By Tom Cowan, M.D.
The last time I wrote about burdock root, I highlighted its prominent role in most of the famous herbal formulas for cancer. Today, I want to highlight the other main benefit of burdock root, which is its effect on the skin.
In folklore, burdock root is said to be a blood “purifier,” which has a detoxification effect on the skin. In traditional Chinese medicine, burdock is “said to improve skin quality, texture and cure eczema.” So, I was interested to see whether either of these reputed effects is backed up in the more conventional scientific literature. In fact, many interesting studies on burdock are listed on PubMed.
The first study showed that an alcoholic extract of burdock root is an effective treatment for acne vulgaris. The next study I found demonstrated that burdock root protected laboratory animals from the damaging effects of UVB (the predominant wavelength that ages our skin). Another study indicated that the ingestion of burdock root in powder form was an effective prevention and treatment for allergies in general and allergic dermatitis (eczema) in particular. Of course, researchers are busy trying to tease out the active ingredient that makes burdock root such an effective, multi-purpose skin medicine.
While biochemistry is certainly important in understanding burdock’s uses, anyone who has anything to do with the actual growing and handling of burdock can only be impressed by its earthiness. The roots are like living soil and have a deeply earthly taste and aroma. Just as healthy soil is able to transform most of what it contacts, whether fallen leaves or buried animals, and turn it into effective humus for growing plants, so, too, it seems, can burdock transform whatever doesn’t belong in the healthy living system that is you. The living picture of burdock is one of healthy transformation, which mirrors what happens in healthy soil.
With this batch of Burdock Root Powder, we were able to tweak the processing of the roots a bit to accentuate the earthy flavor. Its taste remains, however, very mild. For many people, burdock roots are hard if not impossible to find, even at local farmers markets. One teaspoon a day of our Burdock Root Powder added to soups, stews, vegetable dips or any favorite recipe is a simple and easy way to incorporate the benefits of this amazing plant.
For many of us, our relationship to food is a never ending journey. Sometimes to move forward one finds themselves looking back. For bread and specifically the grains used to make it I find that the best results are indeed found in reflection. It is sometimes true that modern ingenuity has value for us, but that is usually only when paired with ancient wisdom. For grains, that wisdom is in the ancient varieties that have been grown for thousands of years.
During this time of relative uncertainty, we have decided to renew our commitment to gardening. Dr. Cowan’s Garden was originally a place, located in Napa Valley on a plot of land generously donated by a friend. It embodied our ideals and was a sanctuary for growth and learning.
The garden was our muse for new product offerings and for improving existing ones. The garden kept our ambitions grounded to certain fundamentals, as the practice of gardening can be challenging.