burdock thumbnail 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 North America.
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.

Growing Info:

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.

Culinary Uses:

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.

Other Info:

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 clothing.

These plants are in the family Asteraceae.


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This information is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment. If conditions worsen, or persist, consult your healthcare practitioner.

Last Updated: March 7, 1999.