For several hundred years now, the burdock plant and burdock root have been used for purifying and flushing toxins from the blood stream. In its capacity as a diuretic, the burdock herb and root increase the output of urine, thereby flushing out excess water.
The taproot of young burdock plants can be harvested and eaten as a root vegetable. While generally out of favour in modern European cuisine, it remains popular in Asia. Burdock root is known as “niúbàng” in Chinese, which was borrowed into Japanese as gobo, and is still eaten in both countries. In Korea burdock root is called “u-eong” and sold as “tong u-eong”, or “whole burdock”.
Burdock root has been valued across continents for thousands of years for its ability to purify blood and cool internal heat. Internally and externally, it has potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects on the human body. Recent studies also show that burdock contains phenolic acids, quercetin and luteolin, which are all powerful, health-promoting antioxidants.
Burdock has been used to treat both bacterial and fungal infections, including ringworm, urinary tract infections, and acne. Its antibacterial effects may also promote wound healing and help treat ulcers.
In addition, the consumption of burdock root benefits the treatment of gastrointestinal conditions, stimulates the digestive organs and also treats various stomach ailments.
Burdock is one of the only herbs that can stimulate lymphatic drainage (since lymph pumping is usually manual and requires exercise!) Because of this lymphatic cleansing ability, and its incredible plant chemical composition, burdock is a major cancer fighter, skin clearer, and liver healer.
Burdock is used as a tonic for its immune-strengthening capabilities. It has been used for centuries as a diuretic and to clear the blood of toxins by stimulating perspiration. When applied topically, it is used to relieve certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis, acne and eczema. Burdock is also being used to lower blood sugar, to treat digestive troubles, minor skin infections, colds, sore throat, flu, HIV and rheumatoid arthritis and to stimulate bile production. Historically, burdock has also been used to treat cancer. There have not been many studies performed on burdock, so evidence of its effectiveness is mostly anecdotal.
As burdock goes to work on the liver, it is able to clear heat, anger, irritability, and restlessness. This has beneficial effects on arthritis, gout, infections, and other ‘angry’ inflammatory conditions. It further has a gentle diuretic action on the kidneys which helps clear the blood of harmful acids and aids in lower back pain, fluid retention, and sciatica.
Eaten as a food (usually peeled) in soups, stews, and stir fry, burdock is a cleansing yet strengthening food that helps lessen sweet cravings and aids in treating diabetes. Because of its slight bitter qualities, it greatly improves digestion (same reason people have always eaten bitter green salads before the main course!).
Burdock Root Possible Side Effects & Caution
Burdock root is considered safe when consumed as a food, which is done regularly in Asian countries. However, pregnant and nursing women should avoid burdock root, as it may cause damage to the fetus.
If you’re dehydrated, you should not take burdock because the herb’s diuretic effects could make dehydration worse. Additionally, if you’re sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae plant family, which includes ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds and daisies, you could possibly experience an allergic reaction to using burdock internally or externally, including dermatitis.
There are no known scientific reports of interactions between burdock and conventional medications. However, you should talk to your doctor before taking burdock if you take diuretics (burdock could make the effect of water pills stronger), diabetes medications (burdock might lower blood sugar, causing hypoglycemia) or blood-thinning medications (burdock can slow blood clotting and, when taken with blood-thinning medications, may increase the risk of bruising and bleeding).
If you’re going to undergo any type of surgery, stop taking burdock root at least two weeks before your surgery date. Burdock might increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery.
There are no known scientific reports on the pediatric use of burdock, so you should only give burdock to children under the supervision of a doctor.