Burdock - Articum, sp.:
This plant is a hardy biennial. In its first year it remains a low-lying rosette with
large, broad, hairy leaves. In its second year, it produces a stalk upon which grow
purplish-pink flowers. The plant possesses a long and tenacious taproot.
Great Burdock - Arctium lappa: The stalks are solid; the plant can grow to
9 feet on its second year. It was originally European, but has naturalized in
Common Burdock - Arctium minus: The stalks are hollow; the plant grows only
to about 5 feet during its second year. It is a native of North America.
Burdock will do most of the work itself, assuming your climate is appropriate, as it
is through much of the temperate United States. It likes sun; it likes partial shade.
Wildcrafting the plant may be your
best bet, as it has a strong tendency to be invasive.
The roots of this plant are said to taste like bland parsnips, and may be prepared like
parsnips. Culinary uses for this plant are not common, although the roots (usually
obtained from the first year wintering plant, due to size) were eaten
by at least some Native Americans in soups, and the very young
leaves of great burdock were used in salads by the Iroquois.
Medicinal Uses in Folklore:
Burdock species have been used for cancer in places as diverse as Belgium, Chile, China,
Italy, and Canada. It is one of the ingredients of Essiac, a formulation of four
herbs popularized by a Canadian nurse and used for cancer therapy.
Some northern European cultures used burdock to treat diabetes mellitus.
Scanning the Scientific Literature:
Great burdock did not affect the parameters of glucose homeostasis in a 28-day study
on mice, whereas a couple of other traditional treatments from folklore did exhibit
some effect in this study. After administration of streptozotocin,
burdock aggravated the diabetic condition stimulated by that agent. It is noted in the
same study that guayusa (Ilex guayusa) and cultivated mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) did
exhibit intriguing effects against important signals of diabetes.
Fresh or boiled juices from burdock (as with juices from various other vegetative
plants) helped decrease chromosomal aberrations in a chemically-induced cellular model.
The present results suggest that some vegetables, such as onion as well as burdock,
may suppress chemically induced cancer.
Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties have been found in certain chemicals in
the fresh root, but have not been seen in examined dried, commercial, root preparations.
Gobo dietary fiber (GDF) is prepared from burdock (Arctium lappa) root.
This dietary fiber is being used to study its potential ability to cleanse the system
of PCB contamination (not markedly effective), and its positive effects on sucrase
under certain circumstances.
It is noted that some commercial preparations have been adulterated with the
hazardous belladona root, which bears a marked physical resemblance to burdock root.
This plant is usually considered a nuisance weed by gardeners not interested in its
medicinal values. Even those of us who are interested find that it is not welcome
in most areas of our gardens. Late summer the second-year plant produces burrs
noted for causing distress in the fur of our dogs, cats, and livestock, as well as on
These plants are in the family Asteraceae.
- Damrosch, B. The Garden Primer.
- Tyler, V. E. The Honest Herbal.
- Duke, J. A.
Edible Weed: Common Burdock Arctium minus (Hill) Bernh, Family Asteraceae.
HerbalGram. 39:87, 1997. Reprinted from The Handbook of Edible Weeds,
1992, CRC Press, Inc.
- Swanston-Flatt SK. Day C. Flatt PR. Gould BJ. Bailey CJ.
Glycaemic effects of traditional European plant treatments for diabetes.
Studies in normal and streptozotocin diabetic mice. Diabetes Research.
10(2):69-73, 1989 Feb.
- Ito Y. Maeda S. Sugiyama T.
Suppression of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced chromosome
aberrations in rat bone marrow cells by vegetable juices.
Mutation Research. 172(1):55-60, 1986 Oct.
- Morita K. Hamamura K. Iida T.
[Binding of PCB by several types of dietary fiber in vivo and in vitro].
[Japanese] Fukuoka Igaku Zasshi - Fukuoka Acta Medica. 86(5):212-7, 1995 May.
- Takeda H. Kiriyama S.
Effect of feeding amaranth (food red no. 2) on the jejunal sucrase and
digestion-absorption capacity of the jejunum in rats.
Journal of Nutritional Science & Vitaminology. 37(6):611-23, 1991 Dec.
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Last Updated: March 7, 1999.