Plantago major L

Last updated: 2016 Oct 18

Scientific Name

Plantago major L


Plantago borysthenica Wissjul., Plantago dregeana Decne., Plantago gigas H. Lév., Plantago jehohlensis Koidz., Plantago latifolia Salisb., Plantago macronipponica Yamam., Plantago sawadai (Yamam.) Yamam., Plantago villifera Kitag [1].

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Ekor anjing, daun sejumbok, ekor angin [2]
English Great plantain, large plantain, broad–leaved plantain, plantain rowbrot, ripple –grass, cart-track plant, way-bread [3]
Indonesia Daun sendok, daun urat, otot ototan, daun urat-urat, ekur angin, kuping menjangan, melah kilo, sangbuah, sembung otot, ki urat, cheuli, cheuli unchal (Sundanese); sangka-buwah, sangkubah, sembung otot, otot ototan, suripandak, meloh kiloh [2]
Philippines Lanting, lantin, lanting haba (Tagalog); llantin (Spanish) [4]
Vietnam Ma de, bong ma de, xa tien, suma, nha en dut, nang chay mia [3]
France Grand plantain, plantain majeur, plantain commun, plantain des oiseaux [3].

Geographical Distributions

Plantago major widely grow throughout the whole of Europe and temperate Asia [5]. As a result of dispersal by man, this plant can be found almost everywhere except in the coldest parts of the world [5]. It grows in moist and shady areas such as the edge of the forest [6], from sea-level up to 3300 m altitude [4]. P. major can be found in open grasslands, along the roadsides, especially on fertile and compact soils, and in the garden [2].

Botanical Description

P. major is a plant from the family Plantaginaceae [7]. It is a small perennial herb which can grow between 30 and up to 70 cm tall, with numerous fibrous and whitish roots. The roots can spread up to 91 cm deep and wide [4][7].

The leaves spirally arranged, bearing a rosette at the basal, smooth or soft hair especially on the undersides of the leaves. The leaf blade measurement is (1.5-)5-30(-40) x (0.5-)3-10(-15) cm in dimension, petiolated, ovate to elliptical, entire margin but sometimes irregularly toothed, 3-5 ribbed, normally green but sometimes tinted with pink or purple colour. [4][7][8]

The inflorescence spike with a short scape that usually do not exceed the leaves. The flowering stalks can grow up to 61 cm tall but usually only up to 20 cm tall. Spike 5-20 cm long, simple. The flowers numerous, 2-4 mm in diametre, arranged densely to rather laxly, bracts ovate, 1-2 mm long. The corolla yellowish white in colour, with triangular lobes. It changes to brown colour with age. The anthers light purple in colour at the beginning and turns to dirty white, exerted and versatile. [4][7][8]

The fruit is in a capsule, ovate, with approximately 5 mm long, (4-)6-34-seeded, with 5-30 seed for each fruit. The seed is ellipsoidal or ellipsoidal-trigonous, 1-1.5 mm long, dark brown to dull black in colour. [4][7]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

Methanol extract of P. major dried leaves has been reported to contain phenylpropanoid glycoside (plantamajoside) [9]. Aqueous extract of P. major leaves has been reported to contain a biologically active pectin type polysaccharide (PMII) and type II arabinogalactan (PMIa). [10][11]

Chloroform extract of P. major cuticular waxes leaves has been reported to contain linear alkanes (e.g. heptacosane, tritriacontane, nonacosane, triacontane, henitriacontane, and dotriacontane), and free polar triterpene acids (e.g. methyl heptadecanoate, methyl nonadecanoate, methyl oleanolate, and methyl ursolate) and alcohols (e.g. hexadecanol and hexacosanol). Mixture of chlroform and methanol (2:1) extract has been reported to contain tocopherol. [12]

Methanol extract of P. major dried aerial parts has been reported to contain iridoid glucosides (e.g. 10-acetoxymajoroside, aucubin, majoroside) [13]. The n-butanol-soluble fractions extract of P. major aerial parts has been reported to contain iridoid glucoside (majoroside and aucubin) [14]. Its aerial parts also have been reported to contain polyphenols verbascoside, and plantamajoside [15].

