Herb Library

Back to Herb Menu     Back to Index

DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

a.k.a. Bardana, Beggar's Buttons, Burdock, Burr, Burr Seed, Clot-burr, Clothburr, Cockleburr, Dock, Fox's Clote, Grass Burdock, Hardock, Hareburr, Horseburr,
Hurrburr, Klettenwurzel (Ger), Lappa, Lopuh (Russ), Love Leaves, Pricker Plant, Repeinik (Russ), Stick Button, Thorny Burr, Turkey Burrseed

(Arctium Lappa)
image 1 image 2

Except for the ass, no other animal is known to browse on it.

AVOID IF PREGNANT! Large quantities can stimulate the uterus!
Should be used only in small doses over a period of time, but never permanently and never given in large doses close together!
The seeds contain an oil which is used medically, but only with professional supervision.
Burdock can be harsh in action on the kidneys! The Japanese variety called 'Gobo', which is milder in action, is recommended for both culinary and medicinal use.
In the past, commercial supplies have been contaminated with deadly BELLADONA root!

DRUG INTERACTIONS: Insulin dosage needs to be monitored if taking Burdock.

NOTE: According to Varro E. Tyler, PhD, (The Honest Herbal), the dried root found commercially is lacking in medicinal value.

ROOTS, LEAVES = Bitter glycosides (ie. arctiopicrin), flavonoids, tannin, traces of volatile oil, inulin (45%), resin, mucilage, alkaloids, essential oil, polyacetylenes, organic acids, sugars (root; 15% in the form of glucose), starch (root; 12%), lignans (lappalol A & B).
LEAVES = arctiol, fukinone, tararasterol.
SEEDS =Essential fatty acids, fixed oils (15 to 30%), arctiin, arctigenin, gogosterin, chorogenic acid, vitamin A, vitamin B2.
ROOT (based on zero moisture per 100 grams) = 23.1 mg aluminum, 3.4% ash, 733 mg calcium, 0.20 mg chromium, 1.20 mg cobalt, 14.7 mg iron, 537 mg magnesium, 0.60 mg manganese, 1.3 mg niacin, 437 mg phosphorus, 1.680 mg potassium, 0.34 mg riboflavin, 0.14 mg seleium, 2.25 mg silicon, 152 mg sodium, 1.1 mg thiamine, 2.1 mg tin, 7500 IU vitamin A, 8.5 mg vitamin C, 0.22 mg zinc. Contains 76.5% water when fresh, 9.3% when air dried.
The ASH of the green plant contains carbonate of potash and some niter.
NOTE: Extracts of the root are phototoxic to Candida albicans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

A stout, erect biennial, native to Eurasia, usually to 6 feet, but can go to 9 feet under optimum conditions. Common weed on roadsides and waste places of Europe and North America, although not native to the latter, but introduced by settlers. Leaves and stalks often striped with purplish patterns. Leaves are large, up to 16" at the base, becoming smaller toward the top, ovate-cordate, smooth above with whitish down underneath, resembling rhubarb. Globular flowers (in 2nd year) appear in clusters at top of stem with stiff, hooked bracts which cling to anything coming in contact. Bracts enclose purple florets, then later, large achenes with a short pappus of stiff hairs on each (fruit, which are spheres of brown-gray burrs). Root is long, up to 3 feet, and grows straight down into the soil, being fleshy and gray brown on the outside, whitish on the inside.

The scientific name is derived from the Greek 'arktos' meaning bear and 'lappa' meaning to seize, the whole being descriptive of its hooked burrs which are extremely difficult to remove. It was the hooks of the burrs which inspired George de Mestral to invent Velcro™. The word 'burr' is said to come from the French 'bourre' meaning woolly.

Burdock was official in the USP 1831 to 1842, 1851 to 1916, and the NF 1916-1947.

Astrologically ruled by Venus.

PROPAGATION: By seed sown 1/4 inch deep in nitrogen rich soil; germination 6 to 10 days. Self seeds easily. Biennial. In commercial cultivation, the seeds are sown in August, then the roots harvested in the autumn of the following year to be washed, dried, and powdered (Dandelions are treated the same in commercial cultivation).
NEEDS: Very little encouragement. Hardy to zone 3. A plant of wasteplaces and roadsides. It tends to pull nutrients from the soil, thus depleting it for other plants. Grown as a crop in parts of England, the United States, and Canada, with average crops yielding 2000 lbs of root per acre. If planting the cultivated variety called Gobo, it wants moist, neutral to alkaline soil (pH 5.8) in sun or light shade.
PART USED: Stems, roots, seeds [niu bang zi], leaves.
HARVEST: Root in fall of 1st year after frost, or 2nd year in spring before flowering (used fresh as food, dried for most medicinal purposes); seeds when mature; leaves; young stalks in spring
TO DRY ROOT: Same as dandelion. Clean, chop well, and dry in 200 F. oven.
COMMON BURDOCK Arctium minor: Used the same as A. lappa
Arctium tormentosa: Used same as above.


Experimental extracts have shown the following effects: antibacterial, antifungal, antifurunculous, antitumor (1964), diuretic, estrogenic, hypoglycemic. Also said to contain antiviral compounds specific to fighting AIDS, but verification currently lacking.
Secondary adaptogen (but primarily known as a blood purifier), alterative, antibiotic (fresh root), antifungal (fresh root), anti-inflammatory, astringent, choleretic, diuretic, diaphoretic (when fresh), expectorant, lowers blood sugar (extract of seeds for diabetes); affects circulatory, urinary, and digestive systems. Has acquired a reputation for neutralizing and cleansing toxins from the body that were evidenced by signs of skin problems, sluggish digestion, arthritic-type pains, but should be noted that kidneys and bladder were required to be healthy before beginning such a regimen. Often combined with Yellowdock and Red clover in cleasing remedies. Has also been used in cases of cancer (tumors) by many herbal medicine systems due to presence of cancer-inhibiting compounds, although originally it had been used in folk medicines of several continents for this purpose, including tumors of the breast, glands, intestine, knee, lip, liver, sinus, stomach, tongue and uterus. All parts, leaves, roots, and seeds, have been used for cancer, abscesses, boils, flu, pertussis, and tonsillitis with a decoction of the root being used for ulcerated, glandular, and white tumors.
More specifically: the root has been considered alterative, mildly laxative, diuretic, diaphoretic, anti-rheumatic, antibiotic and has been used for cancer, eczema, icthyosis, prurigo, psoriasis, catarrh, endometriosis, gallstones, gout, flu, rheumatism, scrofula, syphilis and externally for hemorrhoids, swellings, sores, carbuncles, and measles; stalks, mild laxative; the leaves mildly laxative, diuretic; the seeds (must be crushed before being decocted), alterative, febrifuge, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, depurative, reduce blood sugar, diuretic, diaphoretic, expectorant, febrifuge, carminative (taken with honey and wine); tincture of the seeds has been used for kidney disease, acne, prurigo, psoriasis; large leaves, indigestion, general digestive weakness.
Has been used internally and externally for eczema, psoriasis, styes, other inflammatory skin conditions, boils, carbuncles, canker sores, sores, sepsis, joint disorders, rheumatism, lumbago, sciatica, any chronic inflammatory conditions. Seeds have been considered specific for skin diseases when necessary to open pores. For skin eruptions such as eczema, acne or boils, a decoction has been taken by the half-cupful 2 to 3 times a day. A decoction of equal parts Burdock and Yellow Dock has been used as a wash for rashes, pimples, eczema, and similar skin conditions. Has sometimes been combined with Johnny-jump-up for skin eruptions.
Has been used traditionally for gout (said to help break up deposits of uric acid), measles, gonorrhea, vertigo, rheumatism, hives, sore throats, insect and snake bites, constipation, leprosy, dandruff, burns, ulcers, sores.
Has been combined with Yellow Dock for urinary stones and gravel. Also to aid kidney function in cases of cystitis. Contains natural iron and silica salts said to be responsible for this action.
Has been combined with Dandelion root as a blood purifying spring beverage.
The following combination has been used in tincture form where more of a stimulant was desired: 10 drops Burdock, 10 drops Goldenseal, 10 drops Buchu.
Has been used as an appetite stimulent in cases of anorexia.
Fresh leaves have been used as aid to liver problems by producing and simulating secretion of bile.
Has also been used as a wash for dandruff, poison oak and ivy. The juice of the leaves has been used to rub on wasp and hornet stings to give relief.
Infusion of leaves or root taken before meals to settle stomach and cleanse blood. Also, a decoction of the leafy branch for vertigo.
Crushed leaves have been used to ease aches and bruises. The bruised leaves have also been applied to the forehead and soles of the feet for fever.
Leaves as tea or poultice have sedative effect . Also used for sciatica, rheumatoid arthritis of hot, dry joints. Also, poultice has been used for skin ulcers, acne, furunculosis.
An infusion or decoction of the root has been used as a wash for acne, fungal skin infections, anthlete's foot, ringworm. Also used for skin problems have been the shredded leaves folded into egg whites and applied as a poultice; this same poultice has been used to relieve pain. Another combination for skin problems has been Burdock, Red Clover, and Yellow Dock.
Has been used for corns and warts.
In Chinese medicine is used to treat 'yang' conditions, excess nervous energy, sweating out of toxins, and cooling the heat of infection. Seeds are also used for abscesses, acne, constipation, dropsy, fever, flatulence, unproductive cough, sore red swollen throat, pneumonia, swellings, measles, mumps, carbuncles, scarlet fever, scrofula, smallpox, snakebite, syphilis, as well as those conditions treated by Western herbalism with other parts of the plant. Seeds were also used by American Eclectics for skin diseases and as a diuretic.
In Chinese medicine the entire seed pod is dried or roasted and used for abscess, cancer, coughs, colds, sore swollen throats, boils, measles, epidemic parotitis, facial erysipelas, hoarseness..
Tincture of the seed has been used for dropsy and pneumonia.
Native Americans of the Otos tribes used a decoction of the root for pleurisy. Burdock played a part in herbal medicine used by the Meskwaki women for labor. The Flambeau Ojibwe used the root for stomach pain. The Potawatomi used a root tea as a general tonic and blood purifier.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
WHEN TAKEN AS FOOD = 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh root
DRIED ROOT = 6 to 12 grams
DECOCTION = 1 oz root or seeds to 1½ pints water, boiled down to 1 pint; 3 oz taken at a time, 3 or 4 times daily. To induce sweating: simmer covered for 10 minutes and take 1/2 cup tea while in a hot bath. Alternate method: place 1 tsp root in 1 cup cold water; steep 5 hours, then bring to boil; 1 cup taken daily, mouthful at a time.
TINCTURE = 10 to 30 drops in water or tea 3 to 4 times daily.
JUICE = Grate fresh root and add 1/2 again as much water, then squeeze out liquid; 1 cup taken daily, a mouthful at a time.
FLUID EXTRACT of the ROOT = 1/2 to 2 tsp
SOLID EXTRACT = 5 to 15 grains
FLUID EXTRACT of the SEED = 10 to 30 drops
ITCH OINTMENT: Wash and grate fresh root and combine it with safflower oil and cocoa butter; cook in covered ceramic dish at 200 degrees for 2 to 3 hours; strain out roots and return liquid to pot along with grated beeswax; good for any incessant itching and can possibly relieve cats and dogs and horses of itching.

Homeopathic tincture used for: acne, boils, bunions, Dupuytren's contracture, eczema serpeginosa, eruptions, glandular problems, gonorrhea, gout, impotence, leucorrhea, pain in the extremities, phosphaturia, rheumatism, ringworm, scrofula, sterility, styes, ulcers, profuse and frequent urination, uterine prolapse. For chronic skin disease homeopathic dose is 10 to 30 drops in 2 tbsp cold water.

FARM ANIMALS: The bruised leaves have been applied externally to ringworm and scabies (a better choice is Elecampane). The fruits and roots used in lotion form for burns. Roots have been used for blood disorders, rheumatism, cough, skin parasites, burns, scalds, skin irritations. DOSE = 2 oz sliced root in 2 pints of water, simmered for 30 minutes; 1/2 pint morning and night while fasting; same decoction is used externally.

There is a variety cultivated in Asia and known as 'Gobo' (seeds are available). This is the variety recommended for culinary purposes and suitable for medicinal purposes as well.
Also see Cooking with Herbs and Wild Foods.
Gobo root is slivered, soaked in water to remove bitternesss, then stir fried with carrots, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Also cut into thin rounds to add to soups, vegetables, stir fries, and meat dishes in Asian cuisine.
Stalks of the young leaves (harvested before flowers appear or open) are scraped, then cooked like celery, or added to stir-fries and soups, or eaten raw in salads.
The tender, young leaves of early spring are blanched and used as a salad vegetable.
The roots have been roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute; also pounded and added to pancakes or made up like potatoes.
In Russia, Burdock leaves are wrapped around fish and game to season, then cooked bundle fashion in a cooking pit.
BURDOCK CREAM = Top potatoes and vegetables with the following. Simmer 1/2 cup shredded root in 1 cup apple cider vinegar for 5 minutes; place in blender and process; then add 1/2 cup yogurt.
Burdock was eaten as spring greens by the Iroquois, who also cooked the roots for soup and dried and stored them for winter use.

An infusion is used as a face rinse to freshen skin.
In Russia, Burdock oil (called Repeinoe Maslo) has been used as a hair tonic for falling hair.

Leaves, stems and green burrs are lightfast, although there is some dulling with a tin mordant.
Light greenish-gold with an alum mordant.
Greenish-tan with chrome.
Olive-green with copper.
Bright gold with tin.
Dark gray-green with iron.
Dull beige with no mordant.

It was once a practice of young girls to toss the burrs at the object of their affections; if they stuck, it would prove true love.
Burdock was used in ceremonial rites by the Plains Indians of the United States.

1. Culpeper advocated treatment of a prolapsed uterus to be efective when applying a poultice of burdock leaf or seed to the head to draw it upward; in case of fits, then applied to the soles of the feet; or if desirable for it remain in the same position, then applied to the naval.
2. The leaves were boiled in urine and bran until the liquid was mostly evaporated, then the remainder applied to gout.

©2000 & 2005 by Ernestina Parziale, CH