The Healing Garden: BURDOCK

A robust erect biennial producing a rosette of large soft dull green leaves in the first year, then growing up to 180m in the second year. Purple thistle-like flowers appear from July and ripen into burs with hooked spines.

Found in calcareous soils on wasteland, in hedgerows, meadows and at the edge of woodland. It is native to Asia and Europe but widely naturalized elsewhere – there is a fine patch of it at Tablehurst in front of the milking parlour.

Dig up the roots in the autumn of the first year, or the spring of the second year, before the stem starts to regrow.  

PARTS USED: the root, seeds, and leaves

ACTIVE CONSTITUENTS: 

Burdock root is high in omega fatty acids, soluble fibre (including inulin), lignans (important for gut biome health and as phyto-oestrogen), antioxidants, mucilage, sulphur, and B-vitamins. The active chemical constituents also include polysaccharides, volatile oil, phenolic acids, flavonoids and acetylenic compounds.

MEDICINAL USES:

Burdock root is one of the most powerful and reliable blood tonics. It is antibiotic, depurative, mild diuretic and laxative, and a bitter tonic. An excellent remedy for reducing blood cholesterol levels. 

It is used for skin conditions particularly where toxicity is a factor, for example for eczema, acne, boils, psoriasis and abscesses. It can also be helpful for gout and rheumatism, cystitis, and urinary gravel, as well as stimulating the appetite and easing indigestion, reflux and flatulence. The fresh leaf can be applied externally as a poultice for boils, bruises, acne, and rheumatic conditions. 

Dandelion and burdock is a classic combination that has been used for centuries. As a popular beverage burdock’s detoxifying action works well alongside dandelion’s diuretic and liver tonic properties. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the seeds are used for painful enlarged lymph nodes, mumps, sore throats and coughs. Culpeper writes that the juice of burdock leaves combined with honey promotes urination and eases bladder pain.

The seeds have the same healing properties as the root with a quicker action. They are diuretic and are very useful for cystitis and irritable bladder conditions, for nausea, and also for skin conditions, like the root. 

The leaves are used to make an ointment for slow healing ulcers. The juice of the leaves is also beneficial to stimulate the liver and digestion, a gentle remedy for constipation, and as a blood purifying remedy, particularly for boils. The crushed leaves can also be applied directly to boils as a poultice.

Dose: 

Root: simmer half to one teaspoon of the root per cup of water for 5 minutes. Drink up to 3 cups per day. 

Seeds: chew them or crush them and use them in an infusion. 1 tsp per cup of boiling water, infuse for 5 minutes. 3 cups per day.

Juice of the leaves: 1 tablespoon 3 times per day.

Caution: Care must be taken with the dose as high doses can cause a flare up of skin conditions, so it is best to start at a low dose and slowly increase. There are no other known contraindications or interactions with medications. 

By Kirsten Hartvig  – ND, MNIMH, DipPhyt, registered naturopath and medical herbalist, follow @healinggardenuk on Instagram /  www.thesealinggarden.uk