Arctium lappa (Burdock)

Overview of Burdock (Arctium lappa)

An excellent general health herb. Functions primarily on the kidneys. Secondarily has a somewhat aggravating lymphatic action, as well as a sweeping effect on the entire gastrointestinal system.
Overall a rock-star herb for detoxification, and is especially useful in cases of: psoriasis/eczema, in a combination with other kidney herbs for its antilithic effect, or any rheumatic or inflammatory conditions.
Suitable as a kidney/lymphatic herb in a milder lymphatic formula.
Finding a complementary herbal partner for easing the potential aggravation is ideal, such as Yellow Dock, Sarsaparilla, or most kidney herbs. The seeds (fruit) are interesting and potentially more powerful in some aspects, having an effect directly on preeclampsia and being potentially better at breaking stones.  
*There is a vague controversy about this herb, a fear that it is too powerful or must be used slowly; and surely it is true that caution and slow trial is pertinent; but the fear, in my opinion, is likely due to an ignorance of the paradoxical symptoms of detoxification, which pervades much of herbal doctrine. 

Family: Asteraceae
Parts Used: Roots (sometimes leaves)


Lignans (arctigenin, arctiin, matairesinol & Lappaol F)
Polysaccharides (up to 50% inulin)
Tannins, Sulphur-containing polyacetylenes, Sesquiterpene lactones (arctiopicrin), nutrients, flavonoids, volatile oils (terpenoids), hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives. 



A biennial that grows 3-4 feet tall in its first year. Leaves are large and deep green, heart shaped, somewhat coarse and fuzzy. In the second year of growth Burdock sends up its flowering stalks, which reach 7-8 feet. Flowers are pinkish-purple on top of prickly burrs. Taproots are dense and fleshy in the first year, growing up to 2 feet in depth. In the second year the roots become woody, hollow, and their medicinal value declines. 


Depurative (removes impurities), Bitter, Mild laxative, Mild Diuretic, Anti-rheumatic, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-lithic (stops build-up / dissolves kidney stones), hypoglycaemic (regulates blood sugar), Anti-carcinogenic, Anti-microbial, Diaphoretic.


“Root in wine for snake bites, mixed with salt the root eases pain, also wild dog bites; breaks kidney stone and expels” – Culpepper
Fresh root has been used for lowering blood sugar, and due to inulin content is favourable for diabetics. 
“Acts slowly and mildly upon the organs of elimination (kidneys, skin, bowels), particularly when there is irritation” – Cook 
“Certain remedy in all skin ailments, particularly when combined with Yellow Dock or Sarsaparilla; seeds and root can be boiled down from 1 oz to a pint (decoction; though Moore recommends cold infusion) ; infusion of leaves are useful for strengthening and toning the stomach in cases of long-standing indigestion. The leaves as poultice are also useful for tumours or gouty swellings” – Mrs Grieve.
“The seed drunk with wine for 40 days is a wonder for sciatica (pain resonating from the lower back shooting into the leg) “ Culpepper.

Medicinal Actions:

Eczema, psoriasis, boils, chronic inflammation, acne, increased healing of wounds, root oil used in hair growth (alopoecia), rheumatic issues, gout, digestive bitter, stimulates appetite, eliminates uric acid through kidneys, cystitis, kidney stones, allergy, food intolerance, tonsilitis, high blood sugar. 

“IgE allergies, elevated uric acid, water retention, and “blood purifying” (Seeds for pre-eclampsia in third trimester)” – Moore

Cautions & Contraindications:

Asteracea allergy (no known drug/herb interactions).
Can potentially precipitate preeclampsia in severely toxic persons; reaction would be edema and high blood pressure. Gradual use is recommended. 


USDA zones 3-7
Burdock is a pioneer species that grows well in waste places, so usually can be wild harvested in preference to farming. Not picky about sun exposure. Grows in any soil, but roots best in light, well-drained soil (preferably rich in organic matter). Is overall resilient and will also grow in damp soils. Seeds germinate easily and can be sown directly in the field in autumn or early spring (stratification increases germination). 18 inches – 3 feet apart. 
Keep them 6 inches apart in rows. 1 Inch deep in autumn, 1/2 – 3/4 inch deep in spring. Yields 1500-2000 lb root / acre (fresh). Collect first years root, dig them up in July. Should be 12+ inches in length, 1 inch thick, sometimes extend 2-3 feet, making it necessary to dig by hand. Leaves, less used, are also collected in July. Seeds (actually fruits) are collected when ripe (high amount of potassium from them).


This Post was all about Arctium lappa (Burdock)

If you've read the entire article, well done! You're well on your way to increasing your knowledge of natural healing and escaping the cave. If you are seeking an iris reading, an herbalist, or to walk a path of detoxification, take a look at our website. I'd love to help you onto a path of regeneration. 
Justin McArthur

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