Greater burdock (Arctium lappa) is a member of the thistle family, with broad, heart-shaped leaves and rounded heads of purple flowers surrounded by hooked burs (for which the plant is named). Burdock has a cleansing effect on the body, and it stimulates digestive secretions and aids digestion. Most parts of the plant are used for cooking or medicinal purposes, and it has been used therapeutically in Europe, North America and Asia for hundreds of years.
The root, leaf and seeds are used to make medicinal remedies.
Burdock consists primarily of carbohydrates, volatile oils, plant sterols, tannins and fatty oils. Research indicates that the herb has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and antibacterial effects. The roots, young shoots, stalks and dried seeds contain compounds with anti-oxidant, disease-preventing and health-promoting properties. Non-starch polysaccharides have a laxative effect, and inulin helps reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels in the blood. The roots also contain a healthy dose of potassium and small amounts of vital vitamins, including folic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin and vitamins C and E. Other minerals are also present.
Burdock has been recommended to:
- Act as a diuretic, helping to expel toxic products from the blood through the urine.
- Stimulate the appetite and alleviate gas and indigestion.
- Lower blood sugar levels and help reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol.
- Burdock tea helps soothe muscle spasms.
- Ease the swelling in mumps and soothe itching during measles.
- Burdock appears to have antitumour action.
- Root or leaf extracts may be applied externally to treat eczema and psoriasis, acne and other skin conditions.
Flora Force Products containing Burdock
Domestic & culinary uses
Burdock root has a sweetish flavour similar to that of Jerusalem artichokes or parsnips. In Japan, it is a popular appetiser, side dish and soup ingredient. Try cooking burdock root in boiling water until tender, then serving it sliced with butter. Both roots and stems can be peeled and fried as veggie crisps.
Although burdock is indigenous to Europe and Asia, it seems to thrive in the African sun too, says South African herbal remedy and gardening expert Margaret Roberts. Grow as a biennial in well-composed soil in full sun, water well twice a week and spray the leaves regularly.
Acknowledgements & credits
Compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer
- Brett, J. Burdock: Herbal Remedies. https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/herbal-remedies/burdock-herbal-remedies.htm
- Cha, Y.S. et al. A review of the pharmacological effects of Arctium lappa (abstract). 2011. National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20981575
- Roberts, M. 100 Edible & Healing Flowers. 2014, Random House Struik, Cape Town, South Africa.
- Van Wyk, B-E. and Wink, M. Medicinal Plants of the World. 2004. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa.
- Burdock photo by Homer Edward Price (Common Burdock with beeUploaded by Amada44) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons