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Copyright © 1990 - 2016 by Robert Dale Rogers. All rights reserved.

No portion of this book, except for a brief review, may be reproduced, or copied and transmitted, without permission of author. This book is for educational purposes only. The suggestions, recipes and historical information are not meant to replace a medical advisor. The author assumes no liability for unwise or unsafe usage by readers of this book.



(Arctium lappa L.)

(A. majus Bernh.)

(Lappa arcticum Hill.)

(L. officinalis All.)



(A. minus Bernh.)

(A. minus ssp. pubens)



(A. tomentosum P. Mill)


PARTS USED- root, stem, seeds, leaves

Arctium is from Greek ARKTOS, or Celtic ARTH meaning bear, referring to the prickly fruit. Lappa is from the Greek meaning hold fast or “to seize”; and the Latin meaning “bur”. Or it is from the Celtic LLAP, meaning a hand, and signifying the tenacious hold of the burrs.

Burdock is from the Old Scottish/Gaelic DOC, a large leaf, and BURRE for a bur, from the French. The older name BARDANA comes from the Italian BARDA meaning “horse blanket”. The expression burr under the saddle is probably related.


Dioscorides called it ARCTEION, meaning Bear Plant. He recommended “the decoction of the root...together with the seed, against the toothache, if it be holden awhile in the mouth.” Ancient Greeks called it Lover, or Friend of Man, PHILANTHROPOS.

After its introduction to North America, native healers named it Bear Medicine; the dried brown burs looking like bear fur. The plant has several plant signatures. The round flower head resembles a human head, and the prickles, human hair; suggesting use in treating baldness.

The stalk is red, and therefore related to blood cleansing, and the hard seeds suggest use in removing hard stones. Burdock was largely ignored as medicine in North America until the late 1800s. Dr. Withering says that a decoction of the roots is esteemed, by some very sensible physicians, as equal, if not superior, to that of sarsaparilla.

Gerard, from England, called it Burre Dock, and said that the peeled stalk “being eaten raw with salt and pepper, or boyled in the broth of fat meate, is pleasant to be eaten; being taken in that manner it increaseth seed and stirreth up lust.”

Culpepper came along about fifty years after Gerard and classified the leaves as “cooling, moderately drying, and dispersing. They may be applied to places troubled with the shrinking of the tendons, giving much ease. The juice of the leaves...taken with honey provoke the urine and cure pain in the bladder. The seed is much commended to break the stone, and causeth it to be expelled by the urine. By its seed or leaf, you may draw the womb which way you please, either upward by applying it to the crown of the head, in case it fall out, or downward in fits of (uterine cramping), by applying it to the soles of the feet; or, if you would stay in its place, apply it to the navel, and that is likewise a good way to stay the child in it.” It is interesting Culpepper discussed such use centuries ago. Boericke mentions this particular use of Arctium for uterine prolapse several centuries later.

The Old English Herbarium recommended equal parts of the root combined with hawthorn leaves be pounded together and applied to fresh wounds that are still wet. The seeds were combined with pine nuts for coughing of blood and phlegm.

Much later, Dr. Scudder wrote on Burdock. “It acts directly and very kindly upon the urinary apparatus, increasing secretion, and removing irritation.”

Jacobs and Burlage (1958) reported the plant causes increased secretion of milky urine with frequent desire and copious discharge.

Burdock is a self-sowing biennial hardy to zone 3. The first year produces a wealth of leaves, and in the second summer the strong stalk reach up and produce a multitude of flowers and fruit.

Common Burdock is smaller, and with hollow leaf stalks, that help differentiate it from the Greater Burdock. Grown organically as a commercial medicinal on the prairies, a dry root yield of 2000 kg/ha is considered good. It may be harvested in late fall or early the next spring.

The new spring leaves can be eaten raw, but are somewhat bitter. Boiled for five minutes in two changes of water with a pinch of baking soda improves the leaf immensely.

The long taproot of burdock is eaten as a vegetable in Japan; called GOBOU. Many people believe that eating Gobou not only gives strength and endurance but also acts as an aphrodisiac. In Hawaii, a popular expression before heavy work is “I need Gobo”. The Chinese name, NGAU PONG, or NIU BANG is not well known in North America. More specifically, the root is known as NIU BANG GEN, and the seed NIU BANG ZI.

Gobo is perhaps our most yang vegetable, helping bring balance to an overly yin constitution aggravated by excessive sugars, caffeine and fruit.

The Japanese collect the first year roots, up to two feet long, and add them to stir fries, soups, stews, or occasionally eat them raw. Adding a pinch of baking soda helps the flavour, which is between celery and potato. The thick, brown root rind must be removed before cooking.

Takinogawa Long is the name of a Japanese cultivar prized for its roots that grow up to three feet long, and an inch in diameter. Dietary fibre from the root added at the rate of 5% to diets of rats, has been shown to protect against the toxic effect of various food colorings.

Tsujita et al, Nutrition Reports Int’l 1979.

The flower stalks can be eaten if picked during the formative stage of flowering. Peel off the thick green rind, to reveal the core or white pith. Cut this into six-inch lengths and steam or boil like asparagus with change of water and pinch of soda.

In Japan, both the root and stem are pickled as well. Burdock seed is used in modern Kampo medicine in Japan and called Goboshi. Japanese herbalists use the seed to kill streptococcus bacteria and fungi that infect cracked skin.

