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Burdock Benefits Your Body

Updated on October 2, 2014

Burdock is a Healthful Plant for You

Burdock is often considered a weed, but it's also used as an herbal medicine. The benefits of burdock include its use as a blood purifier and a diuretic, and it supports the health of the liver, kidneys, and bladder. Burdock root makes up the largest portion of the four herb Essiac Tea formula.

Burdock is easy to identify, and it's easy to find in "disturbed" areas, such as along fences and roads. We have it growing in our garden area (not on purpose!), but we've been putting it to great use, adding slices of the nutritious root to our stir fry meals.

Burdock and dandelion are sometimes mixed together in teas and other drinks (beer and a British soft drink), and used as digestive aids.

Flickr photo by dendroica

Common burdock
Common burdock

Burdock is a Biennial "Weed"

Burdock (Arctium spp) is a member of the Asteraceae family, which also includes asters and daisies. It's native throughout Europe and northern Asia, and it has spread throughout North America as well, after being brought over(probably accidentally) from the Old World.

Most people consider burdock to be an invasive weed. It grows in "disturbed" areas, such as along roads and fences, in pastures and in abandoned lots. Burdock can grow to over 5 feet high, with leaves over a foot long.

Burdock has pink or purple flowers that are enclosed in a prickly seed pod, or "bur". These seed pods have many little hooks that get caught in fur, hair, and on clothing.

Burdock is a "biennial", meaning it blooms in its second year. During its first year, it grows a long taproot and a roseate of leaves low to the ground, and during the second year it grows the stalk and flowers. During the time I've been working on this lens (mid-spring), I've been noticing first year burdock growing in many places including in our soon-to-be tilled garden bed, and along the side of trails through our local wooded area.

Photo of Greater Burdock by Christian Fischer, CC BY-SA 3.0

Arctium lappa roots
Arctium lappa roots

Burdock Uses -- Medicinal

Health Benefits of Burdock

All parts of the burdock plant can be used for medicinal purposes, although the roots are most commonly used. Often the roots or the leaves are made into a tea, but extracts can also be also prepared.

Burdock is a "blood purifier", with detoxifying properties. It can be used as a diuretic and a laxative, and for joint pain and various skin problems, among many other uses. It's often taken as a tea, but can also be used as a poultice for skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, boils, and wounds.

Burdock is also used as a cancer-fighting remedy. As I mentioned earlier, burdock is the main ingredient in Essiac Tea, which is known mostly as an alternative or complementary treatment for cancer, and it is also used in the Hoxsey cancer treatment. Both treatments were scoffed at and even outlawed in the middle of the last century, being scorned as "useless treatments with extracts of useless backyard weeds."

But these "useless backyard weeds" have been used for centuries by other cultures for their curative effects, including for cancer.

Recent studies have shown that burdock has a number of anti-cancer properties. Certain compounds in burdock stimulate the immune system, promote healthy cell growth and suppress abnormal cell growth. Burdock also helps to regulate blood sugar levels, reducing hypoglycemia.

Wikimedia photo of Arctium lappa roots by Micheal Becker, CC BY-SA 3.0

Tasty Burdock root
Tasty Burdock root

Burdock Uses -- Culinary

Crunchy, earthy taste


Burdock root is used as a root vegetable (like a carrot) in Japan, and it's rich in vitamins C and B, and magnesium. It has a crunchy, earthy taste, and it works well in soups and stir-fries. You can harvest your own burdock root , or you might be able to find it in an Asian grocery store. If you harvest your own, dig it up during the first year, since it gets tough and woody during the second year.

Some suggestions for eating:

  • Cut into thin slivers and fry in vegetable oil until crispy, as an alternative to french fries.
  • Chop into small chunks about a cup each: burdock, carrots, fennel, potatoes, turnips. Place them in shallow baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, and add garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Bake for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees, or until tender.
  • Stir-fry slices of burdock, carrot, and green onion in vegetable oil and sesame oil. Add soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds. A variation (see photo) is to stir fry burdock, carrot, green beans with minced cayenne pepper and crushed garlic in coconut oil. Serve over noodles.

Flickr photo by carianoff

Dandelion and Burdock Soda

A traditional British soft drink, from as far back as the 1200's, is made from dandelion and burdock. There are alcohol variations (Dandelion and Burdock beer) as well.

Dandelion and burdock are both bitter herbs, and as such are used as digestive aids.

You can make your own recipe of dandelion and burdock soda (also seasoned with ginger and anise) or buy pre-made, such as the cans of Barr's Originals Dandelion and Burdock.

Learn About Burdock From a Naturalist

"Wildman" Steve Brill is a naturalist and environmental educator in the Greater New York area. He leads foraging tours, teaching people how to find and harvest edible plants.

He says he "is best known for having been handcuffed and arrested by undercover park rangers for eating a dandelion in Central Park!"

Here Steve talks about Burdock -- what it looks like, where to find it, what its uses are, from medicinal to culinary uses.

