up for my free course you’ll also be joining my weekly newsletter where I send my best tips and herbal recipes. I never sell your information and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.

Information found on this website is meant for educational purposes only.
It is not meant to diagnose medical conditions, to treat any medical conditions or to prescribe medicine.
Copyright 2010-2022 www.HerbalRemediesAdvice.org by Rosalee de la Forêt
Affiliate Disclaimer