Burdock

burdock - Arctium lappa
burdock in the woods

Botanical: Arctium lappa

Family: Asteraceae

parts used: root from plants of the first year’s growth, but the leaves and fruits (commonly, though erroneously, called seeds) are also used. Burdock leaves, which are less used than the root, are collected in July.
energetics: cool, moist
actions: alterative, antifungal, antimicrobial, astringent, bitter tonic, demulcent, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, diaphoretic, hepatic, lymphatic, laxative (mild)
used for: eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, pre-biotic, promotes healthy skin, supports liver health, nutrient dense food
plant preparations: food, tincture, decoction

Greater Burdock is rather tall, reaching as high as 6 feet (2 meters). It has large, alternating, cordiform leaves that have a long petiole and are pubescent on the underside.

The flowers are purple and grouped in globular capitula, united in clusters. They appear in mid-summer, from July to September. The capitula are surrounded by an involucre made out of many bracts, each curving to form a hook, allowing them to be carried long distances on the fur of animals. The fruits are achenes (a type of simple dry fruit); they are long, compressed, with short pappuses. The fleshy tap-root can grow up to 3 feet long.

How to Use Burdock

According to jim mcdonald (http://herbcraft.org)

… In autumn, these flowers are replaced by round brown burrs that persist into the winter. The seeds contained in these burrs are also used medicinally. Their use is similar, though the seeds are used for acute disorders (their action is quicker to manifest, but less permanent) while the root is preferred for chronic conditions (it’s slower to manifest, but yields more permanent results).

Culinary Uses

In Japan, roots are used as a vegetable called gobo. The stalk, with the outer skin removed, is a tasty raw vegetable. Young greens can be cooked as a bitter vegetable; roots, cooked into a nutritious soup.
As a source of inulin, the root is best dug and used in autumn. Even though slightly bitter, burdock feeds not only the gut flora, but is considered a digestive tonic as well.

Burdock Fries

Burdock is really good to make “french fries”. Peel your burdock root, slice into fries and place in the oven with oil and salt and cook for about 15 minutes at 450F. YUM.

dandelion and burdock soda
Dandelion & Burdock – also commercially available

Dandelion and Burdock ‘Pop’

This drink is a little like a root beer and somewhat like sarsaparilla. It is an old drink, dating back to the 13th century in England. The recipe here is a more modern, sweet version, but you can leave the sweetness out if you prefer, or substitute sugar for honey.

Ingredients

  • Dandelion root – several roots, ground up
  • Burdock root – 2 large roots, ground up
  • Vanilla – either pod (1/2) or essence (1 tsp)
  • pinch of cinnamon or all spice
  • 1 lemon or lime
  • 300g sugar
  • 1 pint of water

Indications:

  1. Make sure the roots are clean.
  2. Chop the roots up as finely as you can and place them in a pan with the water.
  3. Add the vanilla pod/essence, cinnamon and lemon juice to the pan
  4. Boil for about 20 minutes.
  5. Strain the liquid, removing the roots into a container
  6. While still warm, add the sugar and stir till dissolved
  7. You will now have a cordial to dilute to taste

Serve with soda or still water!
recipe courtesy “Ask a Prepper”

Using Burdock for Wellness

Burdock root is probably the most important detoxifying agent in the herbal arsenal. It cleanses the blood by increasing the effectiveness of all the body’s elimination systems. Burdock’s diuretic effect helps the kidneys filter impurities from the blood. It helps push toxins out through the skin, and it also boosts the ability of the liver to remove toxins. The bottom line is that by pushing toxins out through a variety of pathways, burdock can purify the blood with minimal side effects and with minimal stress to the body.

Burdock is valued in many cultures for its safety and effectiveness. The root, leaves and seeds were known to the ancient Greeks as healing remedies, and with the exception of traditional Chinese medicine which employs seeds, it is the roots that are used today as both a food and a medicine.

Burdock is considered a strong liver purifier with particular value for arthritic, glandular, and skin problems. Burdock root aids several of the body’s organs in elimination, including kidneys, lymph nodes, colon, and skin. It is said to eliminate toxins from the blood very rapidly and has been used as an antidote for poisoning. It helps to clear the blood of harmful acids due to calcification deposits. It has been used as a poultice as a remedy for sores and bug bites, and has also been used for skin cancer.

Burdock affects the pituitary gland helping to release protein in proper amounts, thereby maintaining hormonal balance. Burdock is considered safe for use in pregnancy as it is mineral-rich and can help balance the body’s systems as well as hormones. It can also help prevent water retention and jaundice in an infant. Europeans have used the root as a remedy for prolapsed or displaced uterus. [1]

burdock - Arctium lappa

Burdock is a staple in skin and liver support.

