Herbs on the Bike Path: Burdock

Latin Name:
Arctium lappa

Parts used:
root, seed, leaf

Cruising along the bike path, I often noticed how healthy the plants looked behind the big fence separating the arsenic-heavy soil from the rest of the bike path near Lexington Playground. I thought maybe they should be smaller, having to deal with all that toxic overload; but now I realize that, in their little cage, they’re protected from all the dog pee.

It was the Burdock that made me stop and peer through the fence like it was a wild plant zoo. I went over and pressed my hands against the chain-link, astonished at the sight of the biggest Burdock I had ever seen. (Doesn’t get more exciting than this, folks.). Another point on why the Burdock would be so much larger in arsenic-heavy soil is that some plants have a propensity for neutralizing the toxic effects of certain heavy metals and such from our soil.

Burdock is, first and foremost, an alterative – meaning that it alters the body into a more stable state of homeostasis. It clears the skin, but moreso through its blood-cleansing action. And it clears the blood more through its liver-purifying action. By cleansing the liver, it filters waste and thus reduces the load on the circulatory system, so its effects are seen throughout other body systems, purifying and rejuvenating them. Its plant signature is its enormous leaves. Those plants with large leaves are often indicated for organs with a large surface area (like Mullein for the lungs and Comfrey for the skin, which we’ll mention in later posts), and Burdock speaks directly to the liver.

It’s a bitter plant, which stimulates digestive juices – especially bile secretion, which aids the digestive process. This is the foremost liver tonic, and is gentle enough for long-term use or with the senior dog – even those with pre-existing liver or kidney disease.

It’s rich in iron and other minerals, as well as vitamins A. C, D, and E. Fall is here, and it’s time for harvesting roots! I love Somerville, but this is yet another reason to head for Maine in the coming weeks…

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