Herb of the Month: Burdock Root

Happy New Year! If you had to guess, what would you guess the most common New Year's resolutions in America were? The top three resolutions on average each year are: exercising more, losing weight, and eating healthier.

Creating a lifestyle where we feel healthy and happy sometimes is easier said than done, especially when old habits die hard. Do you ever feel like you just need that little extra push? Maybe a really good cleanse for some "out with the old and in with the new?" What if I told you there is a root that can jumpstart your body for a healthier balance and help you stick to your healthy habits, like an annoying burr on your back? Look no further than to our lovely friend Burdock root, our January herb of the month. 

Burdock root, or Arctium lappa, is part of the Asteraceae family. Genus “Arctium” stems from the Greek word “arktos,” which means bear. This is likely in reference to the bristly spurs of the burdock seed pod, as well as the habit bears have of digging up and eating the roots. How cute! The species name, “lappa”, means burr or thorn in Latin. Burdock hails from Asia and Europe, with use dating back to the Middle Ages and the infamous herbalist Hildegard of Bingen. Historical accounts reference burdock root for the treatment of burns, kidney stones, gallbladder issues, and headaches. In Japan, burdock root is also known as gobo and is a common ingredient in cooking! It is used similarly to other starchy vegetables and is often braised, fried, or used in soups and broths. This herb has a deeply rooted (pun intended) history in Indonesia and the United States as well. Native American tribes such as the Ojibwa, Iroquois, Cherokee, Malecite, and Menominee use burdock root for moving the waters of the body, and for the cleansing of the body and spirit. 

This plant grows in full or partial sun and in a variety of soil conditions. In fact, it seems to grow in places where most other plants will not! It is biennial, completing its life cycle in two years. The roots grow deep into the soil, which unfortunately can make it difficult to harvest. This powerful root isn’t afraid to make us work for access to its magic! The stalk adorns a thistle-like flower that eventually dries up into a burr. Remember how I mentioned how this herb will really stick with you? These burrs are notorious for clinging to anything and everything that they come into contact with. In fact, they are so notorious they inspired the invention of Velcro! Beyond physical medicine, we can look to burdock for the inspiration we need to “stick” to our goals. 

Burdock root is sweet, bitter, cooling, balancing, damp, and dry. It is known as an alterative, meaning it can help the body eliminate the excess buildup of metabolic waste throughout all of our major organs. This helps cleanse the blood and lymphatic system and supports the liver and kidneys in detoxifying our bodies. Burdock root has also been shown to reduce the long-term effects of alcohol damage on the liver! It really is quite the perfect herb for us to explore in the new year as so many of us strive for a fresh start in our bodies, especially after the holiday season. Burdock is anti-inflammatory, mucilaginous, and a demulcent herb, which means that it can soothe our aching joints and tissues with that much-needed moisture! In need of microbiome support, too? Look no further, as burdock is rich in inulin. Inulin is a soluble fiber and prebiotic that enriches our microbiome by supporting beneficial bacteria in the gut. Burdock increases stomach bile production which assists in digesting food, absorbing nutrients, and assimilating fats. This ally has also been used to treat urinary conditions and skin conditions such as burns, psoriasis, and eczema. Seriously, what an amazing plant! 

All in all, burdock is an incredible root that makes a great ally for those who are in need of a whole body cleanse. Burdock will purify those murky waters within and leave you feeling refreshed, renewed and ready for your year ahead. 

References:

Covington, L. (2022, September 12). What is burdock root? The Spruce Eats. Retrieved December 17, 2022, from https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-burdock-root-and-how-to-use-it-4779970 

Foley, M., & Kavakich, F. (2020, October 21). Burdock: The indispensable root. The Alchemist's Kitchen. Retrieved December 17, 2022, from https://wisdom.thealchemistskitchen.com/burdock-the-indispensable-root/#:~:text=Burdock%20Root%20has%20been%20in%20recorded%20medicinal%20use,rabies%2C%20burns%2C%20kidney%20stones%2C%20gallbladder%20issues%2C%20and%20headache. 

Rosalee. (n.d.). Burdock benefits. HerbalRemediesAdvice.org. Retrieved January 5, 2023, from https://www.herbalremediesadvice.org/burdock-benefits.html

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