The seeds are used for lymphoedema that occurs after breast surgery, and the removal of adjacent lymphatic glands.

Burdock is used for treatment of greasy skin, and used in shampoos for head skin affected by excessive sebum production, as well as psoriasis and dandruff.

If the young root is peeled, removing the bitter and strong smelling layer, the rest can be used like radish. You will note the root has concentric circles of flesh.

The roots are pounded soft and added to pancakes or prepared like potatoes. When preserved in sugar, like calamus or angelica root, it was eaten by those afflicted with sand or gravel in the kidneys, shortness of breath, or severe coughing.

A yellow dock and burdock root spread was once eaten for medicinal benefit (see below). The roots can be roasted to make a coffee substitute. Old-time herb beers used dried burdock root, nettles, dandelion leaves, and wild sarsaparilla root with brown sugar.

The seeds can be collected and sprouted, eaten raw or steamed.

George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor, used burdock burrs, as his inspiration to invent Velcro. After walking his dog one day in 1948, he observed the seed’s hundreds of little curved hooks, and nine years later developed a way to imitate them with plastic. The name velcro comes from velvet (velours) and hooks (crochets). Some sources believe his inspiration was cockleburr. Who knows? I do know he died a multi-millionaire.

Use the burdock leaves as wrappers for pit cooking of fish and wild game; or as a wilderness hat and sun protector for the head.

After its introduction into North America, various plains Natives adopted burdock for ceremonial use. The Otos used a root decoction for pleurisy, and it became an ingredient in a labor medicine of the Meskwaki.

Common Burdock was boiled by Chippewa, for coughs and pleurisy.

They called the plant, Bitter Leaf, or WI’SUGIBUG.

Métis names include MACHI’KWANAAS, and AKWÂMINAKISÎMIN. Pectin powder obtained from burdock is a light, grey colour (about 17% of dry leaf stem).

Uronide component of burdock pectin is 66%, esterification rate is 47%, methoxyl component 9%, equivalent weight 343, and the free carboxyl group content 16%. 

The mature burdock, when burned, yields one-third its quantity of pure, white alkaline salt equal to the best potash. Picked between flowering and seed, the whole chopped plant is burned like charcoal, in a pit without oxygen.

The chopped root is given to sheep with persistent coughs. The compounds arctigenin and arctiin show toxicity against

Dactylogyrus intermedius, a significant parasite in aquaculture. Wang et al, Parasitol Res 2009 106:1. 

Woolly Burdock has thick, white “wool” covering the flower heads and underside of leaves to protect from the sun. Instead of Velcro-like hooks, it has sticky threads.


CONSTITUENTS root- 45-50% inulin, mucilage, pectin, polyalkenes, polyacetylenes (sulphur containing thiophenes), arctinones, arctinols, and other derivatives of either 5’-(1-propynyl)-2,2’-bisthein-5-yl, or are lappaphens, complex molecules resulting from arctinal attaching to a methylene lactone of the quaianolide grouping. Active constituents include podophyllin type lignans, including arctigenin. Also contains fukinone, dehydro-fukinone, fukinanolide, eremophilene, beta- eudesmol, isovaleric, taraxsterol, caffeic, acetic, caffeoylquinic and chlorogenic acids; various aldehydes, flavonoids including arctiin; arctiopicrin, mokkolactone, a sesquiterpene lactone, tannins, bitters (lappatin), germanacrolide, volatile oils, and a plant hormone and amino acid, gamma-guanidino-n-butyric acid. Up to 18 hydroxycinnamolquinic acids in root.

leaves- arctiopicrin, a bitter sesquiterpene lactone of the germacranolide group,  articol (8-hydroxyeudesmol), beta eudesmol, fukinone, fukinanolide, and derivatives; petasiltolone and eremophilene. taraxasterol, sterols.

seeds- lignans, arctiin (18-20%) arctigenin (15-21%), diarctigenin and isoarctigenin; lappaols A, B, C, D, E & F, neoarctin B and matairesionol; various thiophene derivatives including arctic acids, arctinone, and lappaphens; various sesquiterpenes- eremophilene, fukinone, fukimanolide, dehydrofukinone, beta Eudesmol, germacranolide, and arctiol; numerous polyenic compounds; polysaccharides such as fructan, xylan, galactan, arabinogalactan, rhamno-galacturonan, and hemicellulose; sterols like sitosterol and stigmasterol, gobosterin; fatty acids, thiamine, Vitamin C, gamma-guanidino butyric acid, and 5’-Nucleoside.

petioles- (+)-secoisolariciresinol

A. minus- arctiopicrin ( leaves?) root- 27% inulin

All parts of burdock are cooling; the root considered sweet and oily, the leaves bitter and the seeds sour.

The fresh root is used for a variety of skin disorders, probably due in part, to anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. It is first and foremost an alterative or blood purifier, which means that it helps the liver and kidneys detoxify more efficiently.

It removes uric acid, and other substances that precipitate arthritis, rheumatism and gout. Being such an active alterative means that the more congested and toxic the state of tissue, the more likelihood that transient toxemia can produce a worsening of symptoms. Look to an experienced herbalist for correct dosages, and/or your own intuition.

