|Food Facts: Eating Weeds, Burdock
Have you ever stood on your porch looking out at your yard and thought, ‘just look at all that good stuff to eat’? I’m not talking about looking at a garden. Or even livestock. I’m talking about weeds. Yes, weeds. My kids and I love to snack on red clover buds and wood sorrel leaves. When dandelions are in bloom, we pick a bunch of flower tops and I mix up a parmesan batter and deep fry them (so good!) Your yard is probably full of amazing edibles that you never knew about! Put away the weed killer and grab a basket and get cooking!
For this article, I’m going to talk about Burdock. Now, I will admit, this plant is rather a pain to have around. They spread prolifically, have burrs that grab onto your clothes (or hair) and stick tight and have deep tap roots. But - they are edible and good for you. So, when you’re tearing them out of your yard, don’t waste them - eat them. Burdock has a pleasantly crunchy texture and an earthy, sweet flavor that’s similar to celeriac.
Some of the most impressive health benefits of burdock include its ability to aid digestion, detoxify the liver, balance hormones, improve skin health, reduce inflammation, and lower blood pressure.
Burdock is actually the common name of a genus of flowering perennials, whose scientific name is Arctium. The easiest way to describe burdock is as the small burrs that often get stuck on your trousers or socks when walking in a forest. Those small hooking burrs come from the burdock plant, whose plants, leaves, and stems actually have significant value as herbal or alternative remedies. The root of burdock is perhaps the most valued, as it can be eaten in large quantities as a root vegetable, and is very rich in important fiber. The dried leaves and seeds can also be used to extract burr oil, which has a wide range of medicinal uses.
The first real use of burdock is recorded in the medieval period, but it is also known in Chinese herbal medicine, and likely dates back considerably further. There are a number of ways to prepare burdock as either a food or an herbal medicine, making it highly sought after around the world, as several species have spread globally from the Old World.
Health Benefits Of Burdock
Burdock root is a blood purifier, lymphatic system strengthener, natural diuretic and skin healer. It also defends against diabetes, combats cancer, improves arthritis, helps treat an enlarged spleen and fights tonsillitis.
Dandelion and burdock have many similarities, including coming from the same plant family, treating diabetes and improving skin health. In addition, dandelion is specifically excellent at cleansing the liver and protecting the bones while burdock is an amazing blood cleanser, which also makes it very helpful to liver health.
You can eat burdock root raw, cook it, make burdock root tea or consume it in supplement form. Burdock supplements include burdock root oil, dried burdock root powder, burdock root tincture and capsules.
Blood Pressure: One of the aspects of burdock that doesn’t get enough attention is its impressive ability to lower blood pressure. The plant’s high concentration of potassium, a vasodilator, helps to relieve tension within the cardiovascular system by relaxing the blood vessels and arteries, thereby helping to prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Digestive Issues: The most well-known use of burdock is as a digestive aid for many different reasons. Firstly, the high concentration of fibers in burdock help to stimulate the digestive system and move food smoothly through the bowels, relieving constipation and preventing bloating, cramping, and ulcers. Inulin, a particular type of fiber found in burdock, is able to reduce inflammation in the gut and eliminate many types of harmful bacteria that can cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems.
Diabetes: Although all types of fiber are able to help regulate the balance of insulin and glucose in the body, inulin is particularly effective and has been directly connected to reducing the development and severity of diabetes and diabetes-related symptoms. The significant levels of insulin in burdock can also lower overall blood cholesterol by eliminating it from the body, thereby further protecting your cardiovascular system.
Detoxify the Liver: The same chemicals that give burdock its bitter taste stimulate bile production and digestive juices in the gut, which helps the liver more rapidly process toxins and flush them from the system. Clearing toxins from the blood is one of the main purposes of the liver, and burdock’s organic compounds and components have been directly linked to improving this function.
Skin Health: One of the most common side effects of constipation, high toxicity in the blood, or poor dietary habits is skin inflammation, manifesting as spots, pimples, acne, rashes, or discoloration. Many herbalists recommend burdock root supplements and herbs for the treatment of skin conditions, as this powerful herb can solve the underlying problems of toxicity or constipation in a fast and efficient way, leading to clearer, healthier skin.
