Substance Info: (and synonyms)
English Plantain / Ribwort / Buckhorn Plantain (Weed)

Background Info:

(Not to be confused with Plantain (Musa spp))

English plantain pollen is a relevant cause of pollinosis in temperate regions.

Common names: English Plantain, Ribwort Plantain, Buckhorn Plantain, Rib Grass, Ribgrass, Ribwort, Buckhorn Plantain, Narrowleaf Plantain

Heartleaf Plantain (Plantago cordata)
Common Plantain (Plantago major)
Rugel Plantain (Plantago Rugelii)
English Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
Bracted Plantain (Plantago aristata)
Salt-and-pepper Plant (Plantago Purshii)
Hoary Plantain (Plantago virginica)

Plants in the genus Plantago, commonly known as plantains, generally have a rosette of basal leaves and flowers in a dense, terminal spike. These green, weedy plants are native to Europe and Asia, but now grow practically anywhere in the world. English plantain is common in most temperate regions, and is considered a troublesome pollen weed in such diverse areas as New Zealand, Mauritania, Italy, Canada, Ecuador, Belgium, Germany, France and the USA.

English Plantain is low erect perennial growing to 0.3m - 0.5m in height. The leaves are found at the base of the stalk, and are dark green, 5-40 cm long and narrow and 8mm - 25mm wide, 3-ribbed, with a smooth, wavy texture. The margins are slightly toothed. The leaves are oblong or lance-shaped, tapering at the base into a slender stalk. The leaf axils are often filled with long brownish cottony hairs.

The plant flowers from April to August. The spike is 2 - 7.5 cm long at the tip of the flower stalks, and each crowded flower has 4 parchment-like petals 3 mm long; 4 stamens on hair-like stalks and ending in large, cream-coloured anthers; bracts present under flowers. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by wind and insects. The plant is also self-fertile. English plantain produces more pollen than the other Plantains and is the most active allergen. Rugel plantain has the potential to cause hay fever, but the pollen is produced in such small quantities that it is considered of no importance as an allergen. The seeds ripen from June to September. The 3mm long seedpods are globe-shaped, dry and papery, and contain 2 seeds. They open by the upper half falling off as a lid. The seeds are boat-shaped, the surface usually shiny, and greenish brown to dark brown

Plantain is found in grasslands, roadsides, and cultivated ground. The English Plantain, is a troublesome weed; it often invades lawns and gardens.

The leaves and stems are used in salads or for herbal therapies.


Adverse Reactions:


[ 1 / 2 ]

Many pollen-allergic patients develop allergy to plant foods, attributed to cross-reactivity between food and pollen allergens. This study conducted in Spain analyzed the differences among pollen-allergic patients with and without plant food allergy. Eight hundred and six patients were recruited from 8 different hospitals. Each clinical research group included 100 patients (50 plant food-allergic patients and 50 pollen-allergic patients). A panel of 28 purified allergens from pollens and/or plant foods was used to quantify specific IgE (ADVIA-Centaur® platform). Six hundred and sixty eight patients (83%) of the 806 evaluated had pollen allergy: 396 patients with pollen allergy alone and 272 patients with associated food and pollen allergies. A comparison of both groups showed a statistically significant increase in the food and pollen allergy subgroup in frequency of: (1) asthma (47 vs. 59%; p < 0.001); (2) positive skin test results to several pollens: Plantago, Platanus, Artemisia, Betula, Parietaria and Salsola (p < 0.001); (3) sensitization to purified allergens: Pru p 3, profilin, Pla a 1 - Pla a 2, Sal k 1, PR-10 proteins and Len c 1. Sensitisation to Cupressus varied from 17% to 64% in the 16 areas assessed. (Cuesta-Herranz 2010 ref.24833 2)

Cuesta-Herranz J, Barber D, Blanco C, Cistero-Bahíma A, Crespo JF, Fernández-Rivas M, Fernández-Sánchez J, Florido JF, Ibáñez MD, Rodríguez R, Salcedo G, Garcia BE, Lombardero M, Quiralte J, Rodriguez J, Sánchez-Monge R, Vereda A, Villalba M, et al. Differences among pollen-allergic patients with and without plant food allergy. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2010 Apr 23;153(2):182-192

[ 2 / 2 ]

Asthma and hayfever.

The huge family Plantaginaceae (200 species) has a very high incidence of cross-reactivity among its members. cross-reactivity to other plant families has not been shown. Using crossed-immuno-electrophoresis (CRIE) and RAST, 16 different antigens of which 6 may be allergenic were detected. Different surveys show a high incidence of allergic reactions, mainly hay fever, to plantain pollens.

Editor Comment Editorial comment, common knowledge, or still to add - -

Non-Immune reactions

[ 1 ]

Plantago lanceolata, widely distributed both in Turkey and all over the world. Its fresh leaves are still used to soothe and suppress cough, externally for wound healing and draining abscesses. Two individuals who cases developed phototoxic reaction with the consumption of Plantago lanceolata and subsequent exposure to the sunlight. (Ozkol 2011 ref.26482 7)

Ozkol HU, Akdeniz N, Ozkol H, Bilgili SG, Calka O. Development of Phytophotodermatitis in two cases related to Plantago lanceolata. Cutan Ocul Toxicol 2011 Jun 2. [Epub ahead of print]


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