Burdock root (articium lappa), also known as Great Bur, Fox Coat and Beggar’s Buttons. The plant’s root has been used to promote healthy skin, and heal skin impurities for over 3,000 years. Burdock contains articiin, biotin, copper, essential oils, inulin, iron, manganese, sulfur, tannins, zinc, as well as vitamins B1, B6, B12 and E. The root has a sweet taste, as do the leaves, which are used less often.
Burdock is being studied for its potential as a treatment for cancer. It has a long history of usage for treating this disease– Hildegard of Bingen, a well known medieval herbalist, often used burdock for treatment of cancerous tumors. Recent studies have shown that arctigenin, a chemical in burdock, does in fact slow tumor growth. Burdock is an active ingredient in the popular natural remedies for cancer, including Essiac and Hoxsey.
Burdock is a powerful diuretic, and is safe to be taken internally, externally, or as food. However, it is important to make sure that the herb is pure. Some reports have indicated that burdock could have toxic properties, since cases of illness were reported that involved burdock tea. However, further analysis showed that the negative effects were the result of impure burdock root. Some belladonna, which contains atropine, had contaminated the burdock root. It is important to look at the source and purity of burdock root before obtaining it.
Burdock may help treat diabetes by reducing blood sugar—in one study burdock root reduced blood sugar levels and improved carbohydrate tolerance in lab rats. In another laboratory study, burdock protected animals that consumed the root from the toxic effects of several poisonous chemicals.
Burdock root interferes with iron absorption when taken internally. Because of its diuretic actions, burdock should not be taken during pregnancy or lactation. Burdock has been shown to interact with hypoglycaemic drugs, anti-inflammatory medications and lithium therapy, when taken internally.
Because of burdock’s absorption of toxins from the bowel, and its alterative effects on the liver, it has been shown to be effective for treatment of hepatitis. It also has a mild laxative effect.
Recently there has been minimal research on burdock being used as a tea to treat cancer. Current tests have isolated chemical constituents, which are tumour protective and desmutagenic. Desmutagens are substances that deactivate cancer-causing agents including pesticides, and natural chemicals from plants and compounds, which are created from foods in the cooking process.
Burdock’s Skin-Healing Properties
Poor skin is often a symptom of overall poor health and Burdock can work to heal the skin in two different ways. Firstly, burdock root has the ability to stimulate the digestive system. This is largely due to the content of high amounts of inulin and mucilage, which have a soothing effect.
The bitter constituents are responsible for improvement of digestion and appetite. These stimulations can have a generally beneficial effect upon the skin by improving the absorption of nutrients. Burdock also stimulates the excretory system, which means that it works as a blood purifier by eliminating toxins from the body more quickly.
For centuries Burdock also has been used to promote healing of the skin through an infusion of dried leaves. It is still made into a root tea today; to help clear a troubled complexion. This makes it an effective treatment for acne, sores, psoriasis and eczema, but it does not work over night. For best results, it is recommended that burdock tea is taken three times daily over a period of two to three months, before significant results will be noticed. Despite the patience required, burdock has proved to be an effective treatment for many chronic skin conditions, with continued use.
Secondly, Burdock may also be used as a poultice. The leaves are usually collected within the first year of growth, bruised slightly, then place on the affected area and covered with a damp cloth. A poultice may also be made from boiled, mashed leaves. This is an effective remedy for boils and acne. The poultice draws out toxins from beneath the skin. It should be applied twice daily.
Burdock Medical History Usage
Burdock has been used for centuries to treat a host of ailments. It has been traditionally used as a “blood purifier” to clear the bloodstream of toxins, as a diuretic (helping rid the body of excess water by increasing urine output), and as a topical remedy for skin problems such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, burdock is often used with other herbs for sore throat and colds. Extracts of burdock root are found in a variety of herbal preparations as well as homeopathic remedies.
In Japan and some parts of Europe, burdock is eaten as vegetable. Burdock contains inulin, a natural dietary fiber, and has also been used traditionally to improve digestion. In fact, recent studies confirm that burdock has prebiotic properties that could improve health.
Despite the fact that burdock has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions, very few scientific studies have examined burdock’s effects. The seeds of A. lappa are used in traditional Chinese medicine, under the name niupangzi.
Burdock is a traditional medicinal herb that is used for many ailments. Burdock root oil extract, also called Bur oil, is popular in Europe as a scalp treatment applied to improve hair strength, shine and body, help reverse scalp conditions such as dandruff, and combat hair loss. Modern studies indicate that burdock root oil extract is rich in phytosterols and essential fatty acids (including rare long-chain EFAs), the nutrients required to maintain a healthy scalp and promote natural hair growth. It combines an immediate relieving effect with nutritional support of normal functions of sebaceous glands and hair follicles. According to some European herbalists, combining burdock root oil with a nettle root oil and massaging these two oils into the scalp every day has a greater effect than Bur oil alone.
Burdock leaves are used by some burn care workers for pain management and to speed healing time in natural burn treatment. Burn care workers hold that it eases dressing changes and appears to impede bacterial growth on the wound site and that it also provides a great moisture barrier.
