Plant Profile: Burdock

(Arctium lappa, A. minus)


Energetics: Warming and then Cooling, moistening (oily). 

Taste: Root: Bitter. Slightly sweet. Leaf: Bitter.

Tissue States: Dry/atrophy, stagnation.

Parts Used: Roots & rhizome. (sometimes seeds and leaves).

Systems affected: Urinary system. Lymphatic. Liver. Skin (due to it's affinity for the liver and blood cleansing action). 

Key Components: Calcium magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, iron, Flavonoid glycosides, bitter glycosides, alkaloids, antimicrobial substances, almost 45% inulin, essential oils; sesquiterpenes.

Preparations & dosage: Food. Decoction: 1 tsp of root in 1 cup of water, bring to boil & simmer 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x per day. Tincture: 2-4 ml 3x per day.

Foundational: Bitter. 
Primary: Alterative. Lymphatic. Diuretic. Diaphoretic.
Secondary: Nutritive. Blood tonic. Blood purifier. 

Uses: One of the most gentle liver herbs along with Dandelion. Skin conditions that result in dry scaly skin. Use over long period of time for psoriasis. Use as part of a wider treatment plan for rheumatic complaints especially those associated with psoriasis. Arthritis, possibly gout and joint aches where if feels like there’s “stuff” in the joints. Aids digestion & appetite by stimulating bile secretion. Kidney tonic to heal cystitis. Dandruff. Use externally as a poultice to speed healing of wounds & ulcers. Can also be used externally for eczema & psoriasis but should also be used to heal internally as that is the only way to truly heal from these. An infusion of leaf or decoction of root have been good as a wash for skin issues such as acne, ringworm, measles rash & burns. Useful in treating hormonal imbalances. Excellent for teenagers who have problems with acne due to shifting hormones or a diet heavy on sugar and other crappy food. Burdock moves stagnant lymph .Good wash for dry, itchy, irritated skin. Also balances sebaceous glands in the scalp (think cradle cap). Burdock is part of a well known Native American anti cancer formula called Essiac. Use for lymph stagnation or congestion indicated by stolen lymph nodes/glands in the body (drink 3-4 cups tea per day, should see results in a day or 2). Good for people having trouble with bowel movements and emulsifying fats. Native Hawaiians credit it for the ability to increase strength & endurance. Burdock leaf poultices have been used to treat gout. Combines great with dandelion for just about any skin disease. Burdock moves stagnant lymph. 

Makes an excellent pre-biotic due to its inulin content. It can't be digested by humans but is wonderful for providing nutrients for gut flora. 
Burdock Seeds: Burdock seeds are said to be stronger than the root which make them better for acute situations and the root a better choice for chronic situations. 

Burdock Leaves: You can use the leaves externally as a poultice for burns and to heal old ulcers. Have been used as poultices to treat gout.

Some herbalists do use the leaf as an infusion internally as an alterative to improve apetite as well as a diuretic. It is EXTREMELY bitter though. 

Flower Essence: Used to aid in the release of strong anger and frustration. 

Growing: Biennial. Zones 2-10. Introduced to North America by early Europeans, Burdock grows along roads, in ditches, hedgerows & waste places throughout most of the US and Canada. To grow: set seeds 1/4” deep in rows about 2’ apart. When seedlings are established thin to about 6” apart. Will thrive in a deep bed of well-rotted compost, manure, sawdust, leaf mold, wood chips, and other light, loose material. Adding sawdust is good because it makes it easier to pull up the roots. The root can grow in the right soil up to 12” long.

Collection: Harvest root for medicine fall of second year (when there’s no burrs on the plant). Harvest fall of first year spring of second year roots for food. 

Contraindications: Should be skin tested on people who tend to react to plants in the Aster family. 


The Way of Herbs: Michael Tierra. Pg 105-106
The Herbal Apothecary: JJ. Pursell. Pg 80-81