Burdock root has the ability to dredge toxins from the connective tissue and move them into the bloodstream. Therefore, it is important to choose complementary herbs to find a balance between tissue detoxification and toxin elimination.

The root has bitter properties, and combined with the oils, helps promote bile secretion. Poor absorption of oils leads to dry skin or blocked sebaceous glands due to insufficiency, leading to boils, acne and other skin conditions.

Burdock root has insignificant diuretic action, so an herb like goldenrod or stinging nettles can be useful in promoting urinary excretion of toxins. It is often used for serious skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis, as both an external wash decocted from the roots, and taken internally at body temperature.

In herbal medicine, the root is used for furunculosis, whitlows, varicose wounds, acne and skin infections.

The Chinese use the root for colds, flu, measles and constipation.

Due to its high inulin level, French herbalists suggest the fresh root   be used to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics, due to easily digested starch. Its inulin is better absorbed and utilized than that derived from jerusalem artichoke; even better than pure inulin.

As yet unidentified constituents regulate pancreatic beta cell activity and the production of insulin.

The root is believed to regenerate new liver cells, in the manner of milk thistle seed, as well as stimulate the gall bladder to release more bile.

Root infusions may help dissolve bladder stones, according to Grases et al, International Urology and Nephrology 1994 26:5.

Dr. Edward Shook, in a 1947 lecture summed up burdock’s contributions. “Throughout the centuries, this majestic remedy for human ailments has stood the acid tests of human inconsistence, prejudice and ignorance, and is still today one of the most extensively used herbs by country folk and herbalists throughout the civilized world. To our certain knowledge, is has cured syphilis after all other treatments have failed. For the successful treatment of chronic skin diseases, especially eczema, burdock has no equal, which for boils its quick alterative and curative effect is truly remarkable.”

Herbalist 7Song, a fellow Guild member commented that burdock is for “liver acne”, when the pimples are singular, large and nasty, while Goldenrod is for “kidney acne”, when they arise in little sheets of fine pimples accompanied by a general patch of reddish, dry, irritated skin. A very good observation.

Other acne differentiations are Wild Lettuce for bumpy, scarred facial pimples that come and go; peony root for painful acne on the chin premenstrually; and Lilium longiflorum for cyst-like acne on the cheeks, just under the eyes.

Burdock root is found in two well-known herbal remedies for cancer; the famous Hoxsey Formula, and Essiac, supposedly discovered by  a native Medicine Woman of Eastern Canada. See below for original recipes.

Benzaldehyde, arctic acid and mokkolactone all possess anti-tumour activity.

The root contains B-factor (for burdock), a substance that is capable of reducing mutation.

The roots contain five novel caffeoylquinic acids that produce significant anti-oxidant effect. Ito, Y et al, Mutation Research 1986.

Dombradi et al, Chemotherapy 1970 indicate burdock root may reduce the number of mutations in cells exposed to cancer causing chemicals. The root inhibits experimental tumour growth; and suppress chromosome aberration in rat bone marrow cells. Related work by Morita et al in 1984 suggests the desmutagenic factor is resistant to both heat and proteolytic enzymes.

Alcohol water extracts of the root possess strong free radical scavenging activity. Dichloromethanic extracts show selective anti- proliferative activity against K562, MCF-7 and 786-0 human cancer cell lines. Predes F et al, BMC Compl Altern Med 2011 11:25.

The compound (-)arctigenin has been found to possess cytostatic activity against lymphoma cells.

Arctigenin significantly inhibited B and T cells mediated allergic inflammation and pro-inflammatory enzymes in work by Lee et al, Arch Pharm Res 33:6. Arctigenin effects glucose deprivation mediated cytotoxicity of cancer cells. Sun et al, Planta Medica 2011 77:2 141-45. Arctigenin may be of benefit in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Li DW et al, Planta Medica 2014 80(1): 48-55.

Work by Lin Song Chow et al, American Journal of Chinese Medicine 2000 28:2 163-73 found burdock root protects the liver from acetominophen-induced damage, probably due to antioxidant activity on hepatocytes. The root reversed the decrease in glutathione and P-450 caused by the drug.

The addition of 5% dietary fibre from burdock root has been found to protect against the toxicity of various artificial food colors. Nutr Rep Int 1979 20.

Subcutaneous administration of root decoctions showed significant anti-inflammatory effect. The skin softening effect of fresh root makes it useful in keratosis pilaris.

The fresh root tincture is probably best, considering the polyacetylenes that fight bacteria and fungi are significantly reduced in the dry root, based on studies by Schulte et al, Arzneimittel-Forschung 1967.

Combine fresh roots of burdock, dandelion and echinacea for Staphylococcus infection.

Work by Gentil M et al, Phytother Res 2006 20:3 found ethyl acetate extracts inhibited the growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, E. coli, Streptococcus mutans and Candida albicans.

Chloroform root extracts decrease gastric acidity and lesions via inhibition of gastric H+, Ic+ and ATPase. Dos Santos et al, J Pharm Pharmacol 2008 60:6.

Burdock decreases cell differentiation caused by Salmonella mutagens and toxins. Work by Moskalenko et al, J Ethnopharm 1986 15 found the root active only against gram negative bacteria, but Reisch et al, Arzne Forsch 1967 17 suggest anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activity is found only in fresh root extracts.

Dr. Lepore suggests burdock root stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, helping adjust hormonal balance in the body. The root does appear to contain growth hormones, particularly useful for a hair ointment or lotion.

