Ancient herbalists, like Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century, recognized burdock’s power in helping their patients recover from illness. Over the centuries, burdock root has been used to alleviate constipation, ease childbirth, break up kidney and bladder stones, promote sweating, remedy stomach and intestinal disorders, and control arthritis and gout pains. In medieval times it was also commonly used as a cure for syphilis.
Burdock may be considered a weed in some states due to its ability to spread. Though all aspects of the plant are used, it’s the carrot-shaped white root that can grow to two feet that contains the greatest amount of nutrients. The root contains numerous phytochemicals, including lignans, triterpenoids, and polyacetylenes, some of which have been shown to promote blood circulation,h ence its reputation as a detoxifying agent, and are linked to antidiabetic properties.
Other components include flavonoids that have shown cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects, which may explain its use both internally and externally for many skin conditions , such as acne, burns, boils, and eczema. Research shows that burdock root is also a source of inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber that feeds the good bacteria in the large intestine to improve digestion.
The inspiration for Velcro actually came from the burdock burr. In 1941, its inventor, a Swiss engineer named Georges de Mestral went for a walk in the woods and wondered if the burrs that clung to his trousers could be turned into something useful. After nearly eight years of research he successfully reproduced the natural attachment with two strips of fabric, one with thousands of tiny hooks and another with thousands of tiny loops. He named his invention Velcro and formally patented it in 1955.
In a 2017 study, diabetic mice pretreated with 200 milligrams and 300 milligrams of burdock root extract for a month increased the levels of insulin and also helped control body weight. Researchers also reported beneficial changes in blood lipid profiles, including decreased levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and increased levels of HDL cholesterol. In a study to identify potential genes that may be involved in lipid metabolism, burdock root extract reduced body weight and cholesterol levels in rats, possibly by modulating the expression of genes.
A 2002 study found that burdock helped reverse liver damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption in rats. In another animal study, burdock helped to protect against liver damage caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Tylenol (acetaminophen) and carbon tetrachloride, a chemical solvent.
One of the most common traditional uses for burdock root has been to purify the blood. Studies show that there is evidence that burdock root can remove toxins from the bloodstream. A 2011 study found that burdock root effectively detoxified blood and promoted increased circulation.
Burdock is one of the key ingredients of Essiac and Flor-Essence, herbal formulas marketed as wonder remedies for people coping with cancer. A 2011 study also found that burdock seeds had “potent inhibitory effects” on the growth of tumors caused by cancers like pancreatic carcinoma. Another 2016 study found burdock root significantly interfered with cancer cell growth.
The antioxidants in burdock are able to inhibit enzymes that led to wrinkling and excess pigmentation. One small study from 2014 that used a homeopathic preparation of burdock found significant improvements in number and types of pimples. Burdock root has long been used to treat skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema. The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of the root can help resolve skin issues when it’s applied topically to the skin.
One study from 2014 even found evidence that burdock root may help treat topical burns.
An experiment in rats found that an extract of burdock root enhanced sexual behavior, though not to the same degree as Viagara (sildenafil), a drug used to treat erectile dysfunction. It also increased serum testosterone levels, compared with the control. According to the researchers, the results support the traditional use of burdock root for treating impotence and sterility.
An important part of the immune system and the body’s inner drainage system, the lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. Burdock root strengthens the lymphatic system.
Diuretics can help to stimulate the kidneys, allowing urine to be passed more frequently and in greater quantity. This helps to cleanse the kidneys and can prevent water retention. By increasing the rate of urination, burdock root can help to remove waste from the blood and body.
Burdock Root is also “diaphoretic”, meaning it increases sweating which is another important way the body eliminates toxins.
Burdock Root contains inulin, a soluble and prebiotic fiber that helps improve digestion. Acting as food for healthy gut bacteria, inulin helps regulate inflammation and remove toxins from the body. Burdock root also contains mucilage which acts as a protection for the gastric mucosa (the mucous membrane layer of the stomach), helping it to heal. This is especially useful if it has been damaged by acidity or inflammation.
Burdock is high in the antioxidants quercetin, luteolin, and phenolic acids which will lower inflammation, including joint issues such as arthritis in numerous studies. One 2014 study found that burdock root reduced inflammatory markers in the blood for patients with osteoarthritis.
These antioxidants in burdock help to protect the liver against poisonous substances. The compounds that give burdock its bitter taste can help stimulate bile production, helping the liver flush away toxins with more speed and ease.
Burdock contains plant chemicals known as “polyacetylenes” which have anti-fungal and antibiotic qualities. This is especially useful in cases of acne, helping to fight off acne causing bacteria such as streptococcus.
Burdock Root acts on the blood and circulatory system and contains active compounds such as arctiin and lignans which have matrix-stimulating properties, thus promoting supple and younger looking skin. It can also be beneficial for eczema due to its blood purifying activity.
Burdock is a modest source of iron and calcium and contains vitamins B-complex and E
A typical dosage of Burdock Root Powder is one to two grams of powdered dry root up to three times per day.
Burdock root can be made into a herbal Tea. Use 1-2 teaspoons per cup of boiling water and steep for 3-10 minutes.
Burdock Root Tincture is traditionally taken 2-3ml, 2-3 times per day or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.
Burdock root is generally regarded as safe, however, some people should avoid it. For instance, people with diabetes who take blood-sugar lowering medicines should not use burdock root as it may cause hypoglycemia. Burdock has been used traditionally as a diuretic to increase urine output and taking additional diuretics while using it isn’t recommended as it may cause dehydration. Burdock may also trigger an allergy in people sensitive to daisies, chrysanthemums, or ragweed. Discontinue use and see your health care provider if you suspect an allergic reaction. If you have a sensitivity to foods high in inulin (such as artichokes, asparagus, or leeks), you may experience temporary gas or bloating after eating burdock root. Avoid use if you’re pregnant, as the herb has been reported to stimulate the uterus and possibly cause premature labor.
How to Buy
When looking for health burdock, look for firm, unbroken roots with taut skin. Burdock will store for many months.
Many health food stores offer burdock supplements, as well as dried root powder, tinctures, and liquid extracts.
How to Store
To store burdock, wrap it in a wet paper towel and seal in a reusable silicone bag. Refrigerate in the vegetable compartment . It will keep for several months.
If root becomes limp, soak in water until firm again.
How to Cook
Burdock has an earthy, mildly bitter taste and can be eaten raw like a carrot, but is most often sliced and added to a stir-fry. When cooked, burdock changes color from milky white to shiny grey or brown. Its bark-like skin looks thick, but is actually paper thin and can be scraped away with a fingernail or light scrubbing, much like the skin of a carrot.
Although burdock may come covered with soil, especially if you buy it at a farmers’ market, the peel of the root is brown and shouldn’t be confused for dirt. Just scrub the burdock lightly with a vegetable brush to remove any soil. The peel contains nutrients and shouldn’t be removed. Trim off the very tip of the root if it looks soft and black. Cut it into small pieces and drop immediately into cold water to prevent oxidation.