Burdock consists primarily of carbohydrates, volatile oils, plant sterols, tannins, and fatty oils. Researchers aren’t sure which active ingredients in burdock root are responsible for its healing properties, but the herb may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial effects.
Burdock stalks taste a little like celery, but the leaves are rather bitter like dandelion greens. Burdock is abundant in the wild; you can gather your own and cook and eat the roots and leaves. However, if you’re gathering your own burdock, be careful—it looks a bit like belladonna, a plant that can be fatally toxic if ingested. Safe and effective burdock capsules or liquid root extract (Bur oil), are also available at most pharmacies and health food stores.
Burdock is generally safe, but some people should be cautious when taking this herb, especially those with abnormal blood sugar levels.
Burdock Available Forms
Burdock products consist of fresh or dried roots. Burdock supplements can be purchased as dried root powder, decoctions (liquid made by boiling down the herb in water), tinctures (a solution of the herb in alcohol, or water and alcohol), or fluid extracts.
Burdock tea can be prepared by using burdock root or burdock leaves.
Tea prepared using burdock leaves helps in treating indigestion, strengthening and toning the stomach, building the systems of young women, as well as treating genitourinary conditions, bladder pain, fluid retention and gout. It also helps in stimulating the eliminatory organs and treating glandular conditions, swollen glands, certain inflammatory conditions, inflammations, rheumatic conditions, liver conditions, hepatitis, jaundice, and liver problems.
Burdock tea helps in stimulating the secretion of bile. Tea prepared using burdock leaves helps in clearing persistent teenage acne if taken for three to four weeks.
Burdock root tea prepared in combination with dandelion root and burdock leaves is found to be an extremely effective liver cleanser and stimulator. It helps treat respiratory tract conditions and other ailments like asthma, boils, certain cancers, eczema and fevers. It also helps neutralize and eliminate poisons from the system and helps in the treatment of sciatica, scurvy, and other skin diseases.
Tea prepared from burdock leaves works well alone or combined with yellow dock and sarsaparilla for treating various skin conditions.
Burdock Tea Preparation
Mix one teaspoonful of burdock root into a cup of water, bring to boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Drink 1 cup, three times a day.
Externally, burdock preparations are used as a wash for abscesses, acne, all manner of swellings, boils, catarrh and hair growth. When burdock is prepared in combination with blind nettle, it helps with treating scaly skin conditions, syphilis, and ulcers.
Externally, burdock leaves are applied as a poultice for gouty swellings, for old sores and ulcers, for shrinking arteries and sinews, for tumors, to relieve bruises, as well as to relieve inflamed surfaces in general.
Burdock fruit (seeds) are used in treating chronic skin conditions, kidney conditions caused by a derangement of the nervous system and in restoring smoothness to the skin.
Burdock has historically been used to treat a wide variety of ailments, including arthritis, diabetes, and hair loss. It is a principal herbal ingredient in the popular cancer remedies Essiac® (rhubarb, sorrel, slippery elm) and Hoxsey formula (red clover, poke, prickly ash, bloodroot, barberry).
Burdock fruit has been found to lower blood sugar in animals, and early human studies have examined burdock root in diabetes. Laboratory and animal studies have explored the use of burdock for bacterial infections, cancer, HIV, and kidney stones.
Animal research and initial human studies suggest possible blood sugar lowering effects of burdock root or fruit. However, the available human research has not been well designed, and further study is needed before a clear recommendation can be made.
Burdock is an ingredient in the popular purported cancer remedy, Essiac®. Preliminary study has shown that burdock may have anti-cancer effects and increase quality of life in cancer patients.
There are no known scientific reports on the pediatric use of burdock, so burdock should only be given to children under the supervision of a doctor.
Capsules: 1 – 2 g 3 times per day
Dried root: steep 2 – 6 grams in 150 mL (2/3 of a cup) in boiling water for 10 – 15 minutes and then strain and drink 3 times a day; may soak a cloth in the liquid and, once cooled, wrap the cloth around affected skin area or wound (known as a poultice). Do not use on open wounds.
Tincture (1:5): 2 – 8 mL 3 times per day; the tincture may also be applied to a cloth and wrapped around affected skin area or wound
Fluid extract (1:1): 2 – 8 mL 3 times a day
Tea: 2 – 6 grams steeped in 500 mL water (about 2 cups), 3 times per day
Topical preparations of burdock are also used for skin problems (such as eczema) and wounds.
Burdock Chemical Components
The principal component of burdock root is a carbohydrate, inulin, which can account for up to 50% of the total plant mass. Additional components include anthroquinone glycosides; nonhydroxy acids; a plant hormone, gamma-guanidino-n-butyric acid; polyacetylenes; polyphenolic acids; tannins; and volatile acids. Seeds contain chlorogenic acid, fixed oils, a germacranolide, a glycoside (arctiin), Iignans, and other compounds. Some commercial teas that contain burdock have been prone to contamination with atropine.