Bever et al, demonstrated root extracts produce pronounced and long- lasting decreases in blood sugar. Quarterly Journal of Crude Drug Research 1979. This follows earlier work by Lappinina and Sisoeva

in 1964 that found burdock root extracts possess strong hypoglycemic activity.

Burdock and Yellow Dock root are useful in fasts of longer duration, helping to maintain peristalsis of the bowel, as well as prevent blood acidity and ketosis that often is present in severe fasting.

Burdock and Oregon grape root helps clear damp heat eczema, especially associated with liver and gallbladder issues. Blue flag is used in combination for constipation and chronic skin conditions such as acne, boils and eczema, while violet leaf combines well for lymphadenitis, and as an adjunct in cases of cancer. It combines well with blue vervain and Oregon grape root for teenage acne.

For acute urticaria, it combines well with nettle leaf, with echinacea for infected boils, and with wild sarsaparilla for psoriatic arthritis. It helps relieve IgE allergic reactions.

Burdock and yellow dock root combine for acute rashes as well as chronic eczema or psoriasis. Dandelion root and cleavers help to ensure toxin elimination through urine.

Burdock root fluid extract is according to Michael Moore, “excellent as a diuretic for water retention and essential hypertension in the bull- necked mesomorph with adrenocortical induced sodium retention, and along with Dandelion fluid extract has been of substantial help for African Americans with G6PD syndrome and high blood pressure.” The latter condition relates to favism, and affects anemia, etc.

Fresh burdock root, added to olive oil, has been used to dissolve kidney and gallstones, and help them pass more easily from the system.

Burdock root tincture or tea is an old remedy for prolapsed uterus, combining well with black cohosh root; and most effective if the prolapse is new or due to recent childbirth. Burdock root should not be used in pregnancy except, perhaps, during last trimester.

A rat study found water extracts of root enhanced sexual activity in males. JianFeng et al, BMC Compl Altern Med 2012 12:8.

Both root and leaf show significant activity against human acute T leukemia cell lines. Wegiera et al, Acta Pol Pharm 2012 69:2.

Like mullein, and comfrey, the burdock’s large leaves are useful for their action on the skin and lungs. The leaves are used topically as emollient and itch-relieving for dermatitis, and as a nutritive agent in cracks, chaps, abrasions, scratches, and insect bites. A large, mashed fresh leaf can be applied directly to boils and carbuncles as needed, or to swollen glands in the neck, groin or armpit. The leaves and flowers are reported active against both gram-positive and negative bacteria, while the roots are only active against gram negative organisms.

Early work by Sanders et al, J Bact 1945 49 found leaf extracts of A. lappa weakly active against Staphylococcus aureus, but the extracts of A. minus strongly active against E. coli and Bacillus subtilis.

Staphylococcus aureus, especially, was inhibited by an active principle in leaves that oxidized quickly. Other bacteria destroyed by leaf and flower extracts include gram-positive Bacillus subtilis and Mycobacterium smegmatis, as well as gram-negative species E. coli, Shigella flexneri and S. sonnei.

Eighty-five percent aerial alcohol extracts show activity against B. subtilis and Salmonella typhi H.

Ethyl acetate extracts show activity against S. aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Salmonella typhimurium, Shigella dysenteriae, B. subtilis, and E. coli.

Leaf extracts gievn to mice, by De Smet, showed no such activity. Infusions of the leaf impart strength and tone to the stomach, and are good for long standing indigestion.

They do contain a substance that promotes bile secretion, and are used in liver and gallbladder mixtures.

The leaves possess anti-ulcer activity due in part to the sesquiterpene, onopordopicrin. De Almedia et al, J Med Food 2012 15:4 378:83.

In vivo experiments show both fresh and boiled burdock plant juice significantly lower DMBA induced chromosome aberrations in bone marrow cells.

Normally, DMBA produces chromosome aberrations of gaps and breaks. This suggests burdock may block the onset of chemical-induced carcinogenesis.

Herbalists use burdock leaves in the treatment of agranulocytosis, a condition of decreased white blood cells in the blood.

Radiation therapy, leukemia and aplastic anemia; as well as certain drugs such as phenothiazines, thiouracil and chloramphenicol, can contribute to this serious condition.

The leaves of A. minus, as alcohol extract, show significant anti- inflammatory and analgesic activity. Erdemoglu et al, J Ethnopharm 2009 121:2. Leaf extracts, from water and ethanol, are potent anti- oxidants. Vera Lehar notes that fresh burdock leaves and stinging nettle leaves are crushed and combined with honey to treat painful joints of the foot, ankle and toes, kept in place with a thick sock. A burdock sandwich with nettle in the middle was placed on broken bones, and painful hip joints every hour. Burdock leaves were originally placed on the body to locate inflammation that would reveal itself after a few hours through discoloration of the skin. The leaves were layered and applied to this area for twenty-four hours and changed. Pain was eased in first ten minutes.

Whereas the energy of the root is steady, slow and persistent, the seed is sharp, tingling, diffusive and more immediate.

Seeds are therefore better in active inflammation and fevers. Hot infusions induce active perspiration, and open skin pores, relieve fevers and bring out rashes. For children suffering measles, chicken pox, sore throat and lungs, combine with reed (Phragmites) root, scullcap, mint, wild bergamot, or balloon flower root.

