Materia Medica: Burdock


  • Botanical Name: Arctium lappa
  • Other Names: Arctium (from Greek arktos, bear), Bardana (Portuguese and Spanish), Beggar’s buttons,  Clot-bur (bur comes from Latin, burra, a sheep’s wool, which refers to how sheep’s wool became entangled as sheep passed by the plant), Cockleburr, Cockle buttons, Fox’s clote, Gobo (Japanese), Happy major, Hardock, Hareburr, Lappa (from Greek lappa, to seize, Celtic llap, hand), Love leaves, Orelha-de-gigante (refers to how to leaves look like giant ears), Niu Bang Zi (Chinese), Personata, Philanthropium, Poor man’s potatoes, Thorny burr

Burdock, Lesser. (Arctium minus) Grace Road Sapcote SP 4915 9359 (taken 5.7.2006)

  • Appearance: Burdock is a large plant with gigantic leaves that can grow up to a yard long. The leaves are soft underneath and are oval- or heart-shaped. The plant flowers through the summer and the prickly seed pods mature in the fall.
  • Cultivation: Burdock is considered by many to be a weed and is harder to stop growing than grow. You name it, burdock can grow in it: poor soil, rich soil, hot weather, cold weather, drought, flood. To keep burdock from spreading, cut off the seed pods before they ripen in the fall. Burdock roots and leaves should be dug in July.
  • Parts used: Leaves, root

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  • Innovation: Burdock’s prickly burrs were the inspiration for velcro. After the inventor came home from a hunting trip in the Alps, he wondered how all the burrs managed to stick to his pants and went to his microscope to investigate.
  • Traditional uses: Both traditional Chinese medicine and European medicine have used it as a blood purifier


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Medicinal and Practical Uses

*I write about uses for plants as a novice herbalist, not a doctor or scientist; this isn’t medical advice. If you want to use plant-based remedies, find a doctor you trust and respect who also trusts and respects you so that you can work together to make sure you’re the healthiest version of you.

  • Safety: Contact with the green, above-ground potion may cause contact dermatitis
  • Characteristics: Cool, permanent
  • Primary actions (Secondary actions): Alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, tonic, (anti-inflammatory, nutritive)
  • Constituents: Inulin
  • Wound healing: Applying a poultice of burdock leaves to bruises and wounds may help speed healing.
  • Indigestion relief: Burdock root can be used to help with “hot” conditions like indigestion.
  • Diuretic: Burdock is a diuretic; it rids the body of excess water by increasing urine.
Immune system
  • Lymph nodes: Drinking burdock root tea can calm swollen lymph nodes.
Skin and Hair
  • Rash relief: Burdock can be used internally and externally to treat eczema, psoriasis, rashes, and other skin conditions. It’s anti-inflammatory properties ease itching while it’s other properties speed healing. Burdock root can be taken as a tea or applied topically as a salve.
  • Acne: Burdock leaves can help with acne when applied as a poultice or drank as a tea.

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  • Vegetable: The taproot is used as a root vegetable in many Asian cuisines
  • Tea: Dandelion and Burdock is a British soft drink that has been around since the Middle Ages
  • Beer: Burdock was used by European brewers before hops became popular


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