Velcro / Burdock hooks
Velcro / Burdock hooks

Invention of Velcro Inspired by Burdock Burs

In 1948 the Swiss inventor George de Mestral came up with the idea for Velcro after a walk with his dog. Both George and the dog came back covered with burdock burs sticking to clothes and fur.

Being a man of "great curiosity", George inspected one of the burs under his microscope and saw all of the small hooks that so easily attached to his clothes and his dog's fur.

He came up with the idea of inventing a two-sided fastener -- one side made of stiff hooks like the burdock burs, and the other with soft loops like the fabric of his pants.

The word "Velcro" comes from the combination of "velour" (a soft plush fabric) and "crochet" hook.

Velcro was patented in 1955.

Wikimedia photo of Velcro by Alberto Salguero

Wikimedia photo of burdock bur hooks by Jaho

Yogi Tea, Detox, 16 Count, 1.02 oz, (Pack of 6), Packaging May Vary
Yogi Tea, Detox, 16 Count, 1.02 oz, (Pack of 6), Packaging May Vary

Organic Burdock, Organic Dandelion, and a few other assisting herbs work together in this tea to facilitate the elimination of toxins.

 

More On Edible Plants and Herbal Remedies

There are many common plants that are edible and also can be used medicinally. You may be interested in the following.

Burdock Benefits Your Body

Burdock is often considered a weed, but it's also used as an herbal medicine. The benefits of burdock include its use as a blood purifier and a diuretic, and...

Sheep Sorrel Herb - Edible Weed With Healing Benefits

Sheep sorrel, or Rumex acetosella is a common weedy plant that grows throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere. Like the many species within this genus, it...

Essiac Tea: A Healing Herbal Tea

Essiac tea is a mild-tasting medicinal herbal tea that supports the immune system and nourishes the body.

I drink Essiac herbal tea for 2 - 3 weeks a couple...

Dandelion Benefits

The Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is familiar to most of us, with it's cheery yellow flower head that turns into a puffy sphere of seeds which then...

Red Clover Benefits

Red clover is a common plant, and familiar to many of us, with its showy dark pink flowers and attractive broad trifoliate (3 leaflets) leaves.

Comments? Suggestions? I'd like to hear from you!

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    • KarenHC profile image
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      Karen 3 years ago from U.S.

      @TerriCarr: We've found it in weedy parts of our yard and other areas of the neighborhood that aren't completely tended. Once you know what it looks like, it's unmistakeable!

    • TerriCarr profile image

      TerriCarr 3 years ago

      It is so rare to come across info. about burdock. I know it from reading about healing foods....but I often find it impossible to find in local health food stores. I will watch the video above and see if he has some tips about where to find it.

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 4 years ago from U.S.

      @deified: I'm glad you enjoyed this! I love the "burrr-ette" story! My grandmother also used burdock for skin irritations.

    • deified profile image

      deified 4 years ago

      i got burdock stuck in my hair once and my sister kept calling it a burrrr-ette. when i was younger my mama used to keep a patch growing out back by the fence, my pops wasn't allowed to knock it down or mow it off. she would use it for upset stomach and i remember having some tea she would make from it for my eczema. it's amazing all the knowledge we're applying about plants that have been around for forever... great lens, thanks :)

    • profile image

      faye durham 4 years ago

      Congratulations on editor of the day feature!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I never knew burdock can be used in many ways.

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 4 years ago from U.S.

      @AuntieBeannie: Thanks so much, AuntieBeannie :-)

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 4 years ago from U.S.

      @Dressage Husband: I've only had it once (as a soda), and thought it had an intriguing taste :-)

    • profile image

      AuntieBeannie 4 years ago

      Wow! I knew Burdock was used in some herbal remedies, but I had no idea it was so widely used and so beneficial! Thanks for all the info...wonderful lens, love the presentation!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 4 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Being English I grew up drinking dandelion and burdock however it is not to be found in Canada! Great lens and very informative!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I was here a while back but wanted to congratulate you on your Editor for the Day feature! :)

    • profile image

      Echo Phoenix 4 years ago

      Lovely lens... revisting you today as you landed on the HQ post. Namaste`

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 4 years ago

      What a lovely page...the photos are so beautiful. We have this growing on our property...it likes to sneak in around my Rhubarb as if it's big leaves are trying to hide among the rhubarb leaves. Too bad it doesn't realize how important it is:-) I'll have to make use of it so it knows.

    • PuttinUpWithSuzy profile image

      PuttinUpWithSuzy 4 years ago

      I made an herbal oil infusion a few months ago that contained burdock root and then made a salve with it. Lots of wonderful properties. Neat little tidbit about the Velcro.

    • giovi64 lm profile image

      giovi64 lm 4 years ago

      Good info.

      Beautiful and interesting lens!

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 5 years ago from U.S.

      @anonymous: Thank you -- this is great information! I never knew that burdock used to be used for wrapping different foods, but it certainly makes sense given the size of the leaves.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hi, nice lens.

      You have missed one important use though.

