A tall, branching perennial in the Asteracea family native to the temperate regions of the old world, spanning Japan to Scandanavia. It’s recognizable by its large, rounded leaves, a deep taproot, and clustered purple flowers encased in spiky, hooked bracts, which create a burr. The plants grow easily from seed when planted in the springtime and mid summer, and although it can tolerate poor soils, it prefers moist, rich, and deeply cultivated soils high in nitrogen and in full sun. Mixing sawdust and/or woodchips into the soil can make harvesting the roots easier. The roots should be harvested in September or October of the plant’s first year, and prepare as a decoction or a tincture. Both the leaves and the root can be used, but the root is stronger than the leaves for herbal remedies.
Burdock is an alterative, bitter, diuretic, and diaphoretic. The root is helpful as a tonic for clearing up skin problems, such as psoriasis, dandruff, excema, and dry scaly skin when used over a period of time. It’s also been thought to prevent baldness. To clear the skin, burdock combines well with yellow dock, red clover, and cleavers. It also stimulates bile production, aids digestive issues, and can increase appetite. It aids rheumatism, joint paint, and arthritis. It’s known to be a cold and flu preventative, helpful with cystitis, urinary tract infects, and kidney stones, and has been show to to be a mild cancer inhibitor. The root has also shown to be a uterine stimulant, so it’s best to avoid it when pregnant. Burdock also has some adaptogenic properties; It can help move the body to health by restoring balance. Externally, it can also be used as a compress of wounds and ulcers. The seeds are used to reduce blood sugar.
The root, with it’s sweet, celeriac like flavor, is often used in Japanese and Taiwanese cooking. A traditional appetizer, kinpira gobo, is a carrot and burdock pickle. The burdock root is peeled, cut into strips, soaked, and then fried with strips of carrots. A small amount sauce made from mirin, sake, dashi, and sugar are added and the roots are cooked until the liquid is gone, then seasoned with soy sauce and sesame seeds. Dashi is an awesome japanese broth rich in minerals that adds that missing umami flavor to soups other dishes. Plus it’s made with kelp, which is high in minerals good for your skin, bones, brain, and just about everything else. Burdock is also used in herbal beer brewing; There is an interesting recipe on Eat the Weeds that uses dandelion, burdock, and nettles in a beer. As soon as spring rolls around and all these awesome weeds sprout back up I’ll try this recipe out.
A decoction of 1 teaspoon dried root per cup of water, simmered for 10-15 minutes, drunk three times daily, or as a tincture of 2-4ml three times daily. For skin conditions, it combines well with yellow dock, cleavers, and red clover.
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