Burdock Root :)

Burdock is safe, useful, and relevant medicine. 

After reading this post, you will realize the many uses of Burdock and its potential in the kitchen, in your diet, and as medicine.

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From the dirt

Burdock would be a great addition to your garden, but plenty of space is needed.  Start from seed, just after threat of spring frost and give it plenty of water to get it started. Burdock is easy to grow too! Grow in full sun, in rich organic soil.  Its big, handsome leaves remind one of rhubarb or dock.  It's large, fleshy tap root grows deep in the soil, up to three feet in length.  If you are looking for root medicine, harvest the root during the first year, after first frost.  During its second year of growth, the stems and inflorescence (flower) can reach heights of ten feet.  Burdock is a biennial, meaning it will die after two growing seasons.

If you garden with Burdock or locate it in the wild, digging up the root can be quite a challenge.  They are deeply set in the soil, and break easily.  And once free from the soil, a thorough wash is necessary as clumps of dirt are bound to the root, and the many crevices of the gnarled root make it difficult to clean.   But it is worth the effort.  Even one plant, grown for only five months in the hot Colorado summer sun, can reward you with enough medicine for the year.  Once harvested, leave the dirt stained skin on (to prevent browning), until you are ready to consume, or process into medicine.  

 photo by Jeanette Burkle

photo by Jeanette Burkle

 In the Kitchen

Sometimes the best medicine is food.  No tincturing or tea making required. The leaves and stems are edible, best eaten in the spring. Once referred to as Butter Dock, cheese, butter and meat were once wrapped in the cooling leaves of Burdock to prevent spoilage. The root is loaded with nutrition, fiber, prebiotics and beneficial compounds for the body.  So let's focus a bit more on the root.  Burdock contains up to 50% inulin, a starch the plant produces and stores in the root for winter survival.  Inulin is extremely beneficial to humans because it helps increase calcium absorption in the body and it is a prebiotic.  Meaning, it helps feed the good bacteria in our gut.  A word of caution, Inulin may be problematic for those who suffer from IBS.  Inulin may rapidly ferment in the gut, and produce uncomfortable gas and bloating.  

Burdock root is a great addition to stir frys and root vegetable dishes.  Burdock root, also called Gobo root, pairs well with the earthy nuances of mushrooms, the sweetness of pork, and soy sauce.  They can be pickled as well.  

Burdock Pickles

  • 3 medium roots of Burdock, washed peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
  • 1 red chili of choice, finely diced
  • 1 2 inch piece of ginger, sliced thin
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Tamari
  • Sake
  1. Place burdock, garlic, chili and ginger into a jar
  2. Mix equal parts of Apple cider vinegar, tamari, sake and pour over the vegetables until covered. (if the liquid mixture is too potent, and a little water)
  3. Seal jar and let it sit in the refrigerator until ready to use. 

 

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As medicine

Back to safe, useful, relevant medicine.  Burdock is a liver and skin ally.  This safe herb should be used over a long period of time for chronic skin issues such as acne, eczema, and other skin inflammations.  It is slow medicine, so be patient and persistent. And make sure to utilize this plant in several ways as well.  For example, prepare Burdock root tea, Burdock root vinegar and tincture.   Then incorporate these preparations in your daily diet and routine.   

 Historically, Burdock as been referred to as a "blood cleanser" or an alterative.  But herbs don't clean the blood, the liver and kidneys clean the blood.  So think of Burdock as a friend of the liver.  We live in a world of pollutants, medications, food additives, and preservatives.  It's very possible that these substances create a strain on our liver.  When our livers are strained, or inflamed, this stress can manifest in the form of skin irritation.  So if you are looking to clear up your skin, consider including Burdock root in a tea blend, or incorporate Burdock tincture into your day. When taking herbs to help the liver, consider adding a diuretic herb as well.  Diuretics help flush out unnecessary waste from out body through urine.  Two of the best diuretics and kidney allies are Nettle and Dandelion.  

Thank you for taking the time to read.  Remember, the Denver Medicinal Plant Society is always open to new members.  No experience of medicinal plants and herbs required!  This is a society which prides itself on connection, community and educating one another. As humans of the 21st century, we need this, so stop by and have some fun.  

 We typically meet on the last Thursday of the month at the Denver Botanic Gardens.  The doors open at 6pm and the meeting begins at 630pm.