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Herbal Monograph

Herb: BURDOCK SEED (Arctium lappa; Compositae)

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

Bardana, burr seed, clotbur, cocklebur, grass burdock, hardock, hareburr, hurrburr, turkey burrseed   (13)

niu-bang-zi    (61)

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

Character/Energetics: bitter, sweet, cold  (6);  cold, pungent, bitter   (15)

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

Parts used: seed  (6)       

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.    (2)

Harvest when ripe late in summer.  (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: arctiin, arctigenin, essential oil, fatty oil  (6) . . .   essential fatty acids, vitamins A, B2   (15)                      

Actions: diaphoretic, diuretic, antipyretic, expectorant, anti-phlogistic  (6)

prevent fever, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, reduce blood sugar levels  (15)

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)

Conditions and Uses: The Chinese use the seeds, known as niu-bang-zi, for coughs, swelling and skin ulcerations. (1a)

Burdock seed is used in treating throat infections, pneumonia, scarlet fever, measles, smallpox, eczema, psoriasis and syphilis. Western herbalists know it as a treatment for eruptive skin diseases and itching skin from other causes. The Chinese discovered that it was excellent for the treatment of colds and flu. (6)           

American Eclectics used the seeds for skin diseases and as a diuretic. In China, the seeds are thought suitable for common coldscharacterized by a sort throat and unproductive cough. (15)

(Burdock) seeds are often used for skin diseases and fevers.  (52)

The seeds are used in kidney affections.    (57)

The seeds are the main part used in China, to detoxify blood, reduce swelling, clear skin eruptions.    (61)

Combinations: Use with heartsease for skin eruptions.  (15)

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 60-70% (10)

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

Dosage & Applications: standard infusion or 3-9 grams  (6)     

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

Decoction: Take for feverish colds with sore throat and cough. Use with heartsease for skin             eruptions.  (15)

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)


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:    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 Botanical Research Data, “Burdock” file (Herbs For Health, Nov/Dec 1996, pg. 68)

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

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pgs. 157-158

(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,

(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