Burdock (Arctium lappa) plant is native to Asia and Europe and has spread widely throughout the United States in the recent decades. It is also referred to as gobo root, edible burdock, greater burdock, burr and lappa. Growing as tall as five feet in height, the plant has large, dark green leaves and reddish-purple “burrs” that stick to clothes and animal fur. The young leaves of this plant make a tasty, slightly bitter addition to salads. The roots have an earthy, slightly sweet taste when cooked well. The roots and seeds have medicinal properties that are used in both Chinese and Western medicine.
Burdock purifies the blood by clearing congestion in several of the major systems of the body, including the circulatory, lymphatic, respiratory, and urinary systems. It helps remove excess fluids and bile, while stimulating the removal of toxic waste materials, and thereby helps to restore the normal body functions. It increases perspiration, which helps in the removal of toxins. The herb is helpful in treating various skin conditions as it stimulates the release of waste products from the cells.
Chronic Inflammatory Conditions (arthritis, sciatica, and gout)
Inflammation around the joints caused by arthritis and other conditions can be helped by drinking burdock tea, usually made from the roots or seeds of the plant. By reducing inflammation and removing calcified deposits that collect around the joints, burdock tea can relieve many of the painful symptoms suffered by those with arthritis, gout, or sciatica. The tea works best when taken consistently over time.
Skin Conditions (acne, eczema, boils, and wounds)
Burdock roots and seeds both work to help eliminate waste from the blood and cells, which in turn helps reduce acne break-outs and boils. The roots specifically helps support the immune system and keep it from turning on itself in an eczema attack. The seeds also have antiseptic properties and have been shown to kill bacteria and fungi that attack the skin. The antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties combined make burdock useful in wound and burn treatment.
The bitter roots, leaves and seeds of burdock stimulate digestion secretions, aiding in digestion. It is also used to treat digestion related symptoms including wind, distension and indigestion. Burdock works to remove toxins, cleansing the body of waste materials, which relieves liver disorders and improves digestion. It tones the various organs in the digestive system, increasing their ability to eliminate wastes.
In addition to assisting with digestion, the insulin in burdock prevents the body from absorbing sugars. Insulin fills the intestines with fiber, preventing any accompanying sugars from being taken up into the system. This helps prevent sharp rises and declines in blood sugar levels such as those experienced by people with diabetes. Compared to other starches insulin is easier to metabolize for people with diabetes. Burdock also contains chromium, a mineral shown to help insulin work more efficiently and regulate blood sugar levels. But still there are no clear-cut burdock studies on diabetes treatment.
Burdock root has shown some promise in treating or preventing cancer. According to researchers in Germany, all parts of the burdock plant show anti-tumor activity, not only the roots. Japanese scientists have discovered what they call the B-factor, a substance in burdock that helps reduce cell mutation regardless of the presence or absence of metabolic activation. Some studies with animals show that a dietary fiber found in burdock seed called arctiin has a beneficial effect on breast cancer if found in the early stages. It is used as a primary ingredient in the Hoxsey and Essiac herbal cancer treatments.
Burdock has been known to cause the occasional flare-up in symptoms when used for the first time. It has also been known in rare cases to cause contact dermatitis, so appropriate care should be taken at first when using burdock in any form.
In addition to its medicinal qualities, burdock makes a nutritious addition to any diet. Rich in iron, protein, potassium, and calcium, it can be added to salads, juiced, or cooked like asparagus.