Herb(s) of the Week: Burdock, Chickweed and Red Clover
I’ve been working over the past few weeks mostly with the same trio of herbs together – Burdock , Chickweed and Red Clover as my ticket to dealing with the arrival of real winter while springing into a new year.
And great combination it has proven to be. Stabilizing, supporting, cleansing yet energetically leaping forward.
Let’s start with Burdock (Articum lappa),
but first a song about burdock:
Burdock (to the tune of the theme song from the movie Shaft – with apologies to the ever cool Isaac Hayes!)
Who’s the plant that sticks
But cleans the blood when you are sick?
Ya damn right!
Who’s the plant whose leaves make a tea
that helps keep you cool?
Can you dig it?
Who’s the plant that helps out
When the liver’s health is in doubt?
They say this plant BURDOCK is a bad mother
SHUT YOUR MOUTH!
I’m talkin’ ’bout BURDOCK.
THEN WE CAN DIG IT!
It’s a complicated plant
But no one understands it but herbalists
I just had to get that out of my head. 🙂
More seriously, burdock is a plant I’ve come to appreciate more and more over time. I had been acquainted with it from the beginnings of my studies but never felt particularly drawn to it. But over time I’ve come to really recognize its strength and find it frequently a valuable addition to medicinal teas. One of the particularly nice aspects is its strong support for the liver. Given how valuable the liver is for our health supporting that is generally a good foundation for dealing with a variety of ailments. Burdock blends well with other plants and is safe enough to use regularly. And its blood cleansing pairs well in particular with Red Clover in this combination.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
No song for Red Clover. It does deserve one though, because it’s a great herb that is easy to take for granted and is helpful for so many things. In this particular case it stands out for its cleansing action in the blood and lymph as well as its good liver support. In some ways I think this passage in Judith Berger’s book Herbal Rituals captures the essence and wonder of Red Clover:
“Red clover is considers an alterative herb, possessing the ability to send its medicine into many areas of the body at once, providing deep and lasting change in chronically stubborn conditions. In addition to restoring smooth function of various organ systems, alterative helps help the body assimilate nutrients and eliminate metabolic wastes. In general, alterative herbs are helpful in working with infection, blood toxicity, and skin eruptions. Red clover’s alterative strengths are most directly experienced in the lungs, the nervous system, the lymphatic system and the hormonal system.”
One of the things I like about it is that its supportiveness works well cumulatively so taking it regularly over longer periods of times is increasingly helpful to a larger variety of things. Sweet!
And, for me, red clover has a great way of showing up in my life when I need it but have forgotten all about it. Always the gentle and supportive reminder.
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Ah, Chickweed. We have a special relationship, because Chickweed was the very first plant I ever had a dream about when I started studying herbalism. (But certainly not the last.) In it, the flowers of the plant (which are teeny tiny in real life) were enormous – as big as a dinner table. And let’s just say the rest of the dream was worthy of having Salvador Dali looking at me, rolling his eyes and pronouncing me weird!
While it is often praised for its use externally (for skin problems and damage), it is a very worthy medicinally – especially as a tea.) Great for cooling warm and inflamed conditions with a special affinity for the respiratory system. It also as a historical association with weight loss, but I’m not sure how useful it really it in that respect. It is good for toning your system and generally nourishing you. I find it has an uplifting spring like feel to it as well.
References of Note: I think my favorite single book that talks about all three of these is Herbal Rituals by Judith Berger – informative and oh so fun and inspiring in general. Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal has very nice encyclopedic cover of all three covering the essentials of what you should know, preparation, etc. and lots of nifty photos. And even though it doesn’t talk about Red Clover (such a sad omission!) Susun Weed’s Healing Wise is most definitely worth reading in its discussion of Burdock and Chickweed.
My Own Take: In combination, I’ve been finding these three work wonderfully well together this time of year. I’ll definitely return to it again and again. Especially when the winter dreariness hits me badly.