Learn about medicinal roots

Wild Medicinal Plants – 3 Common Healing Roots

Three wild medicinal plants are so abundant, you may already be familiar with them as common weeds: dandelion, burdock and yellow dock.

What might surprise you is to learn how valuable they are as herbal medicine. These three wild medicinal plants are often the first taught to herbal students because they are easy to find, medicinally important and very safe to use.

Each of these plants supports liver function as its primary use in herbal medicine. Some estimates state that our livers have over 500 bodily functions such as aiding proper digestion, metabolism, nutrient storage and elimination of toxins. Incorporating these plants into lives is vitally important!

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While various above ground parts of these plants are used for both food and medicine, it’s the roots that are so prized.

Early spring and late autumn are when herbalists harvest medicinal roots. This is because roots are the storage units for the plants. Once the plants begin to send up shoots in the spring and then go to flower, much of the energy, phytonutrients and valuable compounds rise to the upper parts of the plant. Once the plants have gone to seed and die back for the season, many of the health-giving properties are stored back down in the roots. Therefore, it’s best to harvest roots when these properties are most abundant.

Learn your medicinal plants. Root are an important part of herbalism, including dandelion, burdock and yellow dock. #Herbalism #HerbalMedicine #LearnMedicinalPlants

Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale

Dandelions are not only one of the most common wild medicinal plants found in our backyards, but they’re also one of the most beneficial. The roots in particular are highly nutritious and medicinal.

Dandelions grow just about everywhere in the world and in all types of climates. Ironically, they are most abundant in places where people don’t want them to grow. They thrive in manicured lawns and open sunny places. They thrive in soils that have been disturbed in some way. They’ll even grow right out of cracks in pavement and concrete. This is one tenacious plant.

Dandelion roots are long taproots about the shape and size of a small carrot. If the root breaks when harvesting leaving part of the root in the ground, it will sprout a new plant.

While dandelion root is ideally harvested in the spring or fall, it can be harvested in the summer if the need arises. Use dandelion root fresh or cut up and dried for year-round use. Make it into tinctures, tea or use as a food in soups and stew.

Dandelion root is one of the best herbs to help detox the liver. Our livers are overtaxed due to chemicals in our environment including our food, water, air and household cleaners. It’s important to nourish the liver to help it function optimally.

Dandelion roots contain a beneficial substance called inulin that acts as energy storage in place of starch. It can be seen in tinctures as a white substance settling to the bottom. High inulin content is valuable for the digestive system. It promotes beneficial intestinal microflora, improves bowel function, stabilizes blood sugar as well as helps absorption of calcium and magnesium.

Burdock – Arctium lappa

Burdock root is appreciated both as food and medicine. However, there are some who greatly dislike the plant due to its pesky burs. They stick to clothing and pets and are problematic to remove.

These burs are also what make the plant easy to find and identify. It’s closely related to thistles with the flowers having a similar appearance. The round spikes in full bloom are actually quite beautiful. They are bright green and pink. After the leaves have withered away late in the season, the burs dull in color and remain on the plant.

The plant is biennial, living only two years. The first year the leaves emerge with the flowering stalks appearing the second year. You will want to harvest the taproots later in the first year of growth or very early in the second season. Later the roots become too woody. The roots are extremely long taproots that can be a challenge to dig up.

Similar to dandelion, burdock root is one of the star remedies for the liver. It feeds and nourishes the liver and is an exceptional herb for doing a liver cleanse. It also cleanses the blood and helps to remove impurities from the lymph.

Cleanses the liver and removing impurities from the system helps to keep toxins from releasing through the skin. When toxins eliminate through the skin, various skin imbalances and issues arise such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and boils. Burdock root is one of the finest skin remedies.

Burdock root, in either tea or tincture form is an ideal digestive remedy for several reasons. First, it’s slightly laxative. It is also a bitter herb. Bitter herbs get the digestive juices going from the saliva in the mouth all the way down to increasing bile production. This in turn helps the liver to work more efficiently. Finally, burdock contains inulin similar to dandelion.

The root is a common food in many cultures and goes by many names including gobo in Japan. Eat burdock root just as you would any other type of root vegetable. It is quite high in nutrition.

