Burdock is a variety of thistle that is widespread across England and Scotland, though less so in other parts of Europe. As you might expect, it has a rich history in English herbology and culture, its name derived from Anglo-Saxon and with references in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’.
Burdock is particularly useful in skin complaints but is also sometimes used for respiratory problems and as a diuretic.
Although mainly found in England, a very similar form of burdock also grows wild in Japan (hence the herb’s popularity in Asian recipes). It is a distinctive thistle-like plant with large dark leaves and prickly brown burrs that can easily attach to clothing.
Burdock oil is extremely popular in Europe as a soothing scalp treatment. Applying it regularly to your scalp can help reduce hair loss, strengthen hair and ease irritation. It is also excellent at stopping dandruff.
Although it doesn’t grow wild in China, Burdock has become a popular remedy there. It is used not only for hair loss but also by pregnant women, as it is reputed to increase lactation.
In addition, Burdock has diuretic properties that can help with hypertension and some kidney disorders. However, always consult your doctor for advice on medical issues.
A popular drink in England is Dandelion and Burdock, which uses the sweet taste and aroma of Burdock root to good effect. It is naturally fizzy and sometimes mixed with Gin.
The Japanese Burdock is used extensively in Asian cuisine, sautéed with carrots in a sauce of soy, sesame oil and sugar. It is occasionally even found in sushi rolls! In European/American cuisine, Burdock got a boost from its inclusion in the popular Macrobiotic Diet. As a low calorie, nutritious food that is high in natural fiber, Burdock is becoming increasingly popular.
Finally, Burdock was actually the inspiration for modern Velcro! A Swiss inventor, George de Mestral, noticed the way that the Burdock burrs stuck to his clothes. He took the unique hook-and-loop system, reproduced it in plastic, and came up with one of the great modern inventions.
The Burdock root is the part used in herbology. Most retailers stock it as an oil for easy application to the scalp.