Burdock root is the cat's meow. It's from Japan, where it is called "gobo," and it looks like a really long greyish-brown carrot. You can eat it, you can make tea out of it, and you can make a tincture out of it. In Japan, I asked about it when we put a strange grey carrot in the soup for dinner. I was told that most Japanese people use gobo when they have a cold. This was my first introduction to the root that is now gaining popularity in the west.
Medicinally, it cleans you out and builds you up. It's great for situations when you've been exposed to something toxic (chemicals, radiation), if you've had a severe allergic reaction, if you are breaking out or have any sort of skin condition, if you're recovering or trying to avoid sickness, if you are having problems with a flaky scalp, if you have smelly feet or bad breath, or just want to experience extreme good health. Basically, it's a great addition to a super-hero diet.
Burdock can be consumed in powders and pills and tinctures, but it is best as a food and as a tea. It is mild, and it is unlikely you'll ever take too much. Know that if you do consume large amounts, detox symptoms may occur (dizziness and fatigue). Like many root medicines, I have found it is actually the most effective when heated. In fact, when eating the root itself, it is best to cook it thoroughly, which may take longer than you'd think. After a while (simmering for 20-30 minutes), it gets sweet and soft rather than tough and funky tasting. It needs to be pre-cooked or added before other root vegetables when cooking, as it takes much longer than other root vegetables. It is important not to write it off for tasting gross until you've cooked it properly.
Where can you buy it?! Asian grocery stores (ask for "gobo"), some natural food stores and co-ops (including People's Food co-op in PDX and The Olympia Food Co-op), and farmer's markets may sell it. Of course, in Japan it is available everywhere. I like to choose thin roots because they have the most skin, and they are less tough than thicker roots.
Burdock tea from fresh roots:
1/2 burdock root, sliced as thinly as possible lengthwise (julienned)
cold, fresh water
Put root into a pot of cold water as soon as possible after slicing. Put on the stove on medium high, with the lid on. Bring to a simmer, and then turn the heat on low, so that bubbles can still be seen. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain out the tea and drink it. The root can be eaten also, so don't get rid of it!
Extreme Burdock Miso Soup
The soup below is especially great for recovering from surgery, recovering from serious pharmaceutical use, and recovering from acute skin conditions (including allergic conditions). Otherwise, eat periodically to maintain good internal health.
1 burdock root, cut longitudinally (with the grain, like carrot sticks)
1 carrot, cut the same as above
4-6 shiitake mushrooms
chopped watercress (optional, but amazing)
1-2 green onions, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon miso
Put sliced burdock into cold water in a pot immediately after slicing (to avoid browning). Turn heat to high, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, add the carrots and shiitake, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the burdock and carrots are soft. Add the watercress or other greens at this time and let cook for 1-2 minutes before removing from the heat. Remove from the heat and add the green onions. Stir the miso in by adding a little broth over the miso in a bowl, stir into a paste, and then add the rest of the soup. The miso is easier to break up that way.
Go get your Burdock, and let me know what you do with it!!