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Burdock...Queen of the Herbs!

     These photos are fresh. I have just been down to a local nature reserve, near where I live, to take them.  I have been following the progress of this glorious patch of Arctium lappa (Burdock) since the early spring.

     The signatures of Burdock are complex (From the Doctrine of Signatures, an old but presently applied belief system that states the Creator placed a signature or sign on plants to indicate their healing value).  I believe that signatures go beyond the physical attributes or specific resemblance to body parts and can also encompass smell, taste, sound and feel.

     If we look at the first picture we see that  Burdock is spreading and widely reaching.  It is also strong and assured looking.  This reflects the plant itself, which is wide reaching and reliable in the systems it affects.

     One of the organs most affected by Burdock's far reaching action is the skin.  In the second picture we see the signature of the skin in the leaves, which are greatly similar in their structure to human well as the underlying vessels that serve it, implying a deeper working in skin disease than a superficial one.  The exceptionally large leaves suggests the equally large surface space occupied by our own skin in comparison to other organs of the body. Burdock is particularly specific for skin conditions that cause the point of scratching.  This specific action is reflected in the burrs themselves, as seen in the lower picture.  We see this same affiliation in other herbs of a scratching nature such as Clivers (Galium aperine) or Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) both herbs known to be excellent in the treatment of skin conditions.

     Skin conditions usually signify a toxic state of the blood.  Burdock has an effect on three major organs that play a role in keeping the blood in top form; The Liver, The Kidneys and the Skin.  It improves the action of both the Liver and the Kidneys and facilitates the removal of toxins from the body through its diaphoretic and diuretic action.

     However, Burdock's action goes deeper than that.  As a bitter herb, it is naturally cooling.  Its action in improving Liver function takes physical heat from the body.  There is also an emotional element to this function.  The liver is the centre of physical heat in the body, but it is also the centre of emotional heat, in the form of anger.  Like its roots, which run deep, Burdock can affect that deep seated and unreleased anger that sits in the liver and is directed at ones self.  It is also useful against the unresolved outward anger (anger against others) that gathers and stores in the gallbladder.  If such anger remains unresolved it hardens and rubs....and causes intermittent expressions of pain...usually expressed as gall stones in the physical sate.

     When I am mixing herbs I try to find one that matches a patient profile closely.  Burdock comes to mind quite often.  You will understand this when you think of how many people you know with unresolved anger from the past.  How many of those have gall stones?  How many have "hot" (itching/irritating) skin conditions  Guided by this understanding of plant/patient profiles, the most empathetic plant to the overall patient condition forms the primary role in my prescription while other herbs are chosen to complement and support the character of the dominant herb.

     The leaves, roots and seeds of Burdock are gathered by herbalists.  Traditionally, roots are taken from first year plants at the end of the growing season ( Autumn).  It is good if you are gathering the herb from the wild that you take it from a place where Burdock has grown regularly over the years as first year plants do not go on to develop the burs that help with identification.  Alternatively, you can grow some yourself in your garden or vegetable patch.  The roots are edible as a vegetable while the leaves can be made into tea.  I have also used the leaves, in combination with other herbs, in a salad.

     Burdock is said to be drying.  This would make sense with respect to its diuretic and diaphoretic action.  Perhaps this is why it is said to work best in the form of an infusion...the extra liquid intake working to balance its action.  

     For me Burdock has a strong connection to the water element, the moon and the feminine.  Its roots contain much mucilage...and it does like damp, albeit well drained,  habitats.  Its connection to the water element will mean it has a role to play in heat and inflammation in the body.  We have already established it as a cooling plant.  It takes heat from the body by improving the liver function and, thus, the digestive process in well as through its role as diaphoretic in fever or diuretic in inflammatory conditions of the urinary organs.

     For me, many plants with that water-moon -feminine connection are bound by a common signature....They all tend to have a white/silveriness to the underside of their leaves.  I would like to explore this idea in another blog.  In the meantime, start to jot down all the plants you find with a whiteness under their leaf...and see what their connection is to water-moon-feminine..and what role might the water element play in imbalances within the human condition?


Health and Happiness

The Green Man  




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