Getting to the Root of the Burdock Plant

By Deb
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Deb’s family owns a small herb farm and herbal skin care business, Peterman Brook Herb Farm, in Porterfield, Wisconsin. It is there that they play and work with herbs on a daily basis. Deb is a Master Gardener Volunteer, organizer of a local herb group, and a teaches herb-related and soap-making classes for a local technical college, folk school, and right on the farm.

Many of us think of the burdock plant as an herb that lodges pickers in our clothing and something we spend hours removing from our pet’s fur. But burdock is so much more. It is a blood purifier that helps remove toxins in our body including infections; it is abundant in minerals, especially iron; it has been known to promote kidney functions and is also beneficial to people with skin problems.

Burdock is very common and can be found in most areas where you are cultivating a garden. Have you ever wondered why you can till and till and till over a burdock plant and it comes back time after time? The reason is that burdock root puts its feet down wide and long.

Digging burdock root.

If you are planning on digging burdock you had best have a good shovel and plenty of time to dig. Be sure to dig roots from the 1-year-old plants that have a rosette of leaves and not the plants that have gone to seed. Dig roots in an area where there has been no spraying of pesticides or herbicides or spraying by dogs. Also, dig roots late in the year once the plant sends its energy downward.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of burdock root to some other more common herb roots that are harvested in the fall. From left to right is: echinacea, elecampane and burdock. If the root is spindly, it is likely from a second year plant so search for a 1-year plant.

Comparing roots side by side.

Once the root is dug, preparation is no more difficult that washing off the dirt and slicing up the root to dry as you would a carrot. I typically leave the bark on and just cut in small enough pieces that will dry evenly.

Slicing roots to dry.

Once sliced, place the roots in a dry, cool room on a pan for several days. After they are completely dry, store them in a Mason jar and grind or decoct as needed.

Shop local whenever possible.
Photos by Deb Doubek

Digging roots from your own yard can be fun and rewarding especially if you have a connection to the green world. Digging roots is good exercise an it is shopping as local as it gets–and it requires no shipping charges at all!

Mother Earth Living
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