Burdock Introduction

Arctium, or burdock, is a biennial plant species native to parts of Northern Asia and Europe. It is a member of the Asteraceae family and is now equally abundant throughout the United States. Burdock is often considered a nuisance because of its barbed burrs (cockleburs) that stick to human clothing and animal fur. Despite this unappealing characteristic, it has been used for centuries as a medicinal tool to treat ailments, ranging from vitamin deficiencies to blood sugar control.

English, Native American, and Japanese cultures are amongst the first, and most well known, cultures to begin using burdock as a therapeutic herb. In fact, Japan and countries in Eastern Europe still cultivate this plant as a vegetable. It is often included as a part of the average adult diet, and upon preparation, is said to exhibit a mildly sweet taste. Burdock is often substituted for more common vegetables, like spinach and asparagus.

The root, seeds, and leaves are the main components of the plant used for commercial preparations. These specific areas of the burdock plant contain the most diverse and specialized of nutrients. Acetic acid, beta-carotene, butyric acid, caffeic acid, inulin, calcium, essential oils, and flavonoids, are among the most notable of these constituents, and may provide for its reputed healing effects. [1]

Burdock researchs

Commercial preparations of burdock supplements are made available in both oral and topical forms. Capsules, tablets, fluid extracts, and tinctures represent the most popular of these delivery methods. Burdock is also included in different herbal combinations, which are regularly ingested as specialty teas.

As mentioned, there are certain species of Arctium cultivated for use as whole foods. The two edible species of burdock are of the asian (Arctium lappa) and wild Amercian varieties (Arctium minus). Popular methods of preparation include boiling, sautéing, braising, or stir-frying. The average nutrition data for 1 cup of cooked burdock is listed below:

Burdock/1 cup cooked
Calories 110
Total fat (g) 0.2
Saturated fat (g) 0
Monounsaturated fat (g) 0
Polyunsaturated fat (g) 0.1
Dietary fiber (g) 2.3
Protein (g) 3
Carbohydrate (g) 27
Cholesterol (mg) 0
Sodium (mg) 5
Vitamin B6(mg) 0.4


Burdock Uses

Burdocks greatest potential seems to be within the areas of free radical protection. Certain Asiatic based trials have labeled burdock as a powerful antioxidant. [3] Researches believe burdock may be capable of scavenging hydrogen peroxide, and both hydroxyl and superoxide radicals. Synergistic combinations of burdock and vitamin E have proven even more effective than burdock alone. In addition, there is some speculation that burdock may also be effective at controlling cell mutations in certain forms of cancer. [4] More human research is necessary to validate this claim.

For centuries, burdock has also been used as a purifier, or “alterative,” to rid the bloodstream (and body) of toxins. [5] The root of burdock contains certain phytochemicals that promote the loss of water from the body, primarily via sweat and urine. Other substances, such as; arctiol, fukinone, taraxasterol, and polyacetylenes, have also been shown to display certain antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. [6] These findings may further support the notion that burdock is, in fact, a justifiable depurative.

Burdock seeds may also yield significant anti-inflammatory actions. [3] By inhibiting the chemical platelet activating factors of the inflammatory process, burdock may assist persons suffering from certain rheumatic conditions. [7] Complaints arising from psoriasis, gout, chapped skin, scalp, and other skin conditions may, perhaps, be addressed by the use of internal and external burdock-containing products.

Arctium may also assist in the secretion of bile, and aid in the stimulation of digestive juices. This may help to stimulate the appetite of individuals suffering from a certain immunodeficiency or specific eating disorder.

Burdock has been shown to offer some protection of the liver when it has been adversely affected by the ingestion of toxic chemicals. [8] To what extent, still, has not yet been clearly determined.

Burdock Dosages

There are no established dosages regarding the intake or application of burdock. Burdock is considered safe when taken over an extended period of time. The table below depicts several delivery forms and popular dosaging guidelines:

Supplemental Form Common Dosage
Tincture (1:5) 8 –12 milliliters, 3 x per day
Standardized Extracts (1:1) 2 –8 milliliters, 3 x per day
Ointment Follow manufacturers instructions
Dried Herb 2 – 6 grams stepped in 2/3 cup water, or by infusion,3 x per day or as needed
Decoction (1:20) 500 milliliters, divided over course of a day


Burdock Toxicities and Deficiencies

Burdock Toxicities

There have been no toxicities reported from the lone ingestion of burdock. However, there have been cases in which burdock supplements were contaminated with the poisonous material from other plants, predominantly the belladonna or “deadly” nightshade. [10] The ingestion of these contaminated sources has resulted in severe illness and even death.

Burdock Precautions

Burdock supplements, oral or topical, remain contraindicated for those allergic to plants included in the daisy family. Compounds within the root of burdock have also been shown to cause a uterus-stimulating effect in mammalian study. For this reason, pregnant and lactating women should never use or be administered burdock-containing supplements.


1. Duke, JA. Handbook of Phtochemcial Constituents of GRAS Herbs and Other Economic Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1992.

2. Whole Health MD, Foods information page, “Burdock.” Wholehealthmd.com, LLC. 2000. Accessed on: 27, June 2005. http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/herbaldrugs/101840.shtml

3. Lin CC, Lu JM, Yang JJ, Chuang SC, Ujiie T. Anti-inflammatory and radical scavenge effects of Arctium lappa. Am J Chin Med. 1996:52-53.

4. Morita K, Kada T, Namiki M. A desmutagenic factor isolated from burdock (Arctium lappa Linne). Mutation Res 1984; 129:25-31.

5. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988; 23-4.

6. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 9-101.

7. Iwakami S, Wu JB, Ebizuka Y, Sankawa U. Platelet activating factor (PAF) antagonists contained in medicinal plants: Lignans and sesquiterpenes. Chem Pharm Bull, 1992; 40:1196-8.

8. Lin SC, Chung TC, Lin CC, Ueng TH, Lin YH, Lin SY, Wang LY. Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa on carbon tetrachloride- and acetaminophen-induced liver damage. American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2000; 28(2):163-173.

9. Bradley DR (ed). British Herbal Compendium, vol 1. Bournemouth, England: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992; 42-8.

10. Rhoads PM, Tong TG, Banner W Jr, Anderson R. Anticholinergic poisonings associated with commercial burdock root tea. Journal of Toxicology and Clinical Toxicology. 1984-85; 22(6):581-584.


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