The Chinese used burdock for skin complaints such as acne and eczema. There was also a controversial case involving burdock back in the 50’s. A doctor called Harry Hoxsey had created a number of cancer treatments. The treatments used secret formulas and often contained wild flowers and plants. Hoxsey had a case brought against him by the FDA because he didn’t fully label his treatments for cancer, one of which included burdock root. Interestingly, research has continued since then into the use of burdock as a cancer treatment.

  • Burdock is one of the best herbs to aid in purifying the blood. In all skin problems, it is a certainly helpful and has aided in supporting the clearing up of many cases of eczema, either taken alone or combined with other remedies, such as Yellow Dock
  • An infusion of the leaves is useful to impart strength and tone to the stomach, for some forms of long-standing indigestion
  • The anti-scorbutic properties of the root make the decoction very useful for boils, scurvy and rheumatic issues
  • The seeds and roots may be useful in treating a variety of skin conditions, including acne and dryness, especially when these complaints are due to poor diet, constipation, or liver burden. The liver plays an important role in removing impurities from the blood, producing bile to digest fats, metabolizing hormones, and storing excess carbohydrates, in addition to its other functions.
  • The roots are also helpful to the body for the release of bile which helps the liver to remain healthy supporting the improvement of digestive disorders.
  • The seeds are traditionally used to prevent fever, reduce inflammation, as an antibacterial, and to reduce blood sugar levels. The leaves are traditionally used as a mild laxative and diuretic.
  • A burdock wash can be used to prevent acne and fungal skin infections like athlete’s foot and ringworm.
  • It is known to support health by supplying the body with antioxidants
  • Many nutrients in burdock root enhance its diuretic ability, promote cleansing of blood, and therefore, enhance your overall body wellness.
  • The burdock plant is generally used in the making of herbal remedial mixtures with the addition of other beneficial herbs for example the dandelion, where the other herb is added to balance the strong individual cleansing action of the burdock.
  • Iron, potassium and calcium are plentiful in burdock which makes it a healthy vegetable.
  • A list of ailments like constipation, ulcers, colds, arthritis and kidney stones can be aided with the support of burdock.
  • It might help in resolving issues with memory as it contains arctigenin.

An interesting study done on the use of Burdock with Burns and Wounds™ states “The use of this herbal remedy appears to be an acceptable alternative to conventional burn care for these types of burns. The trauma of dressing changes was virtually nonexistent.” Wow. You should read that study. Amazing results! [2]

Dose:

decoction: 1-2 teaspoons of dried root in 8-10 ounces of water, decoct 15-20 minutes, steep 40 minutes, drink up to 3x/day
tincture: 2-4 mL 3x/day of a 1:5 tincture
seeds: In traditional Chinese medicine, dose averages 3 to 10g per day

burdock - Arctium lappa
burdock in the cold of winter is easily identified by its seed

Safety:

  • The root in large quantities may stimulate the uterus and therefore should be used with caution during pregnancy.
  • Note: although burdock root has traditionally been used to treat diabetes, in excessive amounts, it may interfere with blood sugar medications.

Video! Find out how to use burdock (Arctium lappa) for medicine from these herbalists: Jessie Conway, Matthew Wood, Brigitte Mars and Mary Bove. Used to treat many skin conditions and for fat metabolism.

“On a psychological level, Burdock helps us deal with our worries about the unknown… which lurk in the dark woods beyond our control. It seizes upon deep complex issues, penetrates to the core and brings up old memories and new answers. It gives us faith to move ahead on our path, despite the unknown problems that might snare us on our way. It helps the person who is afraid become more hardy, while it brings the hardy wanderer back to his original path. It restores vigor and momentum.”
~ Matthew Wood, Herbalist [4]

Joe Hollis talking about Burdock

“In the traditional herbalism of Europe and North America, burdock (Arctium lappa, A. minus) is probably the most prominent herb for skin complaints, such as acne, boils, or eczema.”
~ Paul Bergner, Folk Remedies Database

References:

  1. HerbClip News (2011). Burdock – The Purifying Root. Online; http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbclip/421/421.html
  2. The Effect of Burns & Wounds (B&W)/Burdock Leaf Therapy on Burn-Injured Amish Patients – Mar 25, 2014.The Effect of Burns & Wounds (B&W)/Burdock Leaf Therapy on Burn-Injured Amish Patients” A Pilot Study Measuring Pain Levels, Infection Rates, and Healing Times
  3. jim mcdonald, http://herbcraft.org/
  4. Matthew Wood, http://www.matthewwoodherbs.com/Mattwood.html
  5. Hoffmann, David. 2003. Medical Herbalism The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester Vermont: Healing Arts Press
  6. Bergner, Paul. Folk Remedies Database. Boulder: Bergner Communications, 2001.

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