Pet Corner

Ten (or so) of My Favorite Herbs

| March/April 2006


It’s not the easiest thing in the world for this mostly Western-trained herbalist to try to limit my herbal choices to my top 10 or so favorites. I do, after all, recommend several dozen herbs fairly regularly, and I know a little bit about several hundred more. However, what I’ve found, over the years, is that I choose to use the herbs that have given me a good story to relate, and I tend to forget the ones that have not (yet) taught me their story to tell.

The following are some of my favorite herbs, the ones that top the list of my most-often prescribed remedies, and the ones that have given me a healing story to tell. For some of them I’ve included an abbreviated story, and if you want to read more about my personal stories for the herbs I use, check out my new website at

Burdock: Bountiful Benefits

I love burdock (Arctium lappa) for its “trickster” ways. Horse folk despise burdock’s cockleburs that cling to manes and tails and are almost impossible to comb out. Fittingly (fittingly for the trickster mindset, that is), burdock root thrives in any corral where horses have ever been kept. I’m sure any horseman would pay good money to have the nasty weed dug out.

On the other side of the trickster’s fence, I’ve seen fresh burdock root for sale in our local health-food store for upwards of nine dollars per pound. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners consider the herb an extremely beneficial tonic and lymph cleanser. But it is not without much effort that you can harvest its benefits — burdock roots go straight down, seemingly all the way to China, and harvesting them requires a sharp-shooter shovel and a lot of sweat-of-the-brow digging.

Burdock root is known to herbalists as a blood purifier, and it is included as an important ingredient in many toxin-eliminating, bowel-cleansing and lymphatic- cleansing formulas. It often is used to treat arthritis, rheumatism and skin conditions. Burdock root, taken as a tea or tincture, is especially good for treating dry or scaly skin conditions and eczema.

Burdock also promotes kidney function, and it is a liver cleanser. It acts as a mild diaphoretic, and many cultures have taken advantage of the nutritive qualities of the roots, often combined with other vegetables and herbs in a hearty soup stock.

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