• Julie Douglas

Harvesting Wild Roots

Late fall and early spring are great times to harvest medicinal roots. Once the aerial parts of the plant die back, or before they are lush, the nutrients are sent back down to the roots. Cold weather converts the starches into sugars, which is why carrots are much sweeter after a frost.

Elecampane root, a wonderful bronchial antiseptic, expectorant and digestive aid.

Burdock, Dandelion and Yellow Dock grow wild in many religions and are wonderful, grounding medicines to utilize this winter. Read on for a quick materia medica and root harvesting tutorial.

Burdock root: Gently cleanses lymphatic system, liver and kidney tonic. Indicated for inflammatory skin conditions like eczema. Good source of inulin, which is food for your good gut bacteria.

Dandelion root: Excellent bitter tonic, stimulates gastric juices aiding in digestion. Helps absorption of fats & sluggish liver.

Yellow dock: Used for liver and gallbladder insufficiency and impaired iron absorption. Improves bile secretion as well as liver & bowel function. Beneficial for chronic inflammatory skin issues.

Before harvesting, always double-check your plant identification and location. Harvest away from roads & polluted areas. Once properly identified, let the dirty work begin!

Hori-Hori hand tool pictured with wild roots

What you’ll need:

-Digging tools. I like to use a hori-hori, aka a soil knife and a spading fork. Shovels can be used for larger roots, but be careful not to sever the taproot with the shovel.

-A container and scrubby brush. Sometimes a good rinse is all you need, other times roots require more cleaning to get in all the nooks and crannies. Avoid letting the roots soak, this leeches nutrients!

-Sharp pruners. If storing dry, it is important to cut the roots up while they’re fresh to avoid blisters. An ulu or sharp knife work well too. Chop em up!

-Drying area. Proper drying is essential for storage. Choose a dry, warm area with air circulation, out of direct sunlight. You can also use a dehydrator. The roots will be dry if you can snap them/they aren’t too malleable.

-Storage. Once the roots are dry you want to store them in an airtight jar, in a cool dry place. I like to add a small handful when I brew up bone broth and decoctions for the liver and lymph supporting properties. It is wise to research proper dosage of these medicines before using.

Ashwagandha root, a popular adaptogen for stress and energy support.

What are your favorite root herbs or veggies?

Happy harvesting!

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