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Other names: Bardana, Beggar’s Buttons, Burr Seed, ClotBur, Cockle Buttons. Cocklebur, Fox’s Clote, Great Burr, Happy Major, Hardock, Hareburr, Lappa, Love Leaves, Personata, Philanthropium, Thorny Burr
Burdock comes from Europe. It grows freely throughout England (but rarely in Scotland) on waste ground and around old buildings, by roadsides and in fairly damp places.
Burdock is native to North America, where indigenous people have used it as a food source for centuries. Burdock is also popular in Asia where it is known as gobo.
The medicinal parts of the plant are the ripe seed and the fresh or dried roots.
Burdock as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
U.S. Herbalists claim Burdock is the best blood cleanser nature has to offer. It is often used for arthritis and neuralgia. Burdock truly is an excellent blood purifier – many say one of the best.
Burdock root is used to treat skin diseases, boils, fevers, inflammations, hepatitis, swollen glands, some cancers, and fluid retention. The dried root from plants of the first year’s growth forms the official drug, but the leaves and fruits (commonly called seeds) are also used.
This herb helps clear persistent teenage acne if taken for three to four weeks, at the same time using it as an external cleanser on the affected areas. Burdock is also often recommended for external use as a wash for ulcers and scaly skin disorders.
Burdock is combined with dandelion root for a very effective liver cleanser. Combine it with Damiana and Sarsaparilla to strengthen and build the male organs.
Both root and seeds may be taken as a decoction of 1 ounce to 1 1/2 pint of water, boiled down to a pint, in doses of a wine glassful, three or four times a day.
Applied externally as a poultice, the leaves are used for tumors and gouty swellings, and relieve bruises and inflammation. The juice from the leaves can also be applied directly onto wasp and hornet stings for relief.
It is also believed burdock has diuretic qualities that are helpful for urinary tract problems.
Native Americans of the Otos tribes used a decoction of the root for pleurisy. Burdock played a part in herbal medicine used by the Meskwaki women for labor and the Flambeau Ojibwe used the root for stomach pain. The Potawatomi used a root tea as a general tonic and blood purifier.
In Southern Appalachia, folk doctors used burdock as a blood purifier (Cavender 2003; Wichtl 2004). Southern folk practitioners of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries used burdock as a treatment for dropsy (Moss 1999). Some folk practitioners believe burdock helps with the symptoms of arthritis; however, there is no evidence to support this use (Tyler 1985).
Modern scientific evidence indicates burdock has some medical value for fungal infections and diabetes. Research also has found burdock has antibiotic properties, is a diuretic, and is an anti-inflammatory.
Mark Oliver (Mississippi) remembered a possible use of the plant: “Sometimes the old folks did the doctoring with the medicine they made out of herbs. Their snake root tonic was mighty fine. Nothing better for the cramps than burdock tea.”
Others recalled the burdock roots being soaked in whiskey to treat unspecified illnesses, or the root being mixed with citrate of potash for scrofula (tuberculosis).
Culinary Uses of Burdock
The leaves and stalks (cut before the flower is open and stripped of their rind) are eaten lightly steamed for their taste and nutritional content. This dish form a delicate vegetable when boiled, similar in flavor to Asparagus. A pinch of baking soda to the boiling water will help break down the fibers and subdue the wild flavor. You can eat cooked burdock on its own with butter and salt. Try combining it with sweeter root vegetables such as carrots and onions.
A tea made of the leaves of Burdock is also used for indigestion. In cases of anorexia, Burdock has been used as an appetite stimulant.
The roots have been roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute; also pounded and added to pancakes or made up like potatoes.
In Russia, Burdock leaves are wrapped around fish and game to season, then cooked bundle fashion in a cooking pit.
There is a variety of Burdock which is sold under the name of Gobo or Japanese Gobo, which is far more suited to culinary purposes than its wild cousin. Since wild burdock can be a harsh herb at times when used medicinally, Gobo is considered a safer alternative and far more suited to the home garden.
Native Americans made candy from burdock root by boiling it in maple syrup and letting it dry.
Burdock was eaten as spring greens by the Iroquois, who also cooked the roots for soup and dried and stored them for winter use.
- 1/2 cup burdock root, finely cut
- 1/8 cup yellow dock root, finely cut
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
Simmer roots in the vinegar for about 5 minutes. Process in a blender, then add the cream or yogurt. Serve on potatoes or other vegetable dishes.
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup fresh Burdock stems, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt, pepper, turmeric to season
Bring water, burdock, onion and garlic to boil over high heat. Cover and simmer until vegetables are soft; season with salt, pepper and turmeric to taste.
No health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages.
There is a slight potential for sensitization via skin contact with the drug.
Insulin dosage may need to be monitored if taking Burdock.
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