Considered a common weed here in the states, Burdock often doesn't get the recognition it should as the beneficial plant it is. Many people don't know what to do with it or how to use it. In Asian cuisine, Burdock, AKA Gobo root, is used in abundance. In this article, I will help uncover Burdock's many uses and hopefully give you a new understanding of this beautiful plant. Burdock should be added to the yards of each home herbalist.
Multiple parts of the plant are used and can be ingested. The fruits, seeds, roots, and leaves can be consumed and enjoyed. The plant may be cooked or eaten in its raw state. Burdock is safe to consume by many, however, some side effects will be discussed in this article.
Burdock has such healing properties to the body. Being a diuretic, diaphoretic, and a laxative it is an excellent plant for detoxifying the body. The skin, urinary tract, and the liver are areas of your body that benefit significantly with the use of Burdock. The chemical compounds that give Burdock its bitter taste are the very compounds that stimulate bile production and digestive juices in the gut, promoting the healthy flow of the gastrointestinal tract which helps to eliminate toxins from the body more rapidly. Expelling toxins from your body by flushing them out promptly helps keep your body from becoming stagnant, thus making you less likely to become sluggish. Burdock is a fantastic plant to use if you suffer from constipation, as it gets things flowing so effectively. Due to Burdock's ability to detox your body, it is considered to be a blood purifier.
Your skin is your body's largest detox organ. Your body purges many toxins out through your skin. Pimples, rashes, and many skin problems are due to your body trying to expel the toxins that are overloading your body. By ingesting Burdock, not only will your skin benefit, but your hair and nails will be healthier, as well. Keep in mind, however, that when you first start using Burdock, you may have an outbreak of pimples and rashes in the beginning due to your body expelling the toxins it has been holding onto.
Due to Burdock's ability to help the body eliminate excess fluid, many people have touted this plant for relieving their arthritis or making their symptoms lessen.
I would be remiss if I didn't cover some of the known side effects of Burdock. Due to Burdock being a diuretic, there is a possibility that it can cause imbalances in your body's electrolytes by throwing off potassium and sodium levels. It can also affect iron absorption when taken internally. Burdock has been shown to interact with hypoglycemic drugs, anti-inflammatory medications and lithium therapy, when taken internally. Burdock has varying levels of pectin complex, so those people with pectin allergies should refrain or take caution when ingesting this plant.
Allergies to Burdock may occur in individuals who are sensitive to members of the Asteraceae/Compositae family, including marigolds, chrysanthemums, daisies, and ragweed. Some people have reported Burdock tea poisoning causing Burdock Ophthalmia, which is an eye inflammation, due to ingesting too much Burdock in a given time. The burs and bristles can cause mouth sores in animals and people. People who have applied Burdock poultices have reported skin inflammation.
If you are pregnant and nursing, you should avoid Burdock. Some studies have shown that Burdock can cause damage to the fetus.
With all of this being said, please don't be scared of this plant. Use caution and apply common sense when using Burdock. There are so many health benefits to using this plant. When used in moderation, this plant is a beneficial addition to your health.
Growing and Harvesting:
Sow seeds in early spring. Burdock can grow in any location. Burdock grows best in loamy soil but will grow just about anywhere, tolerating most soil conditions. The seeds germinate quickly, and seeds should be thinned to about 18 inches apart.
Plants grow from 1 to 5 feet tall. The stems tend to be short and hairy during the first year, sprouting from a crown. From these crowns, a dense rosette of large, slightly fuzzy, heart-shaped leaves form. They will have noticeable veins. During the second year, the stems will be more elongated, more erect, and will start to branch. The leaves will alternate on the stem at this point. The bottom leaves can reach upwards of 1 foot or longer. The leaves will get smaller and smaller as they grow higher upwards on the plant. Flowers are small and reddish, clustered and surrounded by spiny bracts. Seeds are round, spiny burs, and about ½ inch wide. Blooms from July to October.
Burdock is considered a biennial, meaning it will take two years for it to go to seed. In the first year, the roots may be harvested. The second year, the seeds may be harvested. The seeds are contained in the burrs that frequently are found in pet's fur and on our clothing. The inventor of Velcro used Burdock's burrs as inspiration for creating Velcro.
Due to Burdock having an extremely long taproot, it is best harvested after the ground has been wet. Do not attempt to pull this plant up by the roots. It will usually snap and break, making for quite an aggravating attempt at harvesting. Using a spade or garden fork works best, however, a shovel will do.
As the roots become extremely hard once dried, it is best to chop the roots once harvested and washed. Once the roots have hardened, it is hard to cut into adequate portions to add to jars and bottles for making tinctures and vinegar.
The roots have a pleasant earthy flavor. The fresh roots can be refrigerated or pickled for later consumption. Gobo is a nice addition to foods, as well.
Burdock can be given to cats and dogs to help detox their bodies of impurities. The following recipe was adapted from 10 Herbs for Happy, Healthy Dogs, by Kathleen Brown (Storey Books, 2000) for cats. This tea can be consumed by people, as well.
“BURDOCK DAILY DETOX SUPPLEMENT
One teaspoon dried burdock root
2 cups water
One teaspoon dried calendula blossoms
One teaspoon dried nettle leaves
One teaspoon dried red clover blossoms
To make tea:
Add burdock root to the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the remaining herbs, and steep, covered, for 10 minutes. Strain and allow the tea to cool.”
To make capsules, use the above formula, without water. Add dried, pulverized herbs to capsules. To make plain Burdock capsules, omit the other ingredients and use just Burdock.”
Add Burdock root, fresh or dried to a clean jar. Cover the plant with vodka, at least 80 proof. Shake the jar daily and allow to sit up in a cool, dark place for about six weeks before using.
Add Burdock, whether roots, leaves, etc., to a clean jar. Cover with Apple Cider Vinegar that contains the mother. Shake daily for about six weeks. Store in a cool, dark place.