Dr. Nowell recommended a hot infusion of burdock and sunflower seeds to favorably influence sebaceous glands, giving softness and moisture to the skin. Remember to crush seeds before infusion. Tea can be cooled, and gargled for acute, hot and swollen throats, acute colds and influenza. Various upper respiratory infections are resolved with the quick acting seeds. Neuralgia will sometimes respond to seed tea.

The seeds are useful in the treatment of acute progressive nephritis, chronic glomerulo-nephritis, and other kidney disorders.

Animal studies have confirmed burdock seed has the ability to lower blood sugar; but no human trials have been conducted.

The seed is more commonly used by Traditional Chinese Medicine herbalists. It is called SHU NIAN in Mandarin, and NGAU GON JI in Cantonese. In some books it is NIU BANG ZI, or O-SHIH, meaning “evil fruit”.

The seed is cold and pungent and somewhat lifting in action. It has an affinity for the neck and throat.

It is a soothing anti-inflammatory demulcent, useful for red and swollen sore throats, with the onset of infection. It relieves laryngitis, pharyngitis with pain and hoarseness, combining well with figwort, licorice root and scullcap.

It combines well with balloon flower root for inflamed throat or in conditions with difficulty in expectoration, and with forsythia and red peony root for swellings, and to accelerate dispersion of welling- abscesses, mumps, carbuncles, etc.

Its diaphoretic and anti-infective activity is useful not just in upper respiratory infections, but in eruptive fevers associated with unresolved measles and chickenpox, especially when combined with wild mint. Drink hot.

It combines well with mint or forsythia seed for painful or swollen throat, including abscessed tongue and mouth.

The seeds may be stir-fried, to reduce their cooling nature. Known as CHAO NIU BANG or CHAO DA LI ZI, the stir-fried seeds help clear the lungs of phlegm and stop coughs.

The seed has the same nerve tingling, diffusive taste found in echinacea, according to herbalist Matthew Wood. Certainly when you crush them in your mouth, it comes alive!

The seed increases interferon production in the body, and combined with anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial action is useful in nearly all infections, including influenza and HIV. Yao et al, Virology 1992 187:1.

Arctiin and arctigenin are believed the active components of extracts that show potent in vitro activity against human hepatoma derived cell line HepG. Biological and Pharm Bulletin 1996 19:11.

In vivo activity against mouse sarcoma 180 by burdock seed was found due to lignans. Umehara et al, Chemical Pharmacy Bulletin 1996 44:12. The compound n-Decanoate was the most active derivative, inducing more than half of the leukemia cells into phagocytic cells at very low concentrations.

Matsumoto et al, Planta Med 2006 72 found 70% alcohol tinctures possess potent anti-proliferative activity against leukemia cells, due to apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

Arctiin reduces the severity of diabetic retinopathy. Lu et al, Planta Med 78:12 1317-23. The seed appears to reduce aldose reductase suggesting benefit in eye health associated with diabetes. Xu et al, Phytother Res 2010 24:3.

Arctigenin is metabolized by intestinal bacteria, into enterlactone. This lignan, common to flaxseed and rye bran, appears to have great benefit in hormone dependent diseases, including cancer, and coronary heart disease. Arctigenin is also present in cornflower.

The compound possesses anti-viral, neuro-protective, anti- inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity and reduces severity of Japanese encephalitis virus. Swarup et al, J Antimicrob Chemother 2008 61:3. It possesses anti-angiogenic activity, inhibiting tumor growth by disturbing blood vessel formation. Gu Y et al, Anticancer Drugs 2013 24:8 781-91.

Arctigenin is a potent inhibitor of NO, TNF alpha and IL6, suggesting anti-inflammatory activity. Zhao et al, J Ethnopharmacology 122:3.

Lappaol F and di-arctigenin significantly inhibit NO on LPS induced cells. Park et al, Chem Pharm Bull 55:1.

Arctiin compounds from seeds have been found, after transformation by human intestinal bacteria, to inhibit activity on estradiol-mediated proliferation of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Work by Xie et al, Chem Pharm Cell 2003 51:4 showed enterolactones formed through transformation are similar to the SDG from flax seed. However, they are enantiomers, with (-)-(2R,3R) and (+)-(2S,3S) configurations, respectively.

Arctiin has been demonstrated to be a smooth muscle relaxant, and CNS stimulant.

The seed is a demulcent laxative, and used for constipation with dryness.

Like the root, it is a detoxifying diuretic; useful in boils, carbuncles and skin ulcers that will not heal. However, it should not be used in diarrhea, open purulent boils or sores associated with Streptococcus infection.

Combine burdock seed with figwort for acute eczema, with rhubarb root for acute psoriasis, and wild mint for throat inflammation and coughing.

Water retention and mild kidney related toxemia as well as mild pre- eclampsia, respond to small frequent doses.

Arctiin may help prevent or treat glomerulonephritis, by inhibiting NFkappaB, nuclear translocation, and decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokines. Wu et al, Phytomed 2009 16:11.

Pregnant women should avoid burdock seed until the third trimester, to prevent spotting, as water extracts of the seed show uterine contracting properties.

According to Michael Moore, a tincture of the seeds (20-40 drops) several times daily, is an old herbal remedy for joint inflammation of the extremities. Skin eruptions around the joints, however, call for the root tincture.

