and the winner is…

Congratulations to Barbara McGouran for correctly guessing July’s green ally: Burdock (Arctium lappa)!

Burdock is a biennial plant and in the second year of growth, he/she grows very tall (sometimes up to 8 feet!) and develops flowers. These flowers or “burrs” of burdock are hermaphroditic and self-pollinating. Burdock is also an attractor of pollinating insects like bees. The burrs are nature’s velcro, sticking to anything or anyone who brushes by (another strategy to ensure the next generation of burdock).

Like its friend Mugwort, Burdock shows up in disturbed ground and poor soil. Burdock’s presence helps to improve the soil, breaking up the earth with his/her long taproot and drawing up minerals from deep in the soil. When the plant dies back after the second year, the organic material and nutrients he/she provides enriches the soil so that other plants demanding richer soil can grow. In this way, burdock is a pioneer species promoting ecological succession.

Burdock’s roots are well known as a nourishing food. The Japanese name for burdock is “gobo,” a key ingredient in kinpira, a delicious salad dressed with mirin, soy sauce, and sesame seeds. Burdock root is rich in inulin, a dietary fiber. Burdock is known as a “blood purifier” that supports the liver, bile production, and digestion. It also helps to clear chronic skin conditions such as eczema.

 

 

 

Medicinally, the root is taken as a decoction: simmer 1 teaspoon of dried root per cup of water for about 20 to 25 minutes. Strain out the root. Drink 1 cup, 3 times per day. {source: David Hoffman} The decoction can also be added to soups, as can the fresh root.

Today I made a syrup of burcock root by cooking the decoction down even more, reducing the liquid by about one-third, and then adding honey and maple syrup to sweeten and preserve.

I like to infuse the leaves of burdock in oil and use the oil in a skin soothing salve. Last month’s green ally winner, Roxanne, likes to add the dried leaves of burdock with lavender buds to apple cider vinegar to use as a hair rinse. I’m going to have to try that!

I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of burdock’s great attributes. It’s a good thing I’ve chosen to “walk with” this green ally for the herbalism course I’m currently taking at Third Root. I hope to provide you with more insights into this deeply rooted lovely in the near future.

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