Burdock Articum lappa
Since it is summertime and there is abundance of plant life all around in North Idaho, I am encouraged to put on my Herbalist Dr. Linda hat and share some of my experiences with gathering edible and medicinal plants over the past 30+ years. May you see food and medicine when you look out in your yard and local meadows.
Many people see Burdock as a pesky weed to be destroyed, but it has been valued around the world as a health food and medicine for generations. Articum lappa is a member of the sunflower family and made its way to North America from Europe and Asia where it is sold at markets as Gobo or Wu shih. I have used the leaves and roots of burdock for food and medicine.
Burdock is easy to grow from seeds that you plant in the spring. For the most potency, harvest the root in the fall of the first year. Big roots require the use of a pitchfork and shovel to loosen the soil. You can dig a big hole, often 2’ wide and 3-4’ deep, around the deep single tap root.
You can find Burdock growing wild in many parts of the world. To help you identify burdock in the wild, when you rub the large leaves, a bitter taste is left on your fingers. Reddish stalks and deep veined leaves make it look similar to rhubarb, but the white underside of burdock leaves is a distinguishing factor. In the second year the characteristic velcro-like burrs form. The seed heads contain more than 2 seeds compared to cocklebur which only contains two. My Siberian husky Sasha loves to walk amongst the wild plants growing at the edge of the gardens. I have learned to harvest the Burdock early before the burrs form, otherwise the main seed head with its many little burrs really dig deep into her fur, then it takes time and patience to remove them without her yelping.
The root can become too hard to cut into usable size once it dries, so it is best to use a hand grater or knife to chop the fresh root before it dries out. If you need to store it, keeping the roots in a cool place can make it easier to prepare when you are ready to use it.
The root is used in herbal medicine as a tonic and to purify the blood. A tea made with the roots is beneficial to restore healthy functioning to the liver and gallbladder. Burdock assists your body in eliminating metabolic wastes as well as accumulated environmental toxins. A daily dose of the tea or tincture can be beneficial if you work or live in a toxin environment. If you are exposed to pesticides, airborne chemicals, or heavy metals, make Burdock your friend. Drinking 2 cups of tea day can help remove radioactive isotopes from the body, which makes Burdock useful after radiation treatments. It is safe to take over a period of time and is good preventative medicine that helps your body receive the nutrients from the food that you eat. The most popular tea that I prepare is called Detox-tea and contains Red Clover blossoms, Paud’arco, Burdock root, and Fennel seeds. Steep 1 tbls. in boiling water for about 20 minutes 2x a day as needed.
The seeds can be gathered and prepared by infusing them in olive oil for a soothing skin or scalp oil. Pour 1 pint of olive oil over ½ jar full of the seeds. Let it sit for a few weeks. Strain off the oil and store in a jar. Compost the herbs. Rub into the scalp to relieve itching.
For chronic skin irritations, burdock root can offer relief from itching and inflammation, when taken internally as a tea or externally as a skin rinse. Make a topical wash for skin disorders with the roots or leaves by pouring boiling water over ¼ cup of dried roots or 1 cup of cut fresh leaves in a quart jar. Allow to brew for ½ hour or until cool enough to be soothing for the skin. Burdock root tea or topically has the ability to work with the lymphatic system to clear irritations beneath the surface of the skin. I have used the leaves for cooling poultices on a friend’s legs aching legs while waiting for the sweat lodge fire to heat the rocks. The swelling was reduced when applied in this way.
The root pieces can be used fresh in soups and added to vegetable stir. Simply dig the root, peel it, and cook. The fresh root contains calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins. If you are using the dried root, add 3x as much boiling water to soften the root before adding to soup. The leaves and stems have a bitter favor and can be steamed or stir-fried in small amounts.
Banish Excess Emotional Baggage
Burdock root when taken as a tincture helps to process resentments and grief held deep within the cells of the body. During those times when you feel you are carrying emotional toxicity from the past, reach for burdock to help your banish that extra emotional baggage.
When you feel stuck, daily use of a tea or tincture of Burdock root lifts you out of inaction or depression and help you move out of oppressive situations. Burdock’s emotional healing properties helps you to get unstuck and connect in the present moment to what is being offered rather than dwelling on the past. It helps you to make healthy choices in relationships and can help you break free from co-dependent patterns.
Grief is a multi-layered issue that requires patience and time to process. Whenever there is a present time loss, it can trigger other unresolved feelings of loss, grief, and helplessness, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed. Burdock offers deep cleansing of the cells down to the core level so that you have a clean slate to begin again. It is like pressing the restart button on your cellular computer.
Home Remedy Preparation
To make a tincture chop fresh burdock root into a quart jar. Fill almost to the top with the fresh root then pour in enough vodka to cover the roots. When making a burdock tincture with dried root, fill the jar 1/3 of the way with the dried root then fill almost to the top with vodka. Let sit for about 6 weeks before straining off the liquid into another jar. Compost the herbs. Add 1/2 tsp. of tincture a day to water as a beneficial tonic for your whole health.
Safe for Pets
For your pets, burdock root is a good addition to chamomile, and willow bark to ease arthritis inflammation and pain. I create a blend of the powdered herbs for horses at a local rescue. The blend is also safe for smaller companion animals. Usual dosages are 1/2 tsp. to 1 Tbls. of the herbs depending upon the animals weight. Burdock root combine with nettles and dandelions is a remedy often used to balance the endocrine system of animals with Cushings disease.