In Chippewa, wiisagibag meaning bitter leaf, also wiisagijiibik meaning bitter taproot and gi’ masan meaning big stickers. Common burdock is an edible and medicinal wild plant that will stick with you. It’s a favorite of mine!

Burdock’s folk names are predominately along the lines of burr-this or that-burr, like burrseed for instance. Which is questionable – it’s the part of the plant used the least. And if you’ve been playing along, you know I like folk names that describe uses.

Black Bear in Burdock
Black Bear in Burdock Asks, “You know you can eat this root?”

Edible Uses of Common Burdock

In Japan, they call the root “gobo” and if you’re in Japan reading this, I’d like to know if gobo is a really big deal, or not, arigato. The first-year roots are the most tender for eating or processing in general. I’ve been told they are the most “powerful” as well – all the energy of the plant is stored in the root the first year. If not used fresh, the peeled roots can be dried and stored, soaked and boiled before use.

I prefer to take my first coffee of the morning with burdock root tincture, a 1/4 tsp of turmeric, and whichever cream and sweetener I feel like at the moment. A burdock latte. If I haven’t made my own tincture recently, I sometimes get Nature’s Answer Burdock Root with Organic Alcohol, 2-Fluid Ounces off Amazon. Burdock root is another obviously not coffee coffee-substitute, like the dandelion root. I’d rather hide either in my actual coffee or just admit I’m really drinking tea.

The first year basal leaf stocks and young flower stalks of the second year are also highly edible. These are tasty when simmered in maple syrup and can be eaten raw or boiled. Alone they have an artichoke-like taste.

The edible young leaves as per the usual bitter potherbs should be double-boiled.

Rich in Minerals, Fiber, Calcium, Potassium, and Amino Acids

Medicinal Uses of Common Burdock

Burdock is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Integumentary
  • Lymphatic
  • Respiratory
  • Urinary

Medicinal tags include Alterative, Antimicrobial, Antipyretic, Astringent, Cholagogue, Choleretic, Circulatory, Cool and Dry, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Expectorant, Laxative, and Lymphatic. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes as an ingredient of Essiac tea. And I personally use it as one of my main bitter herbs to support my liver.

Alternative Uses of “Burrseed”

The burrs are just as, if not more terrible than gum in the hair if you want to be a horrible person.

Growing

Burdock is easy to grow, but it will overtake the garden if not kept in check. Personally, I’ve let it overtake my garden in the past (but please read *Warnings). This is one of my main herb allies and I consume burdock almost every day. And now have all the more reason to harvest it.

Warnings

It’s a diuretic.

Wild rhubarb could be mistaken for burdock and its leaves are highly poisonous.

It can cause a rash on sensitive skin.

*Burdock is not native to our area and can be a lethal menace to local birds, etc. (See this link.) I am not sure how common this phenomenon is and I’ve seen plenty of hummers feed on mine without getting caught, but there have been social media calls to rip it out where it’s not native. All the more reason to harvest the roots for food or medicine. Scratch that! I must amend this statement:

The burdock (not a native plant here!) is flowering and sticky now – a good time to trim it down. As of today, I can't…

Posted by Song of the Woods Studio on Thursday, July 23, 2020

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored. Herbalists do not have an official certification yet, but that may be in the works.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

REFERENCES

wiki/Arctium

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine

The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies: Simple Salves, Teas, Tinctures, and More

The Edible Wild

Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Iroquois Foods and Food Preparation (1916)

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

Stalking The Wild Asparagus

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn’s Sourcebook Series) (Cunningham’s Encyclopedia Series)

Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants

Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants

The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants

Forest Plants of Central Ontario

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