Various lignans in the seeds have exhibited potent calcium antagonistic effect. Laboratory studies show the seeds possess significant and prolonged hypoglycemic and anti-hypertensive activity. Burdock seed also shows protective activity against gastric ulcers, in work by Os’kina et al, Eksp Klin Farmakol 1999 62:4.

Iwakami et al, Chem Pharm Bull 1992 40:5 found burdock seed extracts demonstrate antagonism of platelet activating factor (PAF).

The seeds contain lignans with anti-diabetic activity. Xu et al, Phytother Res 21:10.

Arctiin as an extract shows significant benefit in reducing skin wrinkle signs and in one twelve week trial stimulated pro-collagen synthesis and hyaluronan synthase-2 expression. Knott et al, J Cosmet Dermatol 2008 7:4.

The seeds have demonstrated diuretic effect, probably due to arctiin content.

The seeds show anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activity including inhibition of Streptococcus pneumoniae. Zhong Yao Zhi 1984 250. The powdered seeds in a grain-based liquor were tested on 40 migraine patients. They were covered with blankets after administration to increase diaphoresis. Thirty-four patients reported significant

improvement. Shi Yong Zhong Yi Nei Ke Za Zhi 1988 3:128. The seeds contain arctigenin that may ameliorate memory by inhibition of acetyl-cholinesterase. In-Ah Lee et al, Planta Medica 77:13 1525-27.

The burrs have a history in herbal medicine. Southern Native tribes used the burr as a remedy for memory; the burr looking like a head. According to Matthew Wood, “the idea is to make the memory like Velcro, so that the things which pass by it will be seized and retained.” John Tobe, author of numerous books on natural health, printed under the Provoker Press, suggested burdock burrs are steeped in water, strained and used as a drink 3-4 times daily for cataract. The recipe was passed on from his father-in-law.

In Russia, burdock flowers are used medicinally for cancers.

Various patents have been filed for A. lappa, regarding hair growth stimulating preparations; kidney disorder agents containing guaiaretic acid, arctiin, arctigenine or asarinin; and various preparations for treating psoriasis. Plant hormone crystals from the plant have been patented.

Lesser, or Common Burdock (L. minor) extracts have been shown by Barasan et al, Phytotherapy Research 1997 11:8 to reduce active free radical damage.

The roots contain similar constituents to A. lappa. This burdock species is easily identified by hollow leaf stems, near the bottom of the plant. A. lappa leaf stems are solid.

Tinctures (40%) of Woolly Burdock achenes exhibit anti-ulcer activity for all models of ulcer formation used, mainly neurogenic, reserpine, aspirin and butadiene induced.

The tincture decreased the pepsin content of gastric juices and accelerated the evacuation of intestinal contents. Rastitel’nye-Resursy 1998 34:2.


Arctium Lappa (Burdock) is used for treating skin conditions, especially eczema of the scalp.

It is very useful in treating boils; chronic recurring erysipelas and uterine prolapse, with painful, bruised feelings of the uterus and a great relaxation of the vaginal tissue.

This lack of pelvic tonicity is aggravated by standing, walking, and especially a misstep or sudden jar.

Can be used successfully in pimples and acne of the head, face and neck, as well as sties and ulcerations on the edge of eyelids.

Rheumatic pains, in the hands, knees, and ankles, extending downward to the fingers and toes may respond. Externally, a 50:50 mixture of the mother tincture and water can be used for offensive foot odour and perspiration.

Great difficulty leaving parental home, great dependency upon loved ones.

Symptoms worsen from cold, wet, violent exertion and lying on right side. Better from cloudy weather.

DOSE- Mother tincture to 3rd potency. The mother tincture is prepared from the fresh root of one-year old plants of Arctium lappa.

Self-experiment by Jeanes with second dilution around 1844, followed

by tincture experiment by Mercer in 1860.

Jones did proving on three people with tincture and resin in 1880, Crowther used six provers with tincture, 3x and 30x in 1883. Muller added clinical observations in 2009.

When taken as five drops of 1x every four hours for four days the following symptoms appeared. Left eye as if being pushed out of head and headache above same eye. Cannot lie on right side from soreness of liver. Great pain in right arm, cannot lift arm.


Great Burdock seed contains 14-30% oil, with a pale yellow colour. It has an odour resembling linseed oil, and a somewhat bitter taste. The specific gravity is 0.9255, saponification value 196.6, and iodine value 153.6.

The seeds are light, one liter weighing 641 grams. They consist of 46% husks, and 54% “meat”. Lesser Burdock seed yields 21% oil.

Cotton Burdock seeds contain fatty hydroxy and epoxy acids. The largest amounts of hydroxy acid present are from the metabolism of 9-hydro-peroxyoctadecadienoyl.

The epoxy acids are mainly 9,10-epoxy-cis-octadeca-12-enoic acid. Smaller amounts of vernolic and coronaric acid are also present.


Burdock roots yield 0.2% essential oil of a very complex nature. It includes, among others, phenylacetaldehyde, benzaldehyde, and 2-alkyl-3-methoxy-pyrazines.


Burdock burr, root and herb chopped and distilled yields a water that is good for the kidney and bladder, and for breaking stone in the limbs, according to Brunschwig.


