Burdock, Arctium lappa
Beggar’s Button, Clotburr, Lappa, Thorny burr, Cloth burr, Gobo (Japanese) , Bardane (French), Klette (German), Bardana (Spanish), Lopan (Polish), Niu bang zi (Chinese), Lappola or Bardana (Italian)
root, rhizome, seeds, leaf
inulin, essential oil, resin, organic acids, lignans, mucilage, fatty acids, phenolic acids, high in minerals, thiamine and vitamin A
Root – mucilaginous, alterative, diuretic, bitter, demulcent, laxative, vulnerary, nutritive
Seeds -diaphoretic, diuretic, antipyretic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory
Root – mildly sweet, cool, dry, bitter
Leaves – cool, dry, bitter
Seeds – cold, pungent, bitter
May cause allergic reaction in those with Asteraceae family allergies. Plant may cause contact dermatitis in some sensitized people due to its lactone content.
Because of its demulcent, anti-inflammatory qualities burdock has been useful for digestive complaints, urinary tract problems, fluid retention, rheumatism, and skin conditions (especially with dry scaly patches) such as acne and boils. It has been known by Western herbalists as a blood purifier, nutritive, alterative, and tonic for use in many acute and chronic problems. Its bitter properties are said to stimulate the appetite and benefit liver and spleen. With continuous use burdock is thought to help restore intestinal flora. The high inulin root is used throughout the world as a vegetable. Burdock has an herbal tradition of use for cancer and is one of the herbs used in the traditional Essiac and Hoxsey/trifolium formulas.
Donnie Yance states in his book, Herbal Medicine Healing & Cancer:
Burdock contains antitumor activity and a substance capable of reducing mutation called the B-factor, for burdock factor. Benzaldehyde, a constituent of burdock, has been shown to have antitumor activity.
Unfortunately the seeds are not as commonly used, though they too have a powerhouse of benefits. They have been used for throat infection, pneumonia, scarlet fever, smallpox, eczema, psoriasis, syphilis, rheumatism, urinary tract, and cold and flu. The seeds are also used by some for cancer.
Donnie Yance again states, in Herbal Medicine Healing & Cancer:
The highest levels of lignans are found in the seeds, the part of the plant I use most frequently.
Burdock is one of those amazing herbs that you could fill an entire book with its benefits and uses.
Usual Preparation and Dosage:
The fresh root can be used as food, prepared as you would root vegetables in soups, salads, or stir fry. Russians wrap fish in the leaf for flavor while cooking and the flower stalk can be harvested before bloom and eaten boiled.
BHC: 2-6 grams dried root decoction or 8-12 ml 1:5 tincture three times a day
Planetary Herbology recommends: 3-9 grams of seed prepared as an infusion daily
A leaf infusion, root decoction, or a poultice of the leaf is often used externally for healing skin disorders.
Bioregion Growing and Harvesting
Burdock is a native plant of Europe and Asia, but can now be found throughout much of the United States and Canada. This is a large biennial herb that can reach 10 feet tall. The leaf grows in basal rosettes which can be up to 20 inches long and are wavy green with a grey undersides. The tap root can be up to 3 feet long and does take a bit of work to harvest. July through September of the second year, burdock blooms in brown grey burs with purple flowers. The root can be harvested in the first fall or the second spring. The root must be scrubbed well before cooking. When drying the root scrub off all dirt and then chop in small pieces before drying, as it will get very hard when fully dried. Seeds are harvested from the burr in the second year and dried after the hard seed coat is removed. As you watch the video below, you will understand that while burdock seeds can be harvested on your own, purchasing them from a reputable source is often preferable and much easier.
Herbalist Jim McDonald shares some great information about burdock in this video:
Herbal Root Coffee Replacement
One of my favorite ways to use burdock is as an herbal coffee replacement. I mix this with dandelion and yellow dock roots.
Makes 1-3 Cups
1 tablespoon chopped dried burdock root
1 teaspoon chopped dried dandelion root
1 teaspoon chopped dried yellow dock root
1 – 3 cups filtered water
Stainless steel or glass pan
Place pan on stove and add dried roots. Turn stove to low heat. Continuously stir roots in pan as it heats. This must be done over low heat as it can burn quickly. You want all the roots to be dark brown coffee colored. After the roots are dark pour water over them and simmer for 15 minutes. You may use 1-3 cups water depending on how strong you like your herbal coffee. An alternative to roasting in the pan is slow oven roasting at 375 degrees until browned. Check every 5 minutes and stir with a spatula. I love to add honey and coconut or cashew milk to my herbal coffee.