Arctium lappa – Burdock


Burdock has many names including Great bur, Clot bur, Cocklebur, Beggars buttons, Cockle buttons, Lappa, Gypsy’s rhubarb & Snake’s rhubarb.

From the Asteraceae Family, the fresh & dried roots are used medicinally in cooking, tea & tincture from.  Origins in Europe, Asia & North America, naturalised in New Zealand now considered a noxious weed.

Historically it has been used as a blood cleanser, for treating all skin ailments and as part of cancer treatment.  Made famous by Nurse Rene Caisse in the 1920’s as part of Essiac Tea used for the reduction and elimination of cancers.  In Japan Burdock is cultivated commerically for use as a vegetable in cooking.  Click on the photos to head to the recipe:

Today the main areas of use for Burdock are for treating the musculoskeletal system, healing the skin & cancer treatment.

Burdocks main active constituents are:

1. Inulin (up to 45%).  Inulin helps to stabilise blood sugar in hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), as well as have diuretic & immuno-stimulating properties, meaning it can help with kidney support and immune related disease.

2. Tannins – tannins give rise to the puckering/astringent effect in the mouth.  Tannins are what enable us to convert animal hides into leather.  The astringent action makes it very useful for wound healing; reducing absorption of toxins; protecting against irritants;  reducing hyper-secretions;  reducing swelling;  reducing internal bleeding; binding effect in the gut – relieve diarrhoea; use externally to reduce inflammation and swelling when used as a wash; liver (hepato) protective.

3. Flavonoid glycosides – flavonoid glycosides are the most common plant pigment after chlorophyll & carotenoids.  They are known to give the autumn leaf colours, as well as yellow, orange & red in flowers, gives plants protection against UV radiation, defence against infection, acting as an antioxidant,  they can help give protection against environmental stress as well as inhibit or stimulate certain enzyme systems.  Giving burdock it’s anti-inflammatory, vulnerary and antioxidant actions.

As well as the above 3 constituents burdock also contains: alkaloids, volatile oils, anti-microbial substances, mucilage, resin, polyacetylenes and is rich in iron.  These active constituents result in the following actions:

Bitter – an agent which has a bitter taste that promotes digestive function and improves appetite.
Alterative – an agent used to improve elimination of metabolic waste and in so doing restores normal body functions.
Diuretic – an agent that increases the secretion and flow of urine.
Diaphoretic – an agent that produces perspiration and increases elimination through the skin, often used in reducing fevers.
Nutritive – an agent that nourishes the body i.e. rich in nutrients.
Mild laxative
Vulnerary – an agent used to speed the healing of wounds.

Internally this makes burdock very beneficial for treating skin disorders i.e. eczema, psoriasis, acne, boils, ulcers, bruises.  Burdock helps the body to rid itself of toxins cleansing the tissues as well as blood & is best used gently over a longer period of time i.e. 3-6 months if not more.  Taking internally as a tea and/or applying as a poultice externally will further help the healing process.

Burdock is also of benefit in healing the digestive system.  The slightly bitter taste stimulates gastric secretions, increasing bile production.  This in turn helps to aid digestion, relieve constipation and improve appetite.

Its diuretic action makes it very supportive to the kidneys helping to remove excessive toxins and damaging acids (i.e. uric acid) by facilitating their removal through the kidneys.  Helping to ease inflammation and bringing relief to those suffering from musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis & gout.

In a lesser known capacity burdock root can be used to stimulate diaphoresis in sweating which will help to reduce a high fever.  You can even toast the roots of burdock and combine with Roasted Dandelion Root for a rich & wonderful tasting coffee replacement.

To prepare:  Use 1 teaspoon of root per cup of tea.  Place in cold water in a pot and bring to the boil.  Turn down the heat to a simmer and leave simmering with lid on for 10 – 15 minutes.  Drink up to 3 cups daily.

Other herbs that combine well with burdock: