burdock flower

Known Uses for Burdock Root

  • Depurative (purifies the blood)

  • Burdock is best known as a blood purifier, but it also works to remove toxins through the respiratory, urinary, and lymphatic systems. This detoxifying effect is responsible for many of burdock root’s benefits.

  • Skin Conditions (acne, eczema, psoriasis, boils, abscesses)

  • Burdock is well known for it’s abilities in removing toxins and eliminating bacteria and fungi that are responsible for many skin conditions. It also contains phytosterols (plants steroids) and fatty acids that are beneficial to the skin.

  • Treats sore throat, cold, flu, and fever

  • Burdock root contains mucilage which soothes inflamed tissues in the throat and digestive tract. Works well to treat a painful dry cough. Mucilaginous compounds are also known to thin down mucous which can help with congestion in the chest and nasal passages. Burdock root is also a great natural source of zinc, which is one of the best supplements for treating cold and flu. It is also believed to have antipyretic (fever reducing) properties.

  • Diuretic (increases urination)

  • Burdock root has diuretic properties which help remove toxins from the body. You should drink plenty of water to help flush toxins and avoid dehydration.

  • Hair and scalp conditioning (hair growth)

  • Burdock root oil is an excellent natural conditioner for hair and scalp due to it’s essential fatty acids, phytosterols, and vitamin A content. The oil can also help with itchy scalp and dandruff problems. Many herbalists claim that burdock root oil can even promote hair growth.

  • Digestive Health (prebiotic)

  • The mucilage in Burdock root aids and eases digestion, absorbs toxins, and can soothe inflammation in the digestive tract. Burdock root also contains Inulin, a natural dietary fiber which aids in digestion and promotes healthy bacteria in the intestines.

  • Anti-oxidant

  • Burdock root has very strong antioxidant properties which can help prevent cancer and slow tumor growth. There are many antioxidants known to be contained in burdock root including, Vitamin C, Chlorogenic acid, lappaol F, Tannins, and Inulin.

  • Anti-cancer properties with proven scientific study

  • Burdock root contains numerous active compounds with cancer fighting properties. There are a growing number of studies proving burdock root’s effectiveness against cancer. Research has shown that Arctigenin, a compound in burdock, “exhibits cytotoxicity by inducing necrosis in cancer cells“. Another compound, Arctiin, “demonstrates
    a strong cytotoxic effect” on hepatoma,lung cancer, ovarian cancer, skin cancer, CNS cancer and colon cancer.

  • Immune Stimulation

  • Burdock root decreases the workload of the immune system by helping it fight bacteria and fungi. It’s detoxifying effects help the organs work more efficiently and restore the body’s ability to heal itself.

  • Promotes liver function

  • An overloaded liver results in toxins being stored in the body. Burdock root increases bile production which cleanses the liver and helps it function better.

  • Promotes weight loss

  • Burdock root’s cleansing effects speed up metabolism and improve nutrient absorption and energy usage. The root is also used for food in many cultures and makes an excellent addition to a healthy diet.

  • Lowers blood sugars

  • When taken internally, burdock root has been known to lower blood sugar levels. Diabetics should consult with their doctor before using burdock and monitor blood sugar closely.

  • Reduces heart disease and stroke

  • Burdock root contains inulin, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol and help with weight loss. People taking burdock have been shown to have improved lipid profiles (a series of blood tests to determine the risk of cardiovascular disease).

  • Treats Gout

  • Burdock has a long history of being used for gout. Studies have shown that burdock root can block the enzyme that produces uric acid, similar to the way prescription medications lower uric acid buildup that leads to gout.

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Many of the chemical compounds found in burdock root such as Tannin, Lactone, Fukinone, & Taraxosterol, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Decreases blood viscosity

  • Burdock root may slow down blood clotting. Talk to your doctor if you are on blood thinning medications.

  • HIV

  • Arctigenin, a natural lignan found in burdock root, has been shown to be effective against HIV in studies.

