I’ve already gone off on burdock and how aggressive those burrs can be in my hair, but I really do admire the plant on the whole. Especially when I’m feeling sick, and especially as a decoction, which is essentially a strong tea that involves simmering burdock root in water and boiling for 20-30 minutes.
The reason that burdock gets its own decoction recipe is because it is incredible to drink when you have an ailment that you are trying to get over. Burdock was first introduced to me when I had bronchitis by a local healer, Julie, who essentially said “Get this into your body, any way you can.” Cooking and eating burdock isn’t the most appealing to me (though it is quite popular in China), and sometimes tinctures lack the intimacy I crave with my medicinal plants, so if I’m feeling unhealthy, a decoction is a great way to drink in health.
A bit more on burdock: my Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, by Andrew Chevallier, tells me that the key actions of burdock are that it is detoxifying, a mild diuretic, and that it has antibiotic (particularly from the fresh root) and antiseptic qualities. Additional research has shown burdock to have antifungal properties, and hypoglycemic effects (lowering blood sugar). Historically, burdock has been used to remedy fevers and kidney stones. Chevallier elaborates, “The seeds are used to remove toxins in fevers and infections such as mumps and measles, and the root helps the body to eliminate waste products in chronic skin and arthritic conditions.”
As a biennial, the first year the burdock grows as an unassuming rosette (though still broad-leafed and substantial in size… this ain’t no dandelion!), before bursting into its somewhat overwhelming second-year status as a dominating presence in the garden. In this mature stage, the burdock is bulky, with thick, powerful stalks, and broad leaves. In a permaculture project, burdock has its pluses (it has deep tap roots and is thus extremely drought resistant, and it accumulates a large biomass which can be chopped and dropped in the garden to enrich the soil and keep down weeds as it composts), and its minuses (burdock can take over a bit as a large singular plant, and if allowed to self-propagate, burdock can take over an entire section of land and then… the burrs).
Burdock has consistently volunteered itself in at least few places in our garden to both my admiration and slight dismay (is it too much to ask for just one naturally occurring burdock plant, perhaps in a convenient location by the driveway where it isn’t shading out other plants?). Because of the bulk of the roots, I really only utilize one plant, though the pollinators love burdock flowers (which pre-empt the awful burrs!).
What you’ll need:
- 40 grams fresh harvested burdock root (This is just over 1/2 cup if you finely chop the burdock, or towards 2/3 cup with a rougher chop. Burdock is super woody, co cutting can be an act of patience. You may also use 20 grams dried burdock – I usually harvest an entire plant or two at a time, make a fresh decoction out of the first 40 grams, using the larger cut pieces, and then I lay the smaller pieces out to dry and jar for later use.)
- 3 cups water, reduced to about 2 cups
- Clean and cut the fresh burdock root into small pieces (set aside extra to dry and jar for future use).
- Place the burdock pieces in a saucepan.
- Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.
- Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by approximately 1/3
- Strain through cheesecloth or a metal sieve into a mason jar for storage, or straight into your mug if you’re going for the two cups all in one go.
- To drink, pour the amount you’d like into a cup, and store the mason jarred decoction in a cool place (refrigerator is okay) for up to 48 hours.
- Standard dosage is 2 cups, 3-4 times per day for intense cleansing.
- Decoctions may be taken hot or cold *though I prefer mine hot with a bit of honey.
If you are also drying the burdock for future use, lay it out in a warm, dry location, out of direct sunlight. Dry for a minimum of one week, though I prefer to leave mine out for a minimum of two weeks, so as to ensure that when I jar up the burdock for future use, there is no moisture and no mold can possibly develop.
Here’s to your health! *Check out my burdock tincture instructions here.