Burdock Arctium lappa
Burdock is a biennial plant with large heart shaped leaves, which have a soft downy underside and a smooth upper side. In the first year burdock has no stem and only shows as a low growing rosette of leaves. The attractive thistle-like flowers which appear between July and September are a favourite for bees and butterflies. Burdock can be found growing in hedgerows, woodland clearings and on waste ground. When the flowers go to seed they have characteristic stiff hooks known as burrs (these were the inspiration for Velcro in the 1950’s). These burrs give rise to its many common names due to their habit of clinging to fur and clothing, such as beggars’ buttons, clingers, sticky buds and sticky willow.
Burdock appears in Cornish folklore, where the pixies are said to amuse themselves by riding horses at night while plaiting their manes with ‘billy buttons’. While in the West Country, traditions of throwing the burrs of burdock onto the backs of unsuspecting friends indicate that if they stick you have a sweetheart, however if they fall off the affection would not be reciprocated.
Burdock is considered a herb of protection and purification which has the ability to ward off evil.
It is the long tap root, harvested at the end of summer which is used medicinally. It can grow up to 3 feet long and around 1 inch thick, it is fleshy and wrinkled, grey brown externally and whitish internally and has a sweet mucilaginous taste.
Burdock has the ability to clear congestion from the respiratory, lymphatic, urinary and circulatory systems while releasing water retention, stimulating digestion, and promoting kidney, liver and gallbladder function.
Burdock has potential when treating diabetes, due to its insulin content which produces a ‘good’ sugar, that does not provoke rapid insulin production.
It has antibiotic and antifungal properties, and with its mild laxative effects it aids the elimination of uric acid.
Burdock also has the ability to reduce cholesterol levels, and has also been shown to improve cellular regeneration.
Burdock is a gentle and effective herb and is used in combination with other herbs when treating a wide range of conditions, including arthritis, rheumatism, gout, skin conditions, digestive complaints, anaemia, and diabetes.
Burdock Tea can be made using the fresh or dried root, allowing ½ to 1 teaspoon of herb to 1 cup of water. Bring to the simmer. Place a lip on the pan and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Drink ½ to 1 cup, 2 times daily.