Burdock is claimed to exert antimicrobial, antipyretic, diaphoretic, and diuretic activities. Uterine stimulation has been reported in in vivo studies. In animal studies, burdock extracts have reportedly demonstrated strong hypoglycemic activity and antagonism of platelet activating factor .
Various in vitro and animal studies have found that burdock possesses antimutagenic effects .
Pregnant or nursing women should avoid burdock as it may cause damage to the fetus.
If you are sensitive to daises, chrysanthemums, or ragweed, you may also experience an allergic reaction to burdock.
People who are dehydrated should not take burdock because the herb’s diuretic effects may make dehydration worse.
It is best to avoid taking large amounts of burdock as a supplement because there are so few studies on the herb’s safety. However, burdock eaten as a food is considered safe.
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 from established companies with good reputations. Do not gather burdock in the wild.
Allergy to burdock may occur in individuals with allergy to members of the Asteraceae/Compositae family, including ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies. Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) have been associated with burdock. Allergic skin reactions have been associated with the use of burdock plasters on the skin. Caution should be used in patients with allergies or intolerance to pectin since certain parts of the burdock plant contains different levels of pectin complex.
Burdock Possible Interactions
There are no known scientific reports of interactions between burdock and conventional medications. However, you should talk to your doctor before taking burdock if you take any of the following:
Diuretics (water pills) — Burdock could make the effect of these drugs stronger, causing you to become dehydrated.
Medications for diabetes — Burdock might lower blood sugar, resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Interactions with Herbs & Dietary Supplements
Based on animal research and limited human study, burdock may either lower or raise blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that can also alter blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment. Possible examples of herbs that may lower blood sugar include: Aloe vera , American ginseng, bilberry, bitter melon,fenugreek, fish oil, gymnema, horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE), marshmallow, milk thistle, Panax ginseng, rosemary, Siberian ginseng, stinging nettle and white horehound. Agents that may raise blood sugar levels include: Arginine, cocoa, and ephedra (when combined with caffeine).
Burdock has been associated with diuretic effects (increasing urine flow) in one human report, and in theory, may cause excess fluid loss (dehydration) or electrolyte imbalances (for example, changes in potassium or sodium levels in the blood) when used with other diuretic herbs or supplements such as artichoke, celery, corn silk, couchgrass, dandelion, elder flower, horsetail, juniper berry, kava, shepherd’s purse, uva ursi, or yarrow. Because burdock may contain estrogen-like chemicals, the effects of other agents believed to have estrogen-like properties may be altered. Possible examples include alfalfa, black cohosh, bloodroot, hops, kudzu, licorice, pomegranate, red clover, soy, thyme, white horehound, and yucca. These possible interactions are based on initial and unclear evidence.
Based on animal research, burdock may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba , fewer cases with garlic, and two cases with saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases. Some examples include: alfalfa, American ginseng, angelica, anise, Arnica montana , asafetida, aspen bark, bilberry, birch, black cohosh, bladderwrack, bogbean, boldo, borage seed oil, bromelain, capsicum, cat’s claw, celery, chamomile, chaparral, clove, coleus, cordyceps, danshen, devil’s claw, dong quai, evening primrose, fenugreek, feverfew, flaxseed/flax powder (not a concern with flaxseed oil), ginger, grapefruit juice, grapeseed, green tea, guggul, gymnestra, horse chestnut, horseradish, licorice root, lovage root, male fern, meadowsweet, nordihydroguairetic acid (NDGA), onion, papain, Panax ginseng, parsley, passionflower, poplar, prickly Ash, propolis, quassia, red clover, reishi, Siberian ginseng, sweet clover, rue, sweet birch, sweet clover, turmeric , vitamin E, white willow, wild carrot, wild lettuce, willow, wintergreen, and yucca.
Interactions with Drugs
Based on animal research and limited human study, burdock may either lower or raise blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also affect blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary. Burdock has been associated with diuretic effects (increasing urine flow) in one human report, and in theory may cause excess fluid loss (dehydration) or electrolyte imbalances (for example, changes in potassium or sodium levels in the blood). These effects may be increased when burdock is taken at the same time as diuretic drugs such as chlorothiazide (Diuril®), furosemide (Lasix®), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ), or spironolactone (Aldactone®). Based on limited human evidence that is not entirely clear, burdock may have estrogen-like properties, and may act to increase the effects of estrogenic agents including hormone replacement therapies such as Premarin® or birth control pills.
Based on animal research, burdock may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding (although human research is lacking). Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (“blood thinners”) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®). Tinctures of burdock may contain high concentrations of alcohol (ethanol), and may lead to vomiting if used with disulfiram (Antabuse®) or metronidazole (Flagyl®).
Buy Burdock Products Online
Burdock Research Links
Prebiotic effectiveness of inulin extracted from edible burdock.
Burdock (Arctium lappa): Kathi J. Kemper, MD, MPH
Antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of butyrolactone lignans from Arctium lappa on leukemic cells.