Hormonal Balance: Having a hormonal disorder can be destructive and difficult for your life. To avoid that, you want to add foods and herbs that can regulate hormonal activity in the body. Burdock is able to help the liver metabolize certain hormones, like estrogen, which can help to rebalance the body’s hormonal levels to normalcy. Excess estrogen is the cause of many dangerous or even deadly hormonal disorders, so adding some burdock root to your weekly diet is never a bad idea!
Immune Health: The significant levels of vitamin C and vitamin E, both of which act as antioxidants in the body to eliminate free radicals, meaning that burdock gives a major boost to our immune system function. These antioxidants have been linked to preventing infections, lowering one’s risk of cancer, and generally supporting proper growth, development, and repair of the body’s cells and tissues.
Burdock Root Nutrition Facts
Burdock root is a slender, brown-skinned root vegetable that typically grows to be more than two feet in length. It consists primarily of carbohydrates, volatile oils, plant sterols, tannins and fatty oils.
Nutritionally speaking, one cup of burdock root contains about:
How to Use & Cook Burdock Root
Burdock root products contain the fresh or dried root of the burdock plant. You can also peel, slice and eat it raw with a little sea salt, or you can pickle it.
Burdock root should always be cleaned well and can be peeled like a carrot if you don’t like the skin on. Cleaned, dry roots can stay fresh for several months if kept in a cool and well-ventilated area. Processed parts or slices should be stored in the refrigerator and used as soon as possible.
Burdock supplements can be purchased online or in your local health food store in various forms. Some of the options likely include burdock root oil, dried burdock root powder, burdock root tincture, burdock root capsules and burdock root tea. A typical dosage of burdock is one to two grams of powdered dry root three times per day.
Should you decide to forage for wild burdock root, do so in an area that you know. Burdock roots accumulate toxins so you have to be absolutely sure you pick well away from roadsides, industrial sites and areas that have been sprayed with pesticides. If you’re going to pick wild burdock root, then you must be 100 percent sure of your burdock identification. People sometimes mistake young burdock for foxglove, which is highly toxic. It’s a dangerous error that’s easy to make. Burdock is easily identifiable in its second year when it sends up its flower stalk. If you have an established plant and have seen it flower and burr, then you can be sure that it’s Burdock.
Burdock Root History & Interesting Facts
Would you believe that the inspiration for Velcro actually came from the burdock burr? In 1941, the inventor, a Swiss engineer named Georges de Mestral, went for a walk in the woods and wondered if the burrs that clung to his trousers and dog could be turned into something useful. After nearly eight years of research, de Mestral successfully reproduced the natural attachment with two strips of fabric, one with thousands of tiny hooks and another with thousands of tiny loops. He named his invention Velcro and formally patented it in 1955.
Burdock Root Possible Side Effects & Caution
Burdock root is considered safe when consumed as a food, which is done regularly in Asian countries. However, pregnant and nursing women should avoid burdock root, as it may cause damage to the fetus.
If you’re dehydrated, you should avoid burdock due to the herb’s diuretic effects which could make dehydration worse. Though uncommon, if you’re sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae plant family, which includes ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds and daisies, you could possibly experience an allergic reaction to using burdock internally or externally, including dermatitis.
Since the roots of burdock closely resemble those of belladonna or deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), there is a risk that burdock preparations may be contaminated with these potentially dangerous herbs. For this reason, you should always purchase burdock root products from established and well-respected companies or be 100% sure of what your plant is prior to harvesting it.
There are no known scientific reports of interactions between burdock and conventional medications. However, you should talk to your doctor before taking burdock medicinally if you take diuretics (burdock could make the effect of water pills stronger), diabetes medications (burdock might lower blood sugar, causing hypoglycemia) or blood-thinning medications (burdock can slow blood clotting and, when taken with blood-thinning medications, may increase the risk of bruising and bleeding).