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(plantain), a genus of plants of the family Plantaginaceae. The plants are annual or perennial herbs, usually with a basal rosette of leaves or a leafless flower stem. Some species are subshrubs, and some have a branched, leafy stem. The small, inconspicuous flowers are in a dense terminal spike or head. The fruit is a capsule that opens along a transverse crack.
There are approximately 250 species of plantain. They are found throughout the world except for many tropical regions. Approximately 30 species are encountered in the USSR, growing mainly near buildings, along roads, and in meadows. The best-known species are the hoary plantain (P. media), the great plantain (P. major), and the ribwort (P. lanceolata). All three are perennial herbs.
The seeds of most species contain mucilage and the glycoside aucubin. The seeds of P. psyllium and the branched plantain (P. indica) are used in medicine and industry. The great plantain and P. psyllium are used medicinally, since they contain carotene, vitamin C, and phytoncides. An infusion of their leaves is used as an expectorant, and the juice is used to improve digestion in the treatment of gastritis and enteritis.