Burdock flower essence promotes spiritual awareness/experience through intuition/vision and the distillation/transmutation of everyday experience. Helps one to see obstacles as opportunities for spiritual growth/evolution.          LIGHT MOUNTAIN

Burdock flower essence helps clean and regenerate the brain, improve memory and the ability to focus.          CHOMING

Burdock (A. minus) assists with the releasing of old anger associated with depression and sorrow, and other toxic emotions. We can be caught in old patterns of ideas or beliefs; the mind in some cases may have forgotten the issue but the cells remember the patterns. It helps prepare body as a vehicle for spirit.          NETTLES & MORE


On the psychological level, Burdock helps us to deal with our worries about the unknown, the “Hedge Ruffians”. The term is from the old English name for the plant, “Herrif” or “Aireve”, from the Anglo- Saxon “hoeg”, hedge and “reafe”, robber or “reafian”, to seize the bears, which lurk in the dark woods beyond our control. It seizes upon deep, complex issues, penetrates to the core, and brings up old memories and new answers.

It gives us the faith to move ahead on our path, despite the unknown problems which may ensnare us along the way. It helps the person who is afraid, become more hardy, while it brings the hardy wanderer back to his original path. It restores vigor and momentum.                   WOOD

Three burdock seeds placed in a small bag worn around the neck is an old gypsy cure for arthritis.          GREGG

Deeply grounded, burdock is unfazed by adversity; it robustly hangs in when things get tough, and is unabashedly itself.




The negative chronic Burdock person can’t sit in a chair for long without hot, red pain in the lower limbs, and sacroiliac joint. A long air flight...can be misery. Legs ache and move be moved to gain relief.

Negative Burdock is always worse when still, and better for exercise and fresh air. A too-warm room, and too long in one position, and the ‘rheumatics’ can become fierce in the lower body.

Its action, like all plants rich in silica and iron, is powerfully eliminative. As a strong, fast alterative, it should be prescribed only in small doses over a period of time.

Negative chronic Burdock needs to walk every day, but can’t find the time. Negative Burdock is by nature, phlegmatic about pain, often brushing it away with ‘I’m used to it, don’t fuss.’

It can come as a surprise to find such martyrdom may be relievable! At night, sciatic pain may be unbearable. No matter in which position the legs and hips are arranged, pain can stop sleep descending. In desperation, many negative Burdocks take pain relievers constantly, especially before bed.

Kidneys can become even more overloaded by overconsumption of aspirin or related pain-killers, and chronic Burdock, set on a path of kidney stones, back aches, sciatica and swollen, painful legs for life, grits the teeth and lives in unnecessary purgatory.

The emotional stoicism of Burdock may put off seeking treatment themselves; it’s more often a relative or friend who insists on an appointment, and brings in suffering negative Burdock, who sits painfully still for the hour of consultation, without complaint.

Positive Burdock walks! They love to stretch out and go for kilometres, hips rhythmically alternating, and arms swinging. I see the positive characteristics of this sign in the British walking the dog. Twice a day, there are the English, striding out briskly.

Jogging never was any sort of an answer for lower body exercising, as it crashes the spine down hard on hips, knees and feet as you pound the pavements. Many former joggers may need Burdock later on to repair the damage.

As always, nature insists on balance. Positive Burdock exercises briskly, moving the lower body especially, then relaxes again, content to sit and read or sit and talk, with no red pain stabs in lower limbs.

Golf is a positive Burdock exercise: kilometers of walking, with an occasional upper torso swing at the ball to break the emphasis, and balance top and bottom energies, is ideal.          DOROTHY HALL

Many herbalists refer to burdock as one of nature’s “hitchhikers” since the velcro-like burrs that develop in the second year of growth love to “hitch a ride” on clothing and shoes.

However, I’ve never regarded burdock as a neurotic plant that felt the need to cling.

Rather, I’ve always looked on this herb as an “old soul” that fully understands the power and importance of what it has to offer. Call it dogged, call it stubborn, it matters none to burdock. Its burrs are made for hitchin”.          DEWEY

Burdock, with its brown, fur-like burs, could be classified in American Indian medicine as a “bear medicine”.

Indeed, such an application in ancient Eurasia is indicated by the name arctium, from the Greek arctos (bear). The oily bear medicines usually stimulate the gallbladder, liver, thyroid and adrenocortical functions, encouraging the digestion and metabolism of fats and proteins. The metabolism of the bear, which swings greatly from winter hibernations to summer feeding, is dependent on these organs for storage and utilization of fats and proteins.            WOOD

Burdock, however, works best when there are chronic and non-acute skin, sweat, or sebaceous eruptions, ranging from acne to psoriasis.

For any fast longer than three or four days, Burdock and Yellow Dock are useful adjuncts, helping to maintain peristalsis and prevent blood acidity and ketosis, which usually accompany overambitious fasting.     ANON

Burdock helps us deal with our worries about the unknown…it helps the person who is afraid [to] become more hardy, while it brings the hardy wanderer back to his original path.          GODFREY


Thor was the Norse god of thunder and lightning. In the Nordic countries, after a summer storm, the plants grow very quickly. The burdock’s leaves grow so large and wide, one leaf will sometimes cover a man’s shoulders. And so, in those countries, the burdock is called Thor’s Mantle, because it is big enough to cover the shoulders of the tallest and strongest of the gods.                      