Yellow Dock – Rumex crispus

Yellow dock is often also called curly dock. The yellow part of its name refers to the yellow color of the roots. Similar to both dandelion and burdock, yellow dock has a long tap root, however the striking color clearly differentiates it. Curly refers to the distinctive wavy edges of the plant’s large, elongated leaves.

This is one of those plants that can be easily identified from afar. When in flower, yellow dock sends up tall, narrow spikes lined with condensed clusters of tiny winged fruits. Later in the season, these fruits turn a rust color making the plant easy to pick out among other, usually shorter plants.

Yellow dock is reputed to be one of the five most widely distributed plants in the world. This is good news for those that want to harvest the plant as medicine. The root can be used fresh or dried and made into a tincture. Since yellow dock is extremely bitter, it is hard to take as a tea unless mixed in as part of an herbal formula.

The bitter properties of the plant make it an excellent digestive remedy. It helps to clear sluggish digestion as a mild laxative for cases of constipation. Yellow dock also helps to clear congestion in the liver and ball bladder. This liver support is helpful for hormonal issues as well.

Most notably, yellow dock nourishes the blood. It contains a form of bio-chelated iron so the body can readily absorb it. This is the most important herb for low iron and conditions related to anemia such as fatigue and low energy. In addition to tinctures, yellow dock can be included in iron-rich soups.

Be sure you know how to positively identify any wild medicinal plants before collecting them. You can reference plant identification guide books, go on plants walks or take a course that includes identification of wild medicinal plants.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. If you would like to learn more about herbal medicine, check out the Home Herb School at www.homeherbschool.com

10 thoughts on “Wild Medicinal Plants – 3 Common Healing Roots”

  1. Gizelle Wilkinson

    Brilliant information. Thanks a lot. All these three herbs grow prolifically around the area where I live. I will be going out to gather some in the autumn. I gathered lots of blackberries and elderberries two days ago and I prepared an oxymel with them along with some fresh mint, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Can’t wait to see how it turns out in a month’s time.

    1. Hi Isioma,
      I’m not familiar with plants that grow in Nigeria. I’m certain there are local resources for you to learn about the plants is your area.

  2. Zdenka Dostalova

    Can other dock species be also used for root? We seem to have only spinach dock here (sorrel, Rumex acetosa) and as far as I know, only its leaves are used, mainly for vitamine C and to cleanse kidneys. Otherwise I am happy to see that most of the herbs discussed grow here in Europe as well.
    I have just got the Herbalism course from udemy.com, been through the first few lessons and I am fascinated. I made some herbal products at home before but I am still learning and the course brings everything together and there are lots of details and tips. I love the blog articles as well and the comments are also very useful. Thank you!

    1. Hi Zdenka,
      Thank you so much for your nice words!
      There are a couple hundred Rumex species, some of which are very important medicinals. Rumex acetosella for example is part of the Essiac formula for cancer. The root for sure is used and often the aerial parts as well. I’m not familiar Rumex acetosa, but it would be worth looking into.

      1. Zdenka Dostalova

        Hi Elizabeth,
        Thank you for the reply. I have not heard of Essiac tea so far. This is also very interesting. As I am reading about it on the Internet, I can see that the differences between American and European species get more significant here. I guess it could be bought online, but it is something else than making our own herbal preparations. I wonder if anyone has come up with a European version of it.
        But we do have yellow dock here in Europe and I am surprised to find it is a medicinal plant. I have not seen it around for a while but I used to play with its seeds as a child. And we have lots of dandelion and burdock. It is very helpful for me to know that I should look for the roots of young burdock plants because in the past I got discouraged by finding the old woody ones when I wanted to try it out. I really appreciate your ongoing support and all the additional information!

  3. Lovely and informational article! I’ve recently been looking into different herbs (especially those many people classify as “weeds”) and their health benefits, and it truly is amazing to see what these plants can do for us. Our livers are so overtaxed and overworked in this society, how encouraging it is to see that healing is right outside our front doors.

    One of my favorite quotes “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Thanks for sharing <3

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