Tapping the root

I am on day four of adding burdock decoction to my daily routine. Arctium lappa, Burdock, if you don’t know, is that low, large leafey plant that, in the summer, makes wonderful umbrellas for gnomes. In the fall, second year plants will shoot up a stalk with burrs that stick to everything (it inspired Velcro!).

Jennifer sits with Burdock in May at Heartstone.

The medicine I want is in the root, which are the huge, monstrous tap-kind. You learn a lot about yourself digging up dock roots (google for pictures of the beasts). It’s a plant we studied at Heartstone when we studied the liver — and we studied the liver the very first weekend. As an herbalist, my teachers instructed us to treat the liver first, because the liver functions to process toxins — that are both absorbed and created by the body (including hormones). And our lives are so incredibly toxic — down to the plastic keyboard that I’m typing this out on.

Burdock is a liver tonic, blood cleanser and nutritive. Alerative, anti-pyretic, rejuvenative and strongly diuretic. Burdock makes you sweat. And you sweat through your skin. It’s amazing as a skin clarifier and that’s why I’ve added it to my regime.

To make the decoction, take one palm full of the dried root and cover it with water in a stainless steel saucepan. Simmer for 20-45 minutes, strain and enjoy ((We add the Enjoy! part even though it usually tastes like feet and no one really enjoys that.))!

Unfortunately, it tastes about how you think it might. Like health. Like earth. And like it sounds — B U R R R R R D O C K. I shudder, just thinking about it. But that’s part of the problem of knowing all this stuff. You can’t unknow it and perhaps there’s some ignorant bliss in using Noxema on your face every night. Drinking a decoction that requires all kinds of preparation ((omg! Putting something on the STOVE!! IN WATER!! and giving it time to simmer??)) is a dedicated effort, but your body is a funny machine. It knows, innately, when you’re doing something that’s good. Your nutritive baseline shifts and after a few days, you find yourself craving it.

Herbal medicine is an exercise in patience, but at day four I already feel the subtle shifts. I don’t choke it down like I did on day 1 and my pores seem smaller in the mirror. I’m happy to report back later, but Susan Weed says in Healing Wise that, “Burdock is not for people in a hurry, or most acute problems; burdock works thoroughly and slowly.”

And that is the way I would prefer to work as well. Maybe this is why, despite myself, we’re getting along so well.

Author: Melissa

Melissa Jozefina is a poet, stargazer, and fortune teller.

  • But burdock is so yummy in a stir-fry, whycomes like feet deconcocted? Mysteries of the plant-people. I love that you do this, and the pictures—

    • I encourage you to try it! It’s not the most feet-like root I’ve tasted, but swallowing more than 8 oz at a time is definitely a challenge for me, and it’s not something I can sip on leisurely. <3

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