Arctium lappa, A. minus
Part/s Used: Root + Leaf
Energetics: Cooling, moistening
Taste: Salty, sweet, bitter, pungent, oily
Actions: Alterative, lymphatic, diuretic, hepatic, prebiotic
Tissue state: Atrophy, stagnation
Constituents: Tannin, arctigenin, arcitin, beta-eudesmol, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, inulin, trachelogenin 4, sitosterol-beta-D-glucopyranoside, lappaol, diarctigenin, minerals, vitamins B1, B2, C, and A, carotene, polysaccharides (inulin), flavonoids, lignans, mucilage, pectin.
Folklore: Burdock was strung over doors to ward off evil. A brew of burdock tea was used to make the hair shiny.
Tincture: Fresh 1:2 Dry (ratio & % alcohol): 1:5 60%
Tea: Cold infusion or strong decoction
Acetum: Fresh 1:3
Burdock is a wild food and medicine indigenous to Asia and Europe that has naturalized overtime in North America. Burdock thrives in poor soil along riverbanks, roadsides and wastelands. A large biennial with a rough sandpaper like texture. In the first year, burdock stores its energy in the root for winter to fuel the growth of its second year 4-5 foot tall seed stock. It produces a beautiful purple thistle like flower. The flowers fade and the bristles stiffen into a more efficient burr that contains its seeds that sticks to animal fur and clothing when brushed against. Burdock roots are carrot like, fibrous, slightly aromatic an grows 1-2 feet in length.
Burdock root is a versatile herb to have in the home apothecary. It’s bitter, sweet and oily. Rich in iron, magnesium, manganese, and thiamine. This is an important herb to know because it does so many things for many kinds of people. Burdock one of the best herbs for dry atrophy.
First and foremost, burdock is an alterative on a lot of different levels. A blood purifier that works directly on the blood as well as the lymph and has a strong affinity for the skin. Its amphoteric action will do different things different people depending on what it needs (acts on the sebaceous glands, if the sebaceous glands are under secreting it can help produce more oil, if it over secreting it can dry things out) by regulating the oily metabolism of the body. Burdock is useful when the body tissues need cleansing, moistening, and nourishment. Which helps to detoxify and calm external skin issues such as eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis and dandruff and acne. Burdock is a great base for an alterative formula.
The bitter action of Burdock stimulates the secretion of bile. Considered a “bear medicine” by the native americans stimulating the gallbladder and the liver. Combines well with dandelion root and yellow dock. Used as a bitter tonic to cleanse and relieve liver stagnation by promoting the secretion of digestive juices and helps one to assimilate nutrients more effectively and completely. Works similarly to dandelion root, but dandelion is a stronger bitter and works deeper in the liver.
Burdock is an excellent prebiotic. Building, nourishing, and strengthening healthy bacteria in the gut to cultivate a well-established microbiome. Useful for individuals who have taken antibiotics.
There is something quite lovely of a long slow decoction of burdock, dandelion root and nettle. It is a simple, nutritive alterative formula. Moisten it up with licorice is quite delicious.
The leaf can be used as a fresh plant poultice, reducing inflammation from thermal sunburns, rashes, and poison oak. The fresh root poultice can be used as a draining agent for cystic acne and abscesses (use along with another disinfectant)
The root of burdock should be unearthed in the Fall during its first year of growth. Or its second spring before it sends up its seed stock. Burdock can accumulate toxins and pollutants, so it is important to be mindful of where you harvest the root. Loosen the dirt all around the tap root the best you can and slowly work the root free with your hands. If you pull to hard the root will snap. Slow and steady work can often reward you with a taproot two feet or more in length. Do not wash the roots until right before eating. If you decide to grow burdock in the garden, please plant responsibly. Cut burdock before it goes to seed. It is a nonnative and spreads rapidly!
Burdock is in the Asteraceae family and could trigger a rare reaction in people sensitive to this family.
Sources:The Book of Herbal Wisdom by Matthew Wood
A Modern Herbal Volume 1 by Mrs. M. Grieve
The Science and Art of Herbalism by Rosemary Gladstar
Northwest School for Botanical Studies by Christa Sinadinos
Evolutionary Herbalism Vitalist Herbal Practitioner Program By Sajah Popham