One herb comes immediately to mind, where the getting of the herb was very much part of my experience with using the herb. For what could possibly bring one closer to getting to know and “using” anything intimately, if one does not make an encounter with that desirable wild thing – whatever it is- in its own element, first. We’ve about all lost those experiences of encountering wild things, including plants in their element. Without those intimate experiences, I believe, we have lost our appreciation of the full meaning and value of what we have in our hands before us, because we haven’t experienced simply, getting it. For example, compare the experience of opening a 1 pound plastic bag of cut and sifted Lemon Balm, to cutting handfuls of fresh Lemon Balm growing in the filtered sunlight of a border garden in late spring. Then, you know what I’m talking about.
So, it was true with Burdock. Large fuzzy-leaved and intrusive in my garden scape surrounding my impressive deck, one spring I decided it needed to go and I was going to get it. Get it all. Besides, what a better time is there to dig it out, root and all, than spring? I had dug Dandelion roots before, and I knew they were no small ticket for getting an earth-bonding experience. I knew I could handle this Burdock, or so I thought. I was ready. I grabbed my shovel and off I started. Spadesful after spadesful I worked around the thick-necked central tap root. Down, down I went into the earth as I had to enlarge the circle as I went to loosen the hold that the soil had on this massive root. Deeper and deeper down into the earth I carefully shoveled to reach the narrowing end of the now branching taproot. Challenged not to prematurely break off the tap root I carefully continued on and on into the afternoon of that bright spring day.
Is there something about getting down to the “root of the matter”, or finding the “root cause”, or the “root of the problem”? Is it no wonder that roots are our source for solving problems? And, so it is true with Burdock. “Burdock is truly a superior tonic herb, both as a preventative and as a medicinal plant”, says Rosemary Gladstar (1). Historically, Burdock has been traditionally used as a “blood purifier”, and liver tonic. In fact, Burdock carries more antioxidant activity than most vegetables and has demonstrated prebiotic properties that may improve health (2). David Hoffman writes (3) and many herbalists agree that Burdock is a valuable remedy for the treatment of skin conditions that result in dry and scaly patches mostly effective for psoriasis if used over a long period of time. Dr. Bove (4) includes Burdock in her herbal remedies for cradle cap, cold sores and eczema for children. Deb Soule, a beloved herbalist of mine, from Maine, writes that Burdock tea or tincture is nourishing for the liver and kidneys and promotes digestion and appetite through the bitter stimulation of digestive juices and the secretion of bile while it helps eliminate ingested chemicals and waste materials (5). It seems plain and simple: Roots are our roots for health maintenance and well-being. So, how did I use that wild Burdock root that I spent all day spading the soil for? I grated it fresh, and then, dried it, and, then put it in a jar next to my stove in the kitchen. Over this past winter, I took a handful, and would throw it into my stews in which I made many. I did it over and over again. Its nutty earthy flavor penetrated the broth. No one complained. Everyone heartily ate. The little grated roots tasted like ground meat, frankly. No one knew. And, I didn’t tell. They didn’t need to know. And, that was ok. Yes, experience it, to know, first.
1. Gladstar, Rosemary. 2008. Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Bibrant Health. Storey Publishing.
3. Hoffman, David. 2003. Medicinal Herbalism. Healing Arts Press.
4. Bove, Mary N. D. 2001. An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants. Mc Graw Hill.
5. Soule, Deb. 1995. A Woman’s Book of Herbs: The healing Power of Natural Remedies. Citadel Press.