On the second Friday of August, every year since 1687, the Burry Man has paraded the streets of South Queens ferry, Midlothian as part of a pagan ceremony. The burrs, or fruit of burdock cling to the costume, as Burry Man makes the rounds of pubs and receives a drink of whisky. After nine hours of heavy costume and drinking, he is quite exhausted. What Burry Man represents is a matter of debate. One thought is he is a version of the Green Man, representing vegetation and fertility. Others believe he represents cleaning up of evil spirit.





Burdock Root, so valuable

Serve it as a vegetable

Move the body towards good health

Inulin it has in wealth

Inulin for good digestion

Balances the G. I. system  

For healthy flora it’s the food

Your gut achieves a better mood

Arctium Lappa for the skin

Dandruff battles you can win

Scaly eczema, cracked and dry

The perfect root for your stir fry

It purifies and tones for you

Helps the kidneys, liver too

To think this fighter of disease

Is nothing but a common weed! 



DECOCTION- Seed- 5-10 grams in pint of water for ten minutes.

Crush seeds just before preparation.

Use seed with caution in cases of qi deficiency, diarrhea or in absence of excessive heat.

Root- slow decoctions 2-4 ounces as needed. The commercial cut and sifted root has a webbed appearance like insects, but this is remnant of the pithy centre. The root is quite oily and can go rancid if not dried properly using a well-ventilated dryer with added heat.

COLD INFUSION- root 2-4 ounces. Soak overnight and gently warm in morning.

LEAF INFUSION- use fresh leaves. One to two cups daily for recovering after illness.

TINCTURE- Seed- 10-20 drops. Use a 1:4 tincture at 60% alcohol.

ROOT- 30 drops four times daily. The tincture is made with the fresh root in a 1:2 ratio of 60% alcohol.

If 1:5 tincture of dry root at 60% is made, use 90 drops four times daily. Inulin may deposit out in the bottom of your tincture, giving the appearance of a white, milky residue.

BURR TINCTURE- as above. Use for kidney infections and toning. One tsp in water four times daily.

SALVE- Take 500 grams of fresh burdock root to one cup of canola oil and simmer in crockpot for two hours. Remove from heat, strain and add sufficient beeswax to stir and thicken into salve. Use for the external itching of measles, or ringworm.

HOXSEY TONIC- Thirty parts potassium iodide, four parts each buckthorn bark, licorice root and red clover blossoms, two parts each of barberry, burdock, poke and stillingia roots, and one part each of cascara sagrada and prickly ash bark.

ESSIAC FORMULA- Burdock root 52 parts, Chinese Rhubarb 16 parts, Sheep’s Sorrel one part and slippery elm four parts. Later in life she, or someone, added two parts kelp, one part red clover, one part blessed thistle, and four parts watercress. It can be prepared as a long decoction, or tincture.

BURDOCK SPREAD- Take 1/2 cup of finely cut burdock root, and 1/8 cup of finely cut yellow dock root and simmer in one cup of apple cider vinegar for five minutes. Process in blender, add 1/2 cup cream or yogurt. Serve on potatoes or other vegetables.                   


FRUIT- Pick the fruit in the fall when ripe. Be quick, as insects like them as well. Run through a food processor to remove the little splinters that cling to them from the bur. Do not chop. The seeds can then be separated. Do not chew on a bur, or seeds freshly removed from the bur. The little slivers will drive into your tongue and make for several days of irritation. You have been warned. A rolling pin and winnowing also works. Optimal extraction of arctiin from fruit by SCF extraction is 40 MPa, 70 degrees Celsius.

CANDIED STEMS- Cut the flower stalk just as the flowers are forming. Remove the green rind. Slice the stalk as desired. Boil in water with a pinch of soda for 20 minutes. Drain. Simmer the slices until clear in birch or maple syrup, and the juice and zest of a lemon. Drain. Roll in granulated sugar just before serving.

HARVEST-The root is picked in early fall of first year, or spring of second. The latter is easier, as you don’t have to deal with considerable foliage. Use a long, narrow shovel.

It is hard to store, due to the high oil content that make the roots go rancid very easily. Fresh root tinctures are the best method of preparation and storage.

As I get older, wiser (?), and lazier, I buy fresh burdock roots in oriental food stores. They are fresh, crisp, clean and ready to go. And it is relatively inexpensive.

If you insist on dry burdock root, slice into thin strips and place on brown paper or drying rack, out of sun. Seed burrs are picked in late fall of second year; leaves early in the summer.

PROPAGATION- Plant seeds one quarter inch deep, six inches apart, and in rows two feet apart. Sawdust will make the root pulling easier in the fall.

Germination rate is nearly 90% if stratified, only slightly less if not. Space 18 inches apart. The plant easily self sows if some second year plants are retained. Burdock prefers slightly alkaline soil.

CAUTION- Although there are no reports of miscarriage, the root may stimulate the uterus. Be on the safe side if you are pregnant. Do not use burdock seed for open sores or diarrhea. Leaf extracts may exacerbate blood sugar levels in diabetics. Seed and root extracts may worsen hypoglycemia. Pay attention to blood sugar direction when administering to your pet rats and mice. Burdock root may, over long term, interfere with iron absorption. The seed is contraindicated in spleen qi deficiency with diarrhea, and during breastfeeding, as it may inhibit lactation.

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