  • Treats fungal infection

  • Burdock root has strong anti-fungal properties. When combined with it’s immune strengthening effects, it kills fungus cultures and keeps them from coming back. Burdock can be used to treat candida, athlete’s foot, ringworm, and more.

  • Treats kidney stones and gallstones

  • Burdock has been used traditionally to treat stone formations in the kidneys and gallbladder. It helps dissolve the stones while the mucilage and diuretic effects allow them to pass more easily.

In traditional medicine burdock is used for a variety of conditions and symptoms. Scientific investigation has revealed many of the underlying phytochemical (phyto-plant) compounds responsible for the positive effects.

When preparing burdock for herbal medicine, the leaves, stems, flowers, seeds and primarily the roots are used. Burdock is also used as a food in many Asian cultures.

Other names burdock is known by include:

  • Arctium
  • Bardana’s
  • Bardane’s
  • Beggar’s Buttons
  • Clothbur
  • Cocklebur
  • Cockle Buttons
  • Fox’s Clote
  • Gobo
  • Glouteron
  • Happy Major
  • Hardock
  • Harebur
  • Herbe aux Teigneux
  • Lappa
  • Love Leaves
  • Niu Bang Zi
  • Orelha-de-gigante
  • Personata
  • Philanthropium
  • Rhubarbe du Diable
  • Thorny Burr

  • Family Tree

    Burdock is in the family Asteraceae. Many plants in this family classification have powerful phytochemicals and are used in traditional medicines. Some of the more commonly known burdock cousins include chamomile, yarrow, chicory, thistle and echinacea. Many flowering plants are also in this family including dahlia, marigold, aster, dandelion and zinnia.


    There are six named subspecies of Burdock.

    1. Arctium lappa L. – greater burdock – used in essiac tea
    2. Arctioum minus Bernh, – lesser burdock
    3. Arctium x mixtum Nyman – burdock
    4. Arctium x nothum (Ruhmer) J. Weiss – burdock
    5. Arctium tomentosum Mill. – woolly burdock
    6. Arctium vulgare (Hill) Evens – woodland burdock

    All subspecies have active medicinal properties. The most commonly used is the greater burdock.

Burdock is a biennial plant reaching maturity in the second year. A mature burdock plant can grow to nearly six foot in height. The leaves extend from the ground level with a central flower bearing stem. The leaves are described as “cordate-ovate” which means they are oval with a heart like shape. The stem of the leaf is attached into the cleft of the heart. The leaves are maximally two inches long and one and one half inches wide. Smaller leaves accumulate higher up on the stem below the flow or developing bud.

The stems can appear reddish or a moderately deep green. When immature the stems are covered in tiny white soft hairs. These are lost as the plant matures growing into a smooth stem with horizontal veins.

The flowers bud in mid-June and start to bloom at the beginning of August. When open the magenta flower appears to poking out of a cluster of tight modified leaves called bracts. Then finished blooming the flowers wither and dry turning brown. These form burrs which are easily caught on animals passing by or are released in wind as a mechanism of seed dispersal. The seeds(or fruits) are at the base of the hook tipped burrs.


The root is long and slender. They grow up to two feet in length. Greyish brown on the outside they have whitish interiors. They are fleshy and wrinkled. At maturity may weigh up to two pounds.

Burdock Root

In the wild burdock is found in central Europe, Southeast Asia and North America. Preferred conditions are partial sunlight, moderate moisture and fertile well drained soil. It is tolerant to extremes and will survive with little water and in sandy soil.

Native Americans used the entire burdock plant throughout the year. They boiled the stalks with honey and make a candy that stored through winter.

It was widely documented through the medieval ages. In addition to the common uses it was a popular treatment for syphilis. It is mentioned as early as 1265 in combination with dandelion. Burdock and Dandelion still remains a popular drink.

In Asia burdock has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 3000 years. It was written about by Li Shizhen in the Bencao gangmu, the Compendium of Materia Medica during the Ming dynasty.

Burdock root is available fresh or dried. Decoctions from root, leaves and seed are available as are fluid extracts and tinctures made with alcohol. Burdock oil is available. Dried burdock leaves for tea can be purchased. Seeds are available for propagation.

