Burdock was a popular herb in folk medicine and the seeds, hung in a bag around the neck, were commonly believed to protect the wearer against rheumatism.
Burdock, arctium lappa, is a tall, attractive, wild plant growing along country lanes, on waste ground and near populated areas. A biennial herb, it produces only the large basal leaves in the first year; during the second year thick branched stems grow from the root and the whole plant is covered with fine hairs. Loose clusters of deep maroon flowers bloom from July to September. The fruits or burrs appear soon after and these stick firmly to clothing and animal fur, so being carried quite a distance.
Burdock thrives in light well-drained soil in a sunny spot. The fast-germinating seed is sown in spring or autumn where it is to flower and the seedlings thinned to a handspan apart.
The roots from the first year’s growth and the leaves both have medicinal qualities, but the leaves are used internally to a lesser extent because of their bitter taste. The roots grow quite large and in July can be lifted and dried in the usual way.
Burdock tea made from the root is considered in herbal medicine to be one of the best blood purifiers.
* To make burdock tea: Simmer a small handful of chop ped root in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes.
A decoction of burdock root is a remedy for mild stomach ailments.
* To make a decoction of burdock root: Soak a teaspoon of grated fresh root in a cup of water for about an hour then bring it to the boil. Immediately remove from the heat, strain and take a small glassful when needed.
* For painful joints, poultices of fresh leaves (see page I 6) applied to the affected parts will help to bring relief. At the same time a decoction of the fresh root, mixed with milk and honey to taste, can be drunk cold a small glassful at a time. For bruises and contusions poultices of fresh burdock leaves boiled in salted water for a few minutes are effective in reducing the inflammation.
Burdock is a cleansing, purifying herb and a decoction of the root used as a lotion will help to clear a spotty skin.
cWTo make a decoction for acne: Bring a small handful of fresh or dried root to the boil in 3 cups of water. Boil until 2 cups remain then strain and leave to cool. Store the lotion in the refrigerator. Use the lotion on the face night and morning. A small glassful of burdock decoction can be taken internally to assist in clearing the skin.
For dandruff and falling hair apply the lotion daily, massaging gently into the scalp. Do not use if the scalp is sore or irritated, or if there is persistent dandruff. A doctor should be consulted in these cases.