I absolutely love Burdock (Arctium lappa). Odd thing, really, because like Dandelion (which I also adore) she has the tendency to pop up wherever she wants to, which can be really entertaining at times. I spent most of this summer with a huge Burdock growing through the brick paving by my back door, something that I thoroughly enjoyed – nothing like getting a hug from a waist high Burdock every time you go out your door! The purple flowers were quite something as well, inviting lots of visits from the local bees – and since I happen to love bees almost as much as I love herbs, that turned out to be another excellent thing! The sound of fat, happy buzzing drifting through the house was an absolute delight, on a par with having bunches and trays of herbs dotted everywhere – and I mean everywhere. My living room was obscured by bunches and curtains of drying herbs from April through to September, which I just love. I still have a few bunches of silvery wormwood hanging up just because I can’t bear to not have any dried herbs hanging up at all.
This silver lady is a real mistress of survival, popping up wherever she gets a claw in and sinking down roots so deep that to dig them up in the autumn is a real labour of love. You want root? Be prepared to work for it! Not only is it difficult to really get to grips with Burdock’s root, but she sheds all her leaves in October so that if you haven’t marked where she happens to be growing this year, you can count yourself lucky if you can find her at all. I had planned to unearth a large root this year but since I forgot to note where a first year plant happened to be growing, it looks like I’m going to miss out this time. And that’s something else – she’s biennial, meaning she lasts two years generally. Its the first year roots you want, as by the second autumn she’s already flowered and gone to seed.
So, what does our fair Burdock do? Well, the leaves used to be used as masks in plays, earning her the Greek name ‘Personata’, for mask – energetically I’ve used her for those who hide behind masks and never let anyone see their true selves, and found that she works beautifully for this, softening people up and allowing them the courage and serenity to show their real selves in a safe way. Physically, she clears lymph, removes junk from the system in general and makes a really great tea with nettle – I call it Paddock Broth, because I can never bear to take anything too seriously for too long! It looks like paddock broth, but it tastes lovely. I just adore the flavour of burdock root – so rich and nourishing, and slightly oily as well as aromatic. The leaves are aromatic as well, especially in the spring! They begin as lovely little silvery green hearts, and grow into huge great big leaves. The flowers are lilac in colour and look pretty insignificant from a distance, but just go and take a closer look and you’ll be well rewarded – they are so very pretty, especially when ornamented by bees!
The flowers give way to prickly, stickly seed heads, which usually ornament the dead branches of the plant – she gives all her strength to her seeds after flowering, and the seeds themselves are little survivors, hitching a lift on any animal or person to brush past them. I like to think that they could be used to ease those who hide behind a prickly exterior, probably in conjunction with the leaf tincture for this one. The seeds can be used in drop doses for acne and other skin conditions, and are considered to be more of a specific for this than the root, which is better suited to lymph issues in general.
When collecting Burdock seeds, please learn from my mistake, folks. I made the silly decision to extract the seeds from the seed heads by hand – not a good plan. Shredded fingers, splinters under my finger nails, a long job and much swearing later, I had just enough pounded seeds to start a small batch of cottage tincture in brandy. Next time I am going to get a tray, lay the seed heads out in a mat one layer thick, and put them in a sunny, dry place. Given enough time, the seeds seem to leave the seed heads of their own volition, which I intend to remember for next year. Splinters under the nails hurt! Bashing the seeds with a mortar and pestle is good fun though 😉
I’ve found Burdock very helpful in encouraging creativity, especiallly where this is present but buried due to fear and a lack of self trust – I suppose it works in a similar way to Iris for that, which reaches towards the heavens. Burdock and Iris are two sides of the same coin, I think – Burdock allows you to open up and access your own buried creativity, whereas I use Iris for those who lack inspiriation and need something to help them reach for it. I also find Burdock encourages and supports a better awareness of intuition and what the moon is doing – when I take it fairly regularly as a tea or part of a tincture blend, I am much more ‘aware’ on a spiritual level, which brings a whole new level into whatever I am doing, whether its herb related, gardening, writing, drawing, or any other creative pursuit. I find Burdock calming and soothing, bringing moon serenity into my life. She’s a truly fantastic ally, well worth discovering for yourself!
Child of Hecate am I,
Child of Cerridwen,
Wise daughter of the dark moon.
I bring dreams and watery wisdom,
root wisdom, burrowed
deep in the body of my Mother.
My leaves reflect the moon
at both ends of her journey, and
I move your waters,
milk pale and salt red under the skin,
river and stream flowing, wearing away boulders in my path.
I am still waters, moving deeply,
the hidden muse, the gentle,
I am night to my brother’s day,
Moon pale to his bright sun.
I nourish, like the Mother.
Let the scent of me embrace you.
I give my life to nourish you.