Plantain contains many biologically active compounds. The plantain fruit stimulates gastric mucus secretion and growth of the gastric mucosal cells. Plantain’s flavonoids can increase the thickness of this layer. The lectins in plantain seem to bind some mannose oligosaccharides that are on some bacteria which help them attach to the gastric and intestinal linings.
The tannins (astringent), allantoin (promotes wound healing, speeds up cell regrowth/healing and softens skin), apigenin (anti-inflammatory flavonoid), aucubin (a glycoside, a powerful anti-toxin, increases uric acid excretioin by the kidneys), baicalein, linoleic acid, oleanolic acid, sorbitol and iridoid glycosides in plantain are considered the major factors in making it a mild anti-inflammatory, as well as an antimicrobial, antihemorrhagic and an expectorant. Aucubin is another glycoside in plantain. It acts as a sedative, anaesthetic, alterative, antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-toxic ,anti-histamin, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, anti-tumor, anti-cancer, anti-carcinogenic, a diuretic an expectorant, a hypotensive and an organoleptic. This glycoside has been studied numerous times.
Plantain contain high levels of beta carotene (A). It also has ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and vitamin K. Plantain also contains silca which makes plantain high in calcium. This herb is high in mucilage especially the seeds.
Also active in plantains are monoterpene alkaloids, triterpenes, phenois, sugars and the flavonoidslutelin, scutellarin, baicalein, nepetin, hispidulin, plantagoside, and acteoside plantamajoside. Plantain also contains other plant acids such as chlorogenic, citric, ferulic, neochlorogenic, fumaric, hydroxycinnamic, salicylic, ursolic,and benzoic acids. Catalpol stimulates the production of adrenal cortical hormones. This increased the production of adrenal gland androgens, has an anti-inflammatory ability, seems to help in wound healing and increases the production of sex hormones.
James Duke list 39 active chemicals in Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases as well as 509 distinct activities for Plantago major. One interesting note on his research is the calcium in Plantago major is 23,400 ppm while for horsetail it is only 1550 ppm. A.B. Samuelsen, Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, University of Oslo, states, “A range of biological activities has been found from plant extracts including wound healing activity, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, weak antibiotic, immuno modulating and antiulcerogenic activity.” (Herbal Medicine, p. 2)