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What is burdock?

Burdock is a member of the thistle family. It was originally grown in Europe and Asia, but is now widespread throughout the U.S. It is a short, dull green plant that grows in light, well-drained soil, with wavy, heart-shaped leaves and roots that are brownish-green or black on the outside. Both the root and leaves are used in herbal remedies; however, the roots are the most important part in terms of herbal medicine.

Why do we need burdock? What is it used for?

Burdock contains inulin and mucilage, which may ease certain gastrointestinal conditions. It also contains many bitter-tasting compounds which are thought to aid in digestion. In addition, the plant has substances called polyacetylenes, which have antimicrobial properties.

In traditional texts, burdock was classified as an "alterative" or blood purifier. In traditional Chinese medicine, burdock root is used in combination with other herbs to treat sore throats, tonsillitis, colds, and

even measles. Today, it is used to treat a variety of skin problems, including psoriasis, eczema, contact dermatitis and gout. Preliminary studies have shown it can reduce inflammation and liver damage, although these studies have not been duplicated in humans.

How much burdock should I take?

Many herbalists recommend 2-4ml of burdock tincture per day. Another common recommendation is 1-2 grams of burdock capsules three times per day.

What forms of burdock are available?

Dried burdock root is available in capsule or powder form. Many stores also sell burdock tinctures and extracts; in addition, dried burdock root can be used in tea.

What can happen if I take too much burdock? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

While there are no known risks associated with burdock, the toxicology of the plant is not well-known. Skin contact with burdock may lead to skin irritation in sensitive patients. Pregnant and lactating women should not take burdock.

Burdock may interfere with certain medications for diabetes and hypoglycemia. Make sure to consult with a health care provider before taking this (or any other) supplement.

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  • Bradley P (ed.) British Herbal Compendium. Dorset, England: British Herbal Medicine Association; 1992:1:46—49.
  • Lin CC, et al. Anti-inflammatory and radical scavenge effects of arctium lappa. Am J Chin Med 1996;24:127—137.
  • Morita K, Kada T, Namiki M. A desmutagenic factor isolated from burdock (arctium lappa linne). Mutation Res 1984;129:25—31.
  • 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 Res 1989;413:69—73.
  • Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, pp. 9—101.


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