Harvesting Roots: Burdock and Echinacea

Harvesting Roots

by Jade Shutes

I have been waiting for the time for root harvesting to arrive and this weekend, although I was busy with other projects, I received a ‘call’, seemingly from the plants and from an inner tuition, that it was time to harvest some roots.  Pausing my wintertime gift making, I headed out first to the Burdock (Takinogawa Long Burdock: Arctium lappa) which had flourished through the spring and summer and on into the autumn.  Now a couple of frost later but with breaks of warmth it was time to dig up its root and make medicine.  With shovel in hand I gently dug around the plant to release the burdock roots.  Three plants in all, I left two smaller plants to continue their journey through winter and through next year. Om.

Once out of the soil I washed the roots and placed them inside to dry over night (this was saturday).


Today, sunday, I cut the burdock roots into smaller pieces and some just in half to let dry on a drying screen to be placed in my office (its warm and dry).  Now I shall await until they can be snapped in half.  Then we shall proceed in making tinctures.

Burdocks medicine:

Burdock has a historical and traditional use for the treatment of sores, boils, and abscesses at least since the eighteenth century. (Wood) It is widely used by herbalists to treat a variety of skin conditions.  According to Caldecott, burdock is indicated for pitta imbalance displaying as acne or inflamed acne.

Wood writes that “burdock root is bitter, sweet, and oily. It is therefore well suited to dry/atrophic conditions where there is a need to increase secretions, tissue feeding, and tissue cleansing. Burdock is associated with dry, scaly skin conditions and dry skin in general. Sometimes the sebaceous glands get blocked, due to a lack of oil moving through them, resulting in inflammation – hence the association of burdock with acne and boils.”

Burdock indications include: dry or oily skin, acne, eczema, dandruff, boils, abscesses, poison ivy, rashes, itching, measles, psoriasis (tincture internally, leaf externally). Profuse underarm sweat.  And a host of other issues. See Wood reference.

Fresh burdock root or the tincture of dried root is taken internally as a treatment for staph infections, impetigo or obstinate ulceration of the skin or mucous membranes. Often combined with dandelion or yellow dock, burdock root is an effective blood purifier used to treat psoriasis, eczema, oily skin, acne, boils, and gout. As a food, burdock root is eaten as a medicinal vegetable, cooked by steaming or used as an ingredient in stir-fry. The raw burdock root is excellent when grated and marinated. Soup is prepared by boiling pieces of the fresh burdock root along with other root vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, and edible herbs (astragalus, codonopsis, etc.) until all ingredients are tender. This is then removed from the heat, at which point a tablespoonful or more of miso is stirred in. Served hot, this soup will fortify the system against disease or, if taken by the convalescent, will help to strengthen all body systems and accelerate recovery.  (www.Horizonherbs.com)

Burdock is also used as a blood purifier and to support liver detoxification. Due to its cooling nature it is indicated for hot, inflamed (yang/pitta) conditions.

On Sunday I also harvested some Echinacea roots that had been growing for 3 to 4 years in the our front garden.  I have a great love for the echinacea flower and for the plant as a whole.  I just love its beauty and its ability to survive even the hottest summers here in NC.  Its beauty throughout those hot months provides me with a sense of acceptance and gratitude for the natural world.

After harvesting the echinacea root I realized I did not have enough vodka or other suitable spirit so decided to make a glycerin tincture for my son.  According to Horizon Herbs “Echinacea roots are pretty stable after washing and may be cold-stored or shipped over a period of several days without molding. However, it makes sense to make the fresh root tincture as soon as possible after washing, which will minimize oxidation.”

This was the first time I had harvested Echinacea roots so I was surprised by their toughness. It was not easy to cut them with a knife so I ended up using my gardens clippers to cut the roots into small pieces.  I had gathered enough root to fill a small 4ounce jar with 3.5 ounces of herbs.  To this I added 7 ounces of vegetable glycerin (making a 1:2 fresh root glycerin tincture).

I shall leave this in a warm windowsill for a month or two and then press.  I am very excited about this tincture as I specifically did not order any echinacea tincture this year so I could make my own.

Echinacea medicine:

Echinacea root is an immune-stimulant that increases overall resistance to disease. The herb is also useful in treating the early phases of bacterial or viral infection. Echinacea speeds resolution of colds, flu and all kinds of upper respiratory infection. The herb makes an anti-inflammatory treatment for infected wounds and the bites of reptiles and insects. Echinacea is also a potent sialagogue (promotes salivation). One good test for the quality of herb or extract is how much it stimulates your spit. (Richo Cech, HorizonHerbs.com)
I shall continue my root harvesting journey in another blog. Yellow dock and poke root.  For now, I shall wish you all a good night. Happy dreaming..


  1. i love reading these herb garden posts. I look forward to doing more with my garden this year. Blessings, Lina

  2. Lolanda says:

    Thank you for herbal wisdom I am growing burdock and Echinacea this year and I am going to follow your advice when it time to make my tinctures.

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