If you happen to go through the field in the countryside in the cotton pants or skirt you are sure to spend another half of an hour in taking prickly little balls out of your clothes. These are prickly heads of a Burdock, and the fact they are so easily catching on to your clothing is the perfect mechanism of seed dispersal, you are sure to carry them to some distance. Or do you remember how