Burdock_arctium lappa
By Jason Hollinger (Common Burdock Uploaded by Amada44) [CC-BY-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Arctium lappa-Burdock


Family :Compositae

Other Names:

Burdock,Lappa, Beggar’s Buttons, Fox’s Clote. Thorny Burr. Cockle Buttons. Love Leaves. Philanthropium. Personata. Happy Major. Clot-Bur.

hazardsmallCare should be taken if harvesting the Burdock seed in any quantity since tiny hairs from the seeds can be inhaled and these are toxic. Can cause allergic reactions. Contraindicated during pregnancy.

Habitat: Grows in hedges and ditches in Europe, parts of Asia, N.America; cultivated in Japan. Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Meadow; Cultivated Beds;

Description of Burdock:

A stout handsome plant, with large, wavy leaves and round heads of purple flowers. It is enclosed in a globular involucre of long stiff scales with hooked tips, the scales being also often interwoven with a white, cottony substance.

The whole plant is a dull, pale green, the stem about 3 to 4 feet and branched, rising from a biennial root. The lower leaves are very large, on long, solid foot-stalks, furrowed above, frequently more than a foot long heart-shaped and of a grey colour on their under surfaces from the mass of fine down with which they are covered. The upper leaves are much smaller, more egg-shaped in form and not so densely clothed beneath with the grey down.

The plant varies considerably in appearance, and by some botanists various subspecies, or even separate species, have been described, the variations being according to the size of the flower-heads and of the whole plant, the abundance of the whitish cotton like substance that is sometimes found on the involucres, or the absence of it, the length of the flower-stalks, etc.

The flower-heads are found expanded during the latter part of the summer and well into the autumn: all the florets are tubular, the stamens dark purple and the styles whitish. The plant owes its dissemination greatly to the little hooked prickles of its involucre, which adhere to everything with which they come in contact, and by attaching themselves to coats of animals are often carried to a distance.

Cultivation of Burdock:

Succeeds in most soils when grown in partial shade. Prefers a moist neutral to alkaline soil and a sunny position in a heavy soil. Plants are best grown in a light well-drained soil if the roots are required for culinary use. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.6 to 7.8. The top growth dies back at temperatures a little above freezing, but the roots tolerate much lower temperatures and can be left in the ground all winter to be harvested as required. Burdock is cultivated for its edible root in Japan, there are some named varieties. Spring-sown seed produces edible roots in late summer and autumn, whilst autumn sown crops mature in the following spring or early summer.  Although the plants are quite large, it is best to grow them fairly close together (about 15cm apart, or in rows 30cm apart with the plants 5 – 8cm apart in the rows) since this encourages the development of long straight roots. The seed head has little hooked prickles and these attach themselves to the hairs or clothing of passing creatures and can thus be carried for some considerable distance from the parent plant. The plants usually self-sow freely. The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies.
Propagation of Burdock
Seed – best sown in situ in the autumn. The seed can also be sown in spring. Germination can be erratic, it is best to sow the seed in trays and plant out the young plants before the tap-root develops. Seed requires a minimum temperature of 10°c, but a temperature of 20 – 25°c is optimum. Germination rates can be improved by pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours or by scarification. They germinate best in the light. The autumn sowing should be made as late as possible because any plants with roots more than 3mm in diameter in the spring will quickly run to seed if cold temperatures are followed by day lengths longer than 12½ hours.

Collection: The roots and rhizome should be unearthed in September or October.

Part Used: Roots and rhizome.


Culinary: used as a food flavouring in cordials such as dandelion and burdock.

