|| Arctium lappa/Arctium minus/Arctium
During the Middle Ages, burdock was valued for treating a host of ailments.
English herbalists used burdock root for boils, scurvy (a disease caused by
vitamin C deficiency, leading to bleeding, gum disease, and weakness), diabetes,
and rheumatism (disorders characterized by joint discomfort and loss of
mobility). Burdock also played an important role in Native American herbal
medicine, and American herbalists have used the roots and seeds of this plant
for two centuries.
Burdock root has been traditionally used as a "blood purifier" to clear the
bloodstream of toxins, as a diuretic to promote the excretion of urine, and as a
topical remedy to relieve skin problems. In folk medicine, burdock has also been
used as a laxative and to relieve inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Plus, there is belief that burdock may be helpful for kidney stones.
Despite the fact that burdock has been used for centuries to treat a variety
of conditions, few (if any) scientific studies have proven that this herb is a
safe and useful remedy. Still, many professional herbalists find burdock helpful
for skin and scalp conditions (including acne, psoriasis, eczema, contact
dermatitis, and wounds) and inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis,
rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. Preparations of burdock root are also used to
promote perspiration and the excretion of urine and to treat ailments and
complaints of the digestive system. Extracts of burdock root are found in a
variety of herbal preparations as well as homeopathic
Burdock is a common weed native to Europe and Northern Asia and is now
widespread throughout the United States as well. A member of the thistle family,
burdock is a stout, common weed with hooked bracts (leaf-like part of the plant)
or burrs that adhere to clothing or animal fur. The burdock plant grows to a
maximum height of approximately three to four feet. It has purple flowers that
bloom between the months of June and October. Burdock has alternate (meaning
that the leaves grow on both sides of the stem at alternating levels), wavy,
heart-shaped leaves that are green on the top and whitish on the bottom. The
deep roots (used primarily for medicinal purposes) are brownish-green, or nearly
black on the outside.
Burdock grows well in the wild. It thrives in light, well-drained soil.
Herbalists usually collect burdock leaves during the first year of growth, and
harvest the roots in the fall of the first year after planting (or during the
following spring before the flowers bloom).
|What's It Made Of?|
Burdock consists primarily of carbohydrates, volatile oils, plant sterols,
tannins, and fatty oils. It is not entirely clear which active ingredients in
burdock root are responsible for its healing properties, but the herb may have
anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and disinfectant properties.
Burdock products typically consist of fresh or dried roots. Burdock can be
purchased as a dried root powder, decoction (liquid made by boiling down the
herb in water), tincture (a solution of the herb in alcohol, or water and
alcohol), or fluid extract.
|How to Take It|
There are no known scientific reports on the pediatric use of burdock, but
some herbal specialists have used this herb safely in children over three years
old. (Burdock is commonly used in combination with other cleansing herbs such as
- Dried root: steep 2 to 6 grams in 150 mL (2/3 of a cup) in boiling
water for 10 to 15 minutes and then drink three times a day; may soak a cloth in
the liquid and then, once cooled, wrap the cloth around affected skin area or
wound (known as a poultice)
- Tincture (1:5): 8 to 12 mL three times a day; the tincture may also be
applied to a cloth and wrapped around affected skin area or wound
- Fluid extract (1:1): 2 to 6 mL three times a day
- Tea: 2 to 6 grams steeped in 500 mL water
Topical preparations of burdock are also used for skin problems (such as
eczema) and wounds. There is not a standard topical dose for these purposes, but
a poultice made from mashed, cooked herb and root can be applied to the affected
area as a wet paste. When wrapped in place, the poultice draws out infection and
toxins under the skin. Poultices should be applied twice
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and
treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger
side effects and that can interact with other herbs, supplements, or
medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the
supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical
Some individuals who handle burdock may experience an irritation of the skin.
Pregnant or nursing women should avoid burdock as it may cause damage to the
It is best to avoid taking excessive amounts of burdock (especially burdock
root) as the toxic effects of this herb are not well understood.
Although in folk medical practices it is believed that burdock lowers blood
sugar and may help with diabetes, there is one animal study that suggested that
this herb aggravated experimentally-induced diabetes in rats. It is not clear
whether this same concern would apply to people.
Because the roots of burdock closely resemble those of belladonna or deadly
nightshade (Atropa belladonna), there is a risk that burdock preparations
may be contaminated with these potentially dangerous herbs. Be sure to buy
products made by established companies with good reputations, and who distribute
their products through trustworthy and knowledgeable establishments. Whenever
possible, select products with guaranteed potency or standardized
Although preliminary reports suggest that burdock may lower blood sugar,
there are no known scientific reports of interactions between burdock and
conventional medications, including medicines used for
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|Review Date: April 2002|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Constance Grauds (April 1999),
RPh, President, Association of Natural Medicine Pharmacists, San Rafael, CA;
Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley
Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine,
Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson
Drugs, Natick, MA; Steven Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February
2001), Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; R. Lynn Shumake, PD,
Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary &
Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Tom Wolfe,
P.AHG (April 1999), Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD. All interaction sections
have also been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July
2000), The Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh
(August 2000), Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in
Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland
School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD;
Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State
Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu,
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