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Herbal Monograph

Herb: Burdock Root  (Arctium lappa; Compositae)

Other Names:  beggar’s buttons, cockle buttons, fox’s clote, great burr, happy major, lappa, love leaves, personata, philanthropium, thorny burr.    (2a)

Bardana, burr seed, clotbur, cocklebur, grass burdock, hardock, hareburr, hurrburr, turkey burrseed   (13);   Gobo root (Japan)   (22)

Lappa, Hill, Thorny Burr, Beggars’ Buttons.    (57)

Character/Energetics:  bitter, slightly sweet, cool (6); cool, drying, bitter, slightly sweet  (15)  

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:  lungs, stomach, kidney, liver (6)   

Parts  used:    root  (6);    root, seed, leaves; the root may be used fresh or dried.   (13)

Identification & Harvesting:  Plant grows to a height of 30-60 in.  Stem is erect, rigid, grooved, branched and downy to wooly.  Leaves are alternate, petiolate, broad to ovate-cordate.  They are blunt and slightly wooly to hairy on the underside.  Lowest leaves are very large and have a latex-filled stem.  Crimson flowers grow in long-stemmed, loose cymes.  Heads are fairly large, globose and almost glossy.  Flowers are funnel-shaped.  The fruit is compressed and has a bristly tuft, which falls off easily.  Grows in Europe, north Asia and North America.    (2a)

Burdock is a biennial plant found in the northern U.S. and in Europe, along fences, walls, and roadsides, in waste places, and around populated areas.  The root is long, fleshy, gray-brown outside, and whitish inside….Collect the root in the spring or fall of the second year, i.e., when the plant has a stem. The root may be used fresh or dried.   (13)

Harvest in fall   (15)

The root is usually cut up in to pieces an inch or more long and about 3/4 in. in thickness, brownish grey externally, shrunken and furrowed longitudinally, and whitish internally.  The fracture is short and the transverse surface shows a thick bark about a quarter of the diameter of the root, and a central cylinder with a radiate structure, sometimes with cavities containing white remains of tissue.  Tastes sweet and mucilaginous.  Seeds (really the fruit) are brownish grey, wrinkled, about 1/4 in. long and 1/16 in. in diameter.  Leaves are large, rhubarb-like in shape, whitish beneath.  Flowerheads are globular, with hooked scale-like bracts.    (57)

Active constituents:    A small amount of volatile oil of very complex make-up, incl. phenylacetaldehyde, benzaldehyde, 2-alkyl-3-methoxy-pyrazines;  sesquiterpene lactones;  polyynes, chiefly trideca-1,11-dien-3,5,7,9-tetrain; caffeic acid derivatives incl. chlorogenic acid, isochlorogenic acid;  polysaccharides incl. inulin (fructosan), mucilages (xyloglucans), acidic xylans  (2a)

essential oil, nearly 45% inulin (6)

Burdock contains 27-45% inulin, the source of most of its curative powers…Burdock also 

provides an abundance of iron…  (7)

flavonoid glycosides, bitter glycosides, alkaloid, anti-microbial substance, inulin   (8)

glycosides, flavonoids, tannins, volatile oil, polyacetylenes, resin, mucilage, inulin, alkaloids, essential oil   (15)

Several components, incl. polyacetylene compounds and a bitter, arctiopicrin, possess antibacterial action.    (61)

Actions: alterative, diuretic, diaphoretic, nutritive   (6)  

eliminates excess nervous energy, strengthening aphrodisiac   (7)   

alterive, mild laxative, diuretic, promotes sweating, antirheumatic, antibiotic  (15)

alterative, depurative, diuretic, bitter, tonic   (22)

Alterative, diuretic, diaphoretic.  One of the finest blood purifiers in the herbal system, and should be used in all such cases alone or in conjunction with other remedies.    (57)

Considered diuretic and slightly laxative.  Shown to produce mild antibiotic activity and to stimulate bile flow from the liver.  In animal studies, lowers blood sugar and increases carbohydrate tolerance.  Reduces mutagenic action and protects against toxicity of artificial food colorings.  Antitumor activity has also been observed in animal studies.    (61)

Conditions and Uses:    Used for ailments and complaints of the gastrointestinal tract, as a diaphoretic and diuretic, and for blood purifying.  Used externally for ichthyosis and psoriasis.  The claimed efficacies have not been documented.    (2a)

Burdock root is used as a blood cleanser and diuretic, to induce sweating, and for gout, arthritis, and gastrointestinal inflammation.

blood purifier, anti-tumor, skin disorders (2)

Burdock root treats skin diseases, boils, carbuncles, fevers, inflammations and fluid retention. It may be used as a food and is especially good for preventing excesses in yang or fire types. (6)

Burdock contains 27-45% inulin, the source of most of its curative powers…Burdock also 

provides an abundance of iron, which makes it of special value in the blood…used as a blood purifier to treat arthritis, rheumatism, sciaticaand lumbago. 

Burdock is used to promote kidney function and works through the kidneys to help clear the blood of harmful acids.

The diaphoretic property of burdock is due to the presence of a volatile oil, which, when taken internally, is eliminated from the sweat glands, thus removing toxic wastes. Sweating has a cooling effect on the body; burdock is therefore used to clear fvers and heat conditions (yang diseases) such as boils, styes, carbuncles, canker sores and infections.