Recommended Adult Doses

Capsules 1-2 gm. 3 x day

Dried Root: Boil 2-6 gm. in 150 ml (5 oz.) water. Strain and cool. Drink 3 x day or use liquid as a compress or poultice for skin infection or wound.

Tincture: (1:5 oil:alcohol) 30-60 drops daily. It can also be used as a compress.

Fluid Extract: (1:1 with water) 30-60 drops twice daily

Tea: Boil 2-6 gm. in 500 ml (16 oz.) water to make two cups three times daily

There are very few side effects. Handling the leaves can cause Allergic Contact Dermatitis in some genetically inclined people.

Because it can stimulate uterine contractions it is not recommended for use during pregnancy.

In large amounts the tannin content can cause gastrointestinal distress.

May interfere with cytochrome P-450 degradation of Coumadin. Should be used with caution in people on blood thinners.

Cross allergy possible with chrysanthemums, daises or rag weed.

Each part of the burdock plant contains different concentrations of phytochemicals and is used for different conditions. The roots are the primary source of food and medicinal product.

It will be helpful to define some biochemistry terms.

Terpenes/terpenoids/isoprenoids- Organic molecules that are building blocks for all biosynthetic compounds. They are a major component by themselves in essential oils used in flavorings, colorings and perfumes. Vitamin A is an example of a terpenoid.

Phytosterol/Phytoestrogen- “Phyto” means plant and “sterol” refers to steroid. These are plant derived steroid based molecules that will affect inflammatory and sex hormone activities. They form a chemical base for many bioactive compounds used in signaling, immune response and cell reproduction (cancer).

Polyphenols- a group of compounds comprised of repeating phenol rings. Used by plants for many functions including as an insect repellent, signaling function within plant development, controls growth hormones and provides UV protection to plant. In humans the substance resveratrol thought to be the protective cardiovascular substance in red wine and is used for their astringent properties.

Ligands- In biochemistry a lignand (ligand) is a compound that attaches to another biomolecule to form a complex that provides a purpose that neither could perform individually. Heme is a lignand with myoglobin forming a functional compound that delivers oxygen to muscle.

Phytochemicals Identified in Burdock

Inulin: (C6H10O5)n A polysaccharide (sugar) in the family of fructans (chains of fructose sugars). Plants use inulin to store energy. Plants that use inulin do not store energy as starch. Found in roots

  • Inulin is a prebiotic bifidus factor that maintains the normal intestinal flora.
  • Balances glycemic index in diabetics providing better glucose control.
  • Has been shown to help weight loss.
  • Has antioxidant properties.
  • Antihypertensive (lowers blood pressure)

Polyacetylenes: Any of a class of organic compounds containing an acetylene (-C≡C-) repeat units, especially any that occur naturally in some composite plants.

  • Antibacterial actions particularly used topically on the skin. Can heal acne and boils.
  • Antifungal actions against ringworm, jock itch, foot and toenail fungal infections

Tannin: C76H52O46 A polyphenolic compound with many hydroxyl groups. Polyphenols contain a phenol ring and subgroups include phenolic acids, flavonoids, stilbenes and lignans. Found in roots.

  • Antiseptic/antibacterial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-oxidant

Mucilage: A viscous sticky substance comprised of polar glycoprotein and exopolysaccharide. In plants involved in water storage, food storage, seed germination, and membrane protection. Found in roots.

  • Demulcent agent providing protection for mucous membranes.
  • Relieves gastrointestinal distress by coating action.

Arctigenin: C12H24O7 A lignand found in roots, leaves and seeds.

  • Anti-viral (has been used in mouse trials treating Japanese Encephalitis)
  • Anti-cancer

Actiin: C27H34O11 A lignand found in roots, leaves and seeds.

  • Anti-cancer (Antiproliferative)

Iron: Iron is a natural element required for many reactions in the body. Two of the most important are the synthesis of hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen in the body and myoglobin and essential component of muscle.

  • Prevents anemia
  • Provides building blocks for muscle and nerve repair.
  • Essential co-enzyme in many biochemical reactions necessary for life.

