Many people are aware that burdock root is edible: It’s a favored food in Asia, where it’s called gobo, and it sometimes turns up in the produce section of health food stores in the U.S. The petioles (leaf stems) and stalk are edible, too. But did you know it has medicinal uses?
1) Clear acne or eczema by helping your liver eliminate toxins from the body. To make a root extract for this purpose, combine one part chopped roots with two parts liquid (50% alcohol), then cover and let it sit in the dark for 6 weeks. Take it internally by putting a dropper full or two in your tea as needed.
2) Soothe a headache, with a topically applied poultice of its leaves. To make, chop the leaves, add water and mix to create a paste.
3) Soothe arthritis, also with a leaf poultice topically applied — a widely used Native American remedy.
Bonus: The leaves are said to be an effective wilderness first aid wound dressing for burns. An Amish doctor named John Keim reportedly says it works well to keep moisture out.
And I can tell you from experience that it’s pretty good wilderness toilet paper!
Look for burdock, Arctium spp., growing in disturbed soil, alleyways and roadsides. It is easy to identify by its distinctive flower. Note that the leaves are broad and ruffled, with a woolly texture and a pale underside. The structure of the plant differs depending on its age.
The first-year version of the plant grow in a rosette sort of shape, each stalk growing out of a central point in the ground. The second-year plants can get person-tall, with branching leaves. The roots get correspondingly huge, too. So if you want the roots, bring a shovel. They can be three feet deep, even! The most potent seasons to dig would be fall, winter or spring. (If you want the leaves, harvest now).
Fun trivia: The rumor is that Velcro was inspired by fuzzy burdock burrs, which cling exactly as you would expect: aggressively! Take care, and happy harvesting.
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