The Chinese use burdock to eliminate excess nervous energy and also consider it to be a strengthening aphrodisiac.   (7)

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. Similarly, all types of eczema (though primarily the dry kinds) may be treated effectively 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. (8)

The Japanese use burdock root, which they call gobo, as a vegetable. Western herbalists consider it the most important part of the herb., using it as a cleansing, eliminative remedy where a buildup of toxins cause skin problems, digestive sluggishness, or arthritic pains. Also used externally for skin sores and infections.  (15)

The root is well known for its blood cleansing properties and is used in innumerable herbal medicines and blood remedies. Skin eruptions, due to impurities in the blood, are quickly remedied by burdock. It is extensively used in lymphatic, liver, rheumatic and skin diseases…. studies show it inhibits tumors, lowers blood sugar, and destroy fungal and bacteria cultures. For example, two Hungarian scientists reported “considerable anti-tumor activity” in a purified fraction of burdock. Japanese researchers at Nagoya University found in burdock (aka as Gobo root in Japan) a new type of desmutagen, a substance that’s uniquely capable of reducing cell mutation in either the absence or presence of metabolic activation. This new property is so important, the Japanese named it the B-factor for “burdock factor.” In general, it is claimed burdock will help restore the body to a state of integration and health. Burdock is included in the Hoxsey formula and Rene Caisse’s herbal formula (to treat cancer).  (22)
(Burdock) root is considered one of the best blood purifiers in the relief of scorbutic, scrofulous disorders, eliminating very rapidly any impurities or poisons from the blood. It is very useful in rheumatism, gout, pulmonary catarrh and urinary deposits. Externally it is valuable in ointments or as a wash for eruptions, burns, wounds, hemorrhoids and swellings.   (50)

The (burdock) root is used as a diuretic for skin diseases and urinary disorders.  (52)

Traditionally used as a blood purifier to treat eczema, psoriasis, hives;  to disperse kidney stones and treat liver conditions.  Used externally on slow healing wounds.    (61)

Combinations: Burdock is an excellent remedy for all skin diseases, taken alone or with other blood purifiers such as sarsaparilla.  (7)

For skin problems, combine with yellow dock, red clover or cleavers.  (8)

One of the finest blood purifiers in the herbal system, and should be used in all such cases alone or in conjunction with other remedies.   (57)

Tincturing Process: Solvent percentage of absolute alcohol 40-50% (10)

        Fresh root–1 oz herb: 2 oz alcohol — 60% alcohol

        Dry root–1 oz herb:  5 oz alcohol — 60% alcohol   (11)

Dosage & Applications:  standard decoction or 3-9 grams; tincture 10-30 drops (6)   

Externally, burdock root  may be used as a compress or poultice to speed 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.  

Decoction: put 1 tsp of the root in a cup of water, bring to boil and simmer 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x daily. 

Tincture:  2-4 ml 3x daily.  (8)

Decoction: Use 1 tsp. root with 1 cup cold water. Let stand for 5 hours, then bring to a boil. Take 1 cup daily.

    Tincture:  Take 10-25 drops, in water, chamomile tea, or regular tea,  3-4x daily.

    Juice:  Grate the fresh root and add half again as much water. Squeeze out the liquid. Drink 1 cup daily, a mouthful at a time.  (13)

Decoction: 1 oz root to 1 1/2 pints water, boiled down to 1 pint. 3 oz. 3-4x daily

Tincture:  30-60 drops 3-4x daily

Fluid Extract: 1/2  to 1 tsp. 3-4x daily

Powder: 10-20 #0 capsules (60-120 grains) daily  (14)

Used externally for skin sores and infections.  (15)

Externally (burdock root) is valuable in ointments or as a wash for eruptions, burns, wounds, hemorrhoids and swellings.   (50)

Both root and seed may be taken as a decoction of 1 oz. in 1-1/2 pint of water, boiled down to a pint, in 4 oz. doses 3 or 4 times daily.    (57)

Up to 3 g. capsules daily, or steep 1 tsp in a cup of hot water for 10-15 min, up to 3 x daily.  Tincture 1:5, 50% alcohol, 10-25 drops 3 x daily.    (61)

Precautions:    A small potential for sensitization via skin contact with the herb.    (2a)

The decoction or infusion of burdock root is aperient, but not for all individuals; for some it may even be constipative.   (13)

No reported side effects.    (61)

Divination:  r   (48)

        Four of Cups

        Divinatory Meanings: Need for some intervention in daily life, without the knowledge of where it will come from. Uncertainty as to what action to take. Strengthen and purify both within and without, and wait with watchful awareness: help is at hand!

        Reverse Meanings: The delusion of dualism. A partnership in which both individuals may need a new direction or are mistaken about a certain issue.   (52)          

General Notes: Burdock is a superlative herb that Pechey, writing in his Complete Herbal (1694), said “stirs up lust.” It’s also supposed to help you lose weight, clear the complexion, and cleanse the blood. (1a)

Little modern research has been conducted.  While studies corroborate traditional use, human studies haven’t been conducted.  Not approved for use in Germany because of this lack of substantiation.    (61)



(1) Cayuga Botanicals Research Data, “Burdock” file (Herbs For Health, Nov/Dec 1996, pg. 68)

(1a) ibid Research Data, “Burdock” file (Mother Eart News Oct/Nov 1993, pg. 76)

(2) Cayuga Botanicals Product Line and Price List

(2a) PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 656-57

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 193

(7) The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pgs. 83-84

(8) The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, pg. 186

(10) Herbal Preparations and Natural Therapies by Debra Nuzzi St. Claire, M.H., pg. 127

(11) Herbal Materia Medica (5th edition) by Michael Moore, pg. 6

(13) The Herb Book by John Lust, pgs. 140-141

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 95-96

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 38,

(22) Herbs and Herbal Formulas (booklet) by Mark Hershiser, pg. 6

(50) The Practical Herbalist and Astrologer by Ira N. Shaw, pg. 32

(52) The Herbal Tarot Deck (Created by Michael Tierra and Designed by Candis Cantin)

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., p. 56

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 42-43