Edible Parts: Leaves;  Root;  Seed;  

Stem. Edible Uses: 

Root – raw or cooked. Very young roots can be eaten raw, but older roots are normally cooked]. They can be up to 120cm long and 2.5cm wide at the top, but are best harvested when no more than 60cm long. Old and very long roots are apt to become woody at the core. Although it does not have much flavour the root can absorb other flavours. Young roots have a mild flavour, but this becomes stronger as the root gets older. The root is white but discolours rapidly when exposed to the air. Roots can be dried for later use. They contain about 2.5% protein, 0.14% fat, 14.5% carbohydrate, 1.17% ash. The root contains about 45% inulin. Inulin is a starch that cannot be digested by the human body, and thus passes straight through the digestive system. In some people this starch will cause fermentation in the gut, resulting in wind. Inulin can be converted into a sweetener that is suitable for diabetics to eat. Young leaves – raw or cooked. A mucilaginous texture[179]. The leaves contain about 3.5% protein, 1.8% fat, 19.4% carbohydrate, 8.8% ash. Young stalks and branches – raw or cooked. Used like asparagus or spinach. They taste best if the rind is removed. The leaf stalks can be parboiled and used as a substitute for cardoons. The pith of the flowering stem can be eaten raw in salads, boiled or made into confections. A delicate vegetable, somewhat like asparagus in flavour. The seeds can be sprouted and used like bean-sprouts.

Composition of Fresh Burdock Leaves:

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.

  • 0 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 3.5g; Fat: 1.8g; Carbohydrate: 19.4g; Fibre: 0g; Ash: 8.8g;
  • Minerals – Calcium: 0mg; Phosphorus: 0mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;

Vitamins – A: 0mg; Thiamine (B1): 0mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0mg; Niacin: 0mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;

burdock_botanical_2Medicinal uses of Burdock:

Actions:, Anti-biotic, Bitter, Eliminative, Diuretic, Diaphoretic, Choleretic, Eliminative, Expectorant, Laxative, Tissue healer, Tissue Cleaner

Indications: Burdock is a most valuable remedy for the treatment of skin conditions which result in dry and scaly skin. It may be most effective for psoriasis if used over a long period of time. It will be useful as part of a wider treatment for rheumatic complaints, especially where they are associated with psoriasis. Part of the action of this herb is through the bitter stimulation of the digestive juices and especially of bile secretion. Thus it will aid digestion and appetite. It has been used in anorexia nervosa and similar conditions, also to aid kidney function and to heal cystitis. In general, Burdock will move the body to a state of integration and health, removing such indicators of systemic imbalance as skin problems and dandruff. Externally, it may be used as a compress or poultice to speed up the healing of wounds and ulcers. Eczema and psoriasis may also be treated this way externally, but it must be remembered that such skin problems can only be healed from within and with the aid of internal remedies.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “general alterative: influences skin, kidneys, mucous and serous membranes, to remove accumulated waste products. It is specific for eruptions on the head, face and neck, and for acute irritable and inflammatory conditions.” They give the following specific indications: Eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis. Boils, carbuncles, styes, sores. Rheumatism, gout and sciatica. Ellingwood recommends it for the following pathologies: aphthous ulcerations; irritable coughs; psoriasis and chronic cutaneous eruptions; chronic glandular enlargements, syphilitic, scrofulous and gouty conditions.

Combinations: For skin problems, combine with Yellow Dock, Red Clover or Cleavers.

Preparations & Dosage:

Decoction: put l teaspoonful of the root into a cup of water, bring to boil and simmer for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Esoteric uses of Burdock:

Gender: Feminine, Planet: Venus, Element: Water. Protection, Healing

Other Uses
Hair. The juice of the plant, when used as a friction, is said to have a stimulating action against baldness
The chemistry:
  • Lignans,  including arctigenin, its glycoside arctiin, and matairesinol.
  • Polyacetylenes,    in the root, mainly tridecadienetetraynes and tridecatrienetriynes, with  the sulphur-containing arctic acid.
  • Amino  acids, such as [[alpha]]-guanidino-n-butyric acid
  • Inulin  in the roots
  • Miscellaneous   organic acids, fatty acids and phenolic acids; including acetic, butyric, isovaleric, lauric, myristic, caffeic and chlorogenicacids.

Citations from the Medline database for the genus Arctium Burdock Dombradi CA Foldeak S Screening report on the antitumor activity of purified Arctium Lappa extracts. Tumori (1966 May-Jun) 52(3):173-5 Morita K Kada T Namiki M A desmutagenic factor isolated from burdock (Arctium lappa Linne). Mutat Res (1984 Oct) 129(1):25-31