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.
The other day I was asked what I do most days. My initial response was that I see patients two days a week and go to the garden two days a week. The obvious follow-up question was, what about the other three days? After giving it some thought, my answer was, I go for a walk on the beach twice a week, but mostly I process food. That is especially true this time of year.
Our Powders Easily Add Nutrients to Soups and Stews
My good friend and co-author Sally Fallon Morell used to say that her rule with her four children was that they had to eat the breakfast and dinner she served them, and then they were free to eat what they wanted during the day. She was banking on them getting enough nutrient-dense foods during those two meals to keep them well nourished and even well fed enough so that they wouldn’t be looking for junk food.
We’re Looking for Growers!
This past weekend we hosted a small group of people who are interested in working with our company to help us create new products. We toured the Napa garden and spoke about new and innovative approaches to using plants as medicinal food. I had many ideas and examples of plants for them to see, feel and even taste, but I focused on five that I am particularly excited about and that will help us fulfill the dictum “let thy food be thy medicine.”