Other: great burdock, gobo, goboshi
Arctium lappa L.1
Plant Family: Asteraceae
Burdock has been an important botanical in Western folk herbalism and traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, primarily valued for its cleansing and skin smoothing properties. The entire plant is edible and is a popular vegetable in Asia, particularly in Japan. More recently, burdock has been an ingredient in hair tonics and in cosmetics for mature skin.
A biennal member of the Asteraceace family, with bright pink-red to purple thistle-like flowers on long stalks, and oblong to cordate, huge hairy leaves, that is native to Europe and Asia, and now naturalized in North America and Austrailia. This plant can grow to a very robust height, reaching up to 9 feet, and its aromatic "carrot-like" taproot can grow as much as 3 feet deep into the ground (making them difficult to harvest). It is naturalized and abundant in northern U.S and Europe and is considered a weed in such areas.
The generic name arctium is derived from the Greek word for bear or arktos and the species name, lappa, is from the Latin word lappare which means "to seize." The fruit (bur) looks rough and hairy resembling a big, fuzzy bear and will grab on to anything in the vicinity in order to spread its seed, hence the name. Its common name is derived from the French word bourre referring to a tangle of wool (often entangled with burs) and the German "dock" referring to large leaves.
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
Cultivated in China, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and in various countries in Europe.
Seeds are picked in the fall and can be loosened from the chaff with a rolling pin. Harvesting the roots is no easy task yet can be done in the fall of the first year or spring of the second, preferably the former. According to the late herbalist Michael Moore "harvesting full flowered plants in the fall can be as much work as digging up a small tree"
HISTORY AND FOLKLORE
Burdock is an all-purpose herbal that has been used continually for myriad purposes the last few thousand years in Asia and Europe, and more recently in North America. It is a food plant called gobo in Japanese and is a much-consumed vegetable in Japan. The root may be eaten fresh or cooked and the young leaves can be cooked like any other vegetable. The stalks have a taste somewhat like asparagus and can be eaten raw in a salad, boiled, or candied with sugar.
In traditional Chinese medicine, burdock fruit has been used continually for thousands of years. It is known to balance internal heat, is specifically helpful for supporting skin health, and is associated with lung and stomach meridians. It is considered energetically cold and having a slippery consistency that soothes mucus membranes. The root is also commonly cooked in order to change its energetic properties and specifically to make it easier to digest. In European folk medicine, an infusion or decoction of the seeds was employed as a diuretic. It was helpful in enhancing health through supporting digestion, and as topical poultice.
Herbalist Matthew Becker states that burdock is a "potent yet safe lymphatic decongestant.” It also contains inulin which feeds the healthy bacteria in the colon.
Burdock is considered by many herbalists to be the best known medicinal for skin conditions (Hoffman, Moore). This herb is highly effective, gentle, and multipurpose. It promotes the flow of bile and also increases circulation to the skin. Further, it is a mild diuretic and lymphatic. Burdock is used widely as an alterative and blood purifier. The leaves can be made into a fresh poultice to soothe poison oak and poison ivy and a leaf decoction makes a therapeutic wash for the skin.
FLAVOR NOTES AND ENERGETICS
Flavor: acrid bitter cold, sweet
USES AND PREPARATIONS
Dried root as a cold infusion, decoction, or tincture.
No known precautions.
We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. For educational purposes only.