      Back in the times when paper was hand made and expensive, Burdock was used for wrapping butter, cheese, etc.

    • MissionBoundCre profile image

      MissionBoundCre 5 years ago

      I've never heard of this burdock. The best medicine comes from earth.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I'd never heard of burdock. Thanks for the introduction.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 5 years ago from Virginia

      This was a toy in the pre Game Boy era. Often kids would throw them onto one another and even get them into hair. Idle hands you know! Great lense about a plant I could have lived withoug as a kid but now wish I could try out the medicinal side of. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      FlorEssenceTea 6 years ago

      One of the 8 Herbs inside Flor-Essence Tea - The secret to radiant health check out products and information at www.FlorEssenceTea.com

    • howtocurecancer profile image

      howtocurecancer 6 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      That was very interesting about the burs and velcro. I never knew that. Great lens.

    • profile image

      PrettyWorld 6 years ago

      We grow burdock in one of our "tire gardens" (a raised bed made from an old tire) which gives us good, deep soil for the roots and keeps it confined. We don't have trouble with it going to seed because that garden section is near the fence and the goats and cow eat the flowers off before it can set seed. :)

      We grow dandelions in tire gardens too!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      The velcro thing is really cool, have you seen the section about french cloth on the wikipedia entry?

      As this is a very invasive species, any tips to grow it without it spreading too much?

      And I don't suppose you happen to know if the seeds can be dried off the plant, do you? I read somewhere that they should be dried on it but it seems like that would make it more likely to spread.

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 6 years ago from U.S.

      @anonymous: Very interesting about French cloth and burdock! I missed that in the Wikipedia article when I first read it. Apparently a number of "useful" plants were brought over from Europe that later ended up being very invasive. I don't know how to keep burdock from spreading...where I live it doesn't take over the area too badly, and we can keep it under control by digging it up. Wish I knew about drying the seeds -- sorry :-) Basically, we've just taken advantage of the few plants that we let grow in our yard, and haven't let them go to seed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I am an eczema sufferer and have used burdock for treating eczema. I am all for natural remedies and have had very pleasing results from this.

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      @anonymous: Thank you for your comment, Milly. I hope that the burdock and whatever else you're using continues to help you with your health.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      having a systemic disease made me more aware of my health & nutrition & all the benefits that can be derived from the usage of herbal medicine. I have ben using burdock & feel very optimistic about my health.

    • EmmaCooper LM profile image

      EmmaCooper LM 7 years ago

      Great lens! I'm adding it to the link list on my Wild Plants lens :)

    • Lou165 profile image

      Lou165 7 years ago from Australia

      I know how good burdock is for you, but I never knew it was the inspiration behind velcro. I love little nuggets of trivia like that, now I just have to think how I can weave it into conversation :D

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I never knew all the benefits of burdock. Its important to take good care of ourselves.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      @anonymous: The root's not bad, especially in the spring. I stir fry it with other vegetables -- it doesn't have a strong taste, but adds an interesting texture, and as you say, it has amazing benefits!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I love this plant. It has amazing benefits and is readily available. I have never thought about eating the root though. Seems like it would be too bitter. Iâll have to try the Japanese dish that Pmona wrote about. Great video too. Thanks!

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      @Pmona LM: I came across gobo when I was researching burdock. It sounds quite tasty! We've been stir-frying the burdock roots that are "weeds" in our garden -- they've been good.

    • Pmona LM profile image

      Pmona LM 7 years ago

      I love the flavor of burdock root and have been eating it for years. My favorite way to eat it is in the Japanese dish called Kinpira gobo.

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Very nice information. I've heard a lot about Burdock, but I have never seen any of it growing out here in Los Angeles, so it seems very exotic to me.

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      @burgessvillian: Interesting idea about making pickled burdock root -- I may try that this year too!

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      @KarenHC: I figured it was something along those lines. (the root going tough) I think we tend to have it a bit more than some because of the organic part of our farm. Our primary defense from weeds is cutting them down before they go to seed. Now perhaps we'll eat a few. :)

    • burgessvillian profile image

      burgessvillian 7 years ago

      I learned about the benefits of burdock last year and about eating the roots. I now let burdock grow at the edge of my property. I want to make pickles from them this year.great lens

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      @delia-delia: I remember the burs getting stuck in our dog's fur when I was growing up -- really a mess! Interesting that you ate them during the war!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      very interesting lens...5*...all I could think of was the time consuming work to get the burdock out of my horses tails and manes...but then I remembered my mom telling me about some of these plants that we ate during the war...

    • KarenHC profile image
      Author

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      @WildFacesGallery: Thanks for the comment! The burdock root turns tough and woody during the second year when the stalk starts to grow. Yes, I bet it messes up your horse's mane and tail :-) I never realized how abundant it was until I started recognizing it this spring.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      Interesting about the velcro thing. We have burdock everywhere living on an organic farm. Mostly I hate it for messing up my horse's mane and tail. :) We've been known to eat interesting weeds so my question is why first year roots but not second year?

      Great lens. Lots of fun.