Plantain never ceases to amaze me with its effectiveness and versatility for all kinds of skin issues. I use it for cuts, scrapes, bruises, insect bites and for various kinds of rashes. It can also be used to soothe the itching and pain of hemmorhoids or poison ivy. A friend of mine swears by plantain/calendula salve for diaper rash. Recently I was on a hike with another friend. She had a mosquito bite which had already become red and swollen. After applying a crushed plantain leaf the swelling went down, the redness disappeared and she said the discomfort was gone as well.
The easiest way to use plantain is as a poultice. Simply crush and moisten a leaf and apply it directly to the affected area. The quick and dirty way is to chew the leaf but you can use your fingers and tap or bottled water if you prefer and have access to it. If you really don't want to chew it and you don't have any water you can simply crush the leaf. I make a salve using olive oil infused with calendula (Calendula officinalis) or bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) for winter and for other times when plantain isn't handy. I also freeze plantain/yarrow infusion for use as a wash for burns and wounds.
Plantain may be used internally. Some herbalists use the seeds as a substitute for the seeds of psyllium, an exotic relative of plantain. The leaves are slightly bitter but in my opinion, not unpleasant and can be added in small quantities to soups and salads. They are also sometimes used in tea for coughs and respiratory irritation as well as for bladder irritation and infection.
Plantain is relatively easy to identify because its leaves have multiple ribs instead of a single rib down the center and its seed stalks are distinctive. It is best to have someone familiar with the plant help you identify it but you can also use field guides and university websites as well as the USDA's online plant data base to help you with identification. Right now is a good time to look for plantain as it is just beginning to put up stems to form seed heads.
Plantain grows in a wide variety of conditions all over the U.S. as well as in many other countries so if you look closely enough you are likely to find it. It is well worth the trouble of finding and identifying it. You'll find plantain a friendly plant, read to help when you need its soothing and healing qualities.
Caution: As when wildcrafting any plant, use great care when identifying it. Do not pick directly by a road, under power lines or anywhere there might be contamination from chemical sprays or lead paint or where animals relieve themselves.