P. major seed oil has been reported to contain isomer of ricinoleic acid (β-hydroxyolefinic acid and 9-hydroxy-cis-11-octadecenoic). [16]

Hexane extract of P. major has been reported to contain triterpenoid (e.g. ursolic acid, oleanolic acid and 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid). [17]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, roots, seeds, aerial parts, and whole plants. [18][19][20]

Traditional Use

P. major is a plant that many people know only as a weed, but it is also an old medicinal plant that has been known for centuries and was originally described by the Greek physician in ‘De materia medica’ in first century [18][19]. One of the countries, Scandinavia, the plant is considered domestic and is mostly known for its wound healing properties. The common local name of this plant in Norwegian and Swedish is groblad that carries a meaning of ‘healing leaves’ [18]. The plant was introduced as a sputum inhibitor, bleeding inhibitor, and topical analgesic. The people of Wichí(the indigenous people of South America) used P. major that locally known as Mankuen as part of the remedies for antiseptic against pimples as well as for any respiratory discomforts. [19]

Grinded whole plant of P. major in the form of poultice can be used to treat varicose ulcers, and various burns, wounds, injuries and inflammation. A honey sweetened boiled juice of P. major will prevent heartburn, pricking sensation and queasiness if taken three cups a day. The fresh juice extracts are used to wash mouth to aid curing mouth sores. Mix a spoon of this plant with barberry juice and drink it every morning and evening to remove the blood in the urine caused by weakness of liver. [20]

The aerial part is still being consumed by Tibetan and in Traditional Chinese Medicine to aid dysentery [21]. The leaves were prescribed for treatment of dog bites. Back in the 12-13th century, the plant too has been described by Islamic author Ibn el Beithar having the same properties as the Greek physician. The fresh leaves are crushed and applied to wound to prevent or cure infection and hasten healing. The intracellular fluid from it has also shown to possess prophylactic activity against the development of tumour and the mashed balm of the leaves are said to relieve arthritis [18].

Plantago seed acts as laxative due to the high volume of mucilage within the seed membrane; thereby it increases the volume of stool and softens intestines. When the seeds are turned into balm, it is then mixed with alyssum and lemon juice to relieve swellings. Plantago seeds licorice is also useful for chest pain and cough when ingested with milk. [20]

Boiled leaves and roots are useful for bloody sputum, sore throat, diarrhoea and dysentery [19]. This plant is known to possess astringent, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, topical anodyne, antibacterial and styptic properties therefore the tea of the leaf and root was used for hemoptysis, hematuria, sore throats, coughs, diarrhoea and dysentery, and being used for local application for haemorrhoids (via baths), cervicitis (vaginal douche) and rectal fissures (suppository). In addition, it has vulnerary effects for insect bites, snake bites, cuts, bruises and boils. [22]

Preclinical Data


Anti-inflammation activity

Extract of P. major administered to carrageenan and prostaglandin E1-induced inflammation to Wistar albino rat via the simultaneous injection showed anti-inflammatory activity and leukocyte infiltration with rapid and prolific white blood cell extravasates. [23]

 Antimicrobial activity

Aqueous extract of P. major aerial parts (0.025-0.4 g/mL) showed antimicrobial activity against Bacillus subtilis in a dose dependent manner (21-78% of growth inhibition). [24]

Hexane extract of P. major aerial parts (0.025-0.4 g/mL) inhibited the growth of Escherichia coli in a dose dependent manner (37-94% of growth inhibition). [24]

Both methanol and chloroform extracts (0.4 and 0.2 g/mL) inhibited the growth of B. subtilis and E. coli with maximum inhibition of 39% and 42% growth inhibition for 0.4 g/mL and both 32% for 0.2 g/mL, respectively. [24]

Antiviral activity

Hot water extracts of P. major possessed significant antiviral activity towards viral infections herpesviruses and adenoviruses (HSV-2 and ADV-11) in in vitro studies. [25]

Immunomudulatory activity

Aqueous and methanol extracts of P. major aerial parts (0.4 and 0.2 mg/mL,) respectively administered to male CD1 mice (12 week old) significantly (p < 0.001) increased the bone marrow cell concentration (2.70- and 3.15-fold) and increased spleen cell concentration (3.38- and 6.39-fold, respectively). [24]

Hot water extracts of P. major significant affected the proliferation of lymphoma and carcinoma (bladder, bone, cervix, kidney, lung and stomach) cells by inducing lymphocyte proliferation and secretion of interferon-γ at low concentrations (< 50 μg/mL), whilst inhibited the proliferation and secretion at high concentration (< 50 μg/mL). [25]

P. major extracts (1-3% concentration) administered orally to Ehrlich ascites tumour (EAT)-induced ascites tumour in Balb/C mice respectively for duration of 10 days elevated body weights of the mice because of tumour burden and inhibited EAT in a dose-dependent manner. [26]

Pectin type polysaccharide fraction (PMII) of P. major leaves showed to be a potent complement activator for both the classical and the alternative pathway of activation of the immune system and contributing to its wound healing activity. [27]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation


No documentation


No documentation

Line drawing


Figure 1: The plant structure of P. major L.


  1. The Plant List. Plantago major L. 2013 ver1.1 [homepage on the internet]. c2012 [updated 2012 Apr 18; cited 2014 Nov 17] Available from:
  2. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 2. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR, 2002; p. 235.
  3. National Institute of Materia Medica Hanoi- Vietnam. Selected medicinal plants in Vietnam. Vol. II. Hanoi: Science and technology publishing house, 1999; p. 184.
  4. Pangemanan L. Plantago major L. In: de Paduan L S, Bunyapraphatsara N, Lemmens R H M J, editors. Plant resources of South-East Asia no. 12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. The Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 1999; p. 402.
  5. Burkill IH. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Volume 2. London: Published on behalf of the governments of the Straits settlements and Federated Malay states by the Crown agents for the colonies, 1935; p. 1767.
  6. Musa Y, Azimah K, Zaharah H. Tumbuhan ubatan popular Malaysia. Selangor, Malaysia: MARDI, 2009; p. 39.
  7. Alaska Center for Conservation Science. Common plantain; Plantago major L. [homepage on the internet]. Alaska: University of Alaska Anchorage; c2016 [updated 2011 Feb 08; cited 2015 Feb 27]. Available from
  8. Sagar GR, Harper JL. Plantago major L., P. media L. and P. lanceolata L. J Ecol. 1964;52(1):189-221.
  9. Ravn H, Brimer L. Structure and antibacterial activity of plantamajoside, a caffeic acid sugar ester from Plantago major subs major. Phytochemistry. 1988;27(11):3433-3437.
  10. Samuelsen AB, Paulsen BS, Wold JK, et al. Characterization of a biologically active pectin from Plantago major L. Carbohydrate Polymers. 1996;30(1):37-44.
  11. Samuelsen AB, Paulsen BS, Wold JK, Knutsen SH, Yamada H. Characterization of a biologically active arabinogalactan from the leaves of Plantago major L. Carbohydr Polym. 1998;35(3-4):145-153.
  12. Bakker MI, Baas WJ, Sijm DTHM, Kollöffel C. Leaf wax of Lactuca sativa and Plantago major. Phytochemistry. 1998;47(8):1489-1493.
  13. Taskova R, Handjieva N, Evstatieva L, Popov S. Iridoid glucosides from Plantago cornuti, Plantago major and Veronica cymbalaria. Phytochemistry. 1999;52(8):1443-1445.
  14. Handjieva N, Spassov S, Bodurova G, et al. Majoroside, an iridoid glucoside from Plantago major. Phytochemistry. 1991;30(4):1317-1318.
  15. Zubair M, Nybom H, Lindholm C, Rumpunen K. Major polyphenols in aerial organs of greater plantain (Plantago major L.), and effects of drying temperature on polyphenol contents in the leaves. Sci Hort. 2011;128(4):523-529.
  16. Shamim Ahmad M, U. Ahmad M, Osman SM. A new hydroxyolefinic acid from Plantago major seed oil. Phytochemistry. 1980;19(10):2137-2139.
  17. Ringbom T, Segura L, Noreen Y, Perera P, Bohlin L. Ursolic Acid from Plantago major, a selective inhibitor of cyclooxygenase-2 catalyzed prostaglandin biosynthesis. J Nat Prod. 1998;61(10):1212-1215.
  18. Sameulsen AB. The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activities of Plantago major L. A review. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;71(1-2):1-21.
  19. Trosper RL, editor. Traditional forest-related knowledge: Sustaining communities, ecosystems and biocultural diversity. USA: Springer Science & Business Media, 2011; p. 87.
  20. Haddadian K, Haddadian K, Zahmatkash M. A review of plantago plant. Indian J Tradit Know. 2014;13(4):681-685.
  21. Shang X, Tao C, Miao X, Wang D, et al. Ethno-veterinary survey of medicinal plants in Ruoergai region, Sichuan Province, China. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;142(2):390-400.
  22. Kuhn MA, Winston D. Herbal therapy and supplements: A scientific and traditional approach. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001; p. 263.
  23. Shipochliev T, Dimitrov A, Aleksandrova E. Anti-inflammatory action of a group of plant extracts. Vet Med Nauki. 1981;18(6):87-94.
  24. Velasco-Lezama R, Tapia-Aguillar R, Roman-Ramos R, et al. Effect of Plantago major on cell proliferatin in vitro. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;103(1):36-42.
  25. Chiang LC, Chiang W, Chang MY, et al. In vitro cytotoxic antiviral and immunomodulatory effects of Plantago major and Plantago asiatica. Am J Chin Med. 2003;31(2):225-234.
  26. Ozaslan M, Didem KI, Kalender ME, et al. In vivo antitumoral effect of Plantago major L. extract on Balb/C mouse with Ehrlich ascities tumor. Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(5):841-851.
  27. Michaelsen TE, Gilje A, Samuelsen AB, et al. Interaction between human complement and a pectin type polysaccharide fraction, PMII, from the leaves of Plantago major L. Scand J Immunol. 2000;52(5):483-490.