Lactone: Sesquiterpene lactones are a class of terpenoids. These compounds play an important role in essential oils and have many bioactive properties. Actions may be responsible from chemotaxis (cell signaling) ability.

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antibacterial
  • Anti-protozoan (malaria)
  • Anti-cancer (cell lysis)
  • Immune stimulation
  • Can cause poison ivy type rash on skin (in genetically susceptible)

Resin: (Pitch) A hydrocarbon secretion either solid or semisolid.

  • Antibacterial
  • Skin healing
  • Colic, gastrointestinal distress
  • Anti-helminthic (intestinal worms)

Essential oils: Burdock oil or “bur oil” is very concentrated essential fatty acids (including rare long chain) and phytosterols.

  • Energy source from the fatty acids.
  • Skin repair and care.
  • Improved lipid profile resulting in lower heart disease and stroke.
  • Lowers cancer risks, specifically lung, stomach, breast and ovarian cancers.

lappaol F: C40H42O12 Lignands that inhibit Nitrogen oxide production. Found in seeds.

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Improves lipid profile resulting in improved cardiovascular disease
  • Anti-cancer
  • Decreases platelet stickiness (thins blood)
  • Anti-diabetic lowers blood sugars
  • Antimicrobial (bacteria, virus and yeast)
  • Antioxidant
  • Lowers blood pressure by calcium channel inhibition

Neoarctin: A lignand found in fruits.

  • Antihypertensive (calcium channel blocker)
  • Anti-HIV

Trachelogenin: C21H24O7 A lignand found in the fruits.

  • Antihypertensive (calcium channel blocker)
  • Anti-HIV

Chlorogenic acid: C16H18O9 An ester formed between caffeic acid and l-quinic acid. It is an important intermediary in ligand synthesis. Ligands (Lignands) are responsible for many bioactive processes. Found in root skin and leaves.

  • Antioxidant
  • All Lignand properties
  • Neuroprotective
  • Anti-HIV

Vitamin A: A group of unsaturated hydrocarbons required for growth and development of the immune system and most important sight. Includes beta-carotene, retinol, retinoic acid, retinal, and several pro-vitamin A carotenoids.

  • Improves immune status
  • Helps eyesight (retina in particular)

Vitamin B1: (Thiamine) Required for normal nerve function.

  • Eye health (prevents optic neuropathy)
  • Nervous system health
  • Memory functions

Vitamin B2: (Riboflavin) Has its major role in intercellular energy processes. It is what supplies the orange-red color from B vitamin supplements.

  • Headache treatment (particularly migraine}
  • Anti-cancer (particularly ovarian)
  • Helps muscle pain
  • Helps vision

Vitamin C: (l-Ascorbic acid, ascorbate) A proenzyme in crucial biochemical reactions, significantly collagen production.

  • Prevents scurvy
  • Essential for would healing
  • Antioxidant (powerful)

Flavonoids: Nonketone polyphenol compounds.

  • Antimicrobial (bacteria, virus and fungi)
  • Anti-cancer works as “response modifier”
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-allergy
  • Anti-diarrhea

Fukinone: A sesquiterpene ketone terpene.

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-allergy

Taraxosterol: A phytosteroid. A pentacyclic triterpenoid.

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-allergy
  • Anti-cancer
  • Improved lipid profile preventing cardiovascular disease.

Amino Acids: Aspartic acid and Arginine.

  • Aspartic acid is important in the Krebs’s cycle generating energy from glucose.
  • Enhances memory.
  • Arginine is required by the nervous system.
  • Antihypertensive
  • Increases healing times connective tissue (bone and muscle)
  • Increases healing time skin

Course Fiber: Vegetable fiber bulk

  • Bowel regularity
  • Weight loss

In this one plant nature provides at least 27 benefits to human health and there are likely more. It grows about everywhere even in poor soil. The roots are flavorful and are used in traditional Asian cooking. Scientific study supports a majority of the purported health benefits. Study continues aggressively into cancer applications.

So I ask you, have you had your burdock today? Why not