How To Harvest & Prepare Medicinal Roots: Dandelion, Burdock and Yellow Dock

Harvesting Medicinal Roots For HealingBy Breast Cancer Yoga Staff.

Spring and Fall are both times to harvest medicinal roots used for breast cancer healing. The roots will differ slightly in chemical composition, and Fall may yield larger ones. But it is important to remember that both are valid times to gather. We need to be mindful of what plants we harvest, when, where, and how much. While harvesting leaves may not be so harmful, harvesting roots and flowers threatens a plant’s potential for regeneration and establishment, which in turn shapes how our ecosystems function and thrive into the future.

Roots make up a significant portion of our more potent plant medicinals. Roots carry the life force of the plant. Medicinally, it works the same way for us. So, let’s dig these medicinal roots; dandelion, burdock and yellow dock!

Dandelion Root

Dandelion leaves act as a diuretic, increasing the amount of urine your body makes. The leaves are used to stimulate the appetite and help digestion. Dandelion flower has antioxidant properties. Dandelion may also help improve the immune system. Siyaram Pandey, a biochemist at the University of Windsor, has been studying the anti-cancer potential of dandelion root extract for almost two years. Researchers discovered that repeated treatment with low dose dandelion root extract was effective in killing most of the cancerous cells.

How To Harvest
Before you try to pull a dandelion root, know this. You can’t. They will most often break off. Instead, we must dig down and around the whole plant to get most of the root. You’ll only need a small shovel. Or, if you have a digging fork, that can also be used.


Burdock root is bitter. Because of this quality, burdock is used as a “bitter” which can help with digestion and appetite. Science is beginning to support its traditionally known role as a “blood purifier”, as evidence now supports its ability to rid the liver of environmental and chemical toxins.

How To Harvest
Burdock roots grow at least 12 inches or more in length and about 1 inch thick. Preferably first year roots are dug – first year burdock will not have a seed stalk. Grieve (1996) suggests that they should be dug in July. Waiting until after the first frost will make the roots starchier and sweeter.

Burdock roots accumulate toxins so be absolutely sure you’re wildcrafting well away from roadsides, industrial sites, and areas that have been sprayed.

Yellow Dock

The roots are quite bitter. Traditionally, yellow dock has been used as a laxative, alternative, and a mild liver tonic. Yellow dock is also used for iron deficiency anemia. Perhaps because it is a vegetable source for iron, it is better digested and tolerated by most women.

How To Harvest
Yellow dock roots are at least 8 to 12 inches long much like dandelion roots and about ½ inch thick. We have quite of few dock species. Yellow dock has the “crisp” leaves with curly edges. In fall their tall greenish inconspicuous flower stalks turn a reddish-brown. First year plants don’t make flower stalks. If in doubt, a little bit of a dig will reveal its yellow-orange roots which is confirming.

Processing Your Medicinal Roots

First step: Wash and dry. Scrub off the dirt without soap. Wipe dry or air dry your roots but don’t leave them out for many days. They will shrivel, get rubbery, and lose their quality.

Second step: Cut up or grate your roots. Cut up dandelion and yellow dock for tincture. You will have to grate and dry burdock root to add it to soups and stews. (Dry in oven, it gives a nutty taste when cooked.)

Third step: Dry roots or prepare your tincture with fresh roots. Drying roots:  cut up the long roots so you can use portions of the root later. Dry roots on a tray in your oven by turning on the oven briefly to 200F and then turning it off. Leave the oven door open to allow for air to circulate. It is much easier to cut or grate fresh root, by the way, than waiting until after they are dry. Take the time to cut or grate them up.

Store your dried roots in an air tight container. Well dried roots won’t rot. If your roots become moldy, they can only be used by the compost pile.

How To Make Tinctures

  1. Fill a glass quart jar ¾ of the way with fresh roots or half way with dried roots.
  2. Cover with a good quality 80 proof vodka.
  3. Label your jar.
  4. Shake jar every day.
  5. Some herbalists say that a tincture is ready after one full cycle of the moon. So, this is 4 to 6 weeks.
  6. To use your tincture you can strain out your roots and store your tincture in a labeled jar.

Taking medicinal herbal extract could interfere with regular chemotherapy, and we urge patients not to mix the natural remedy with other cancer drugs without speaking to a doctor first.

Dawn Breast CancerAbout Dawn Bradford Lange:  Co-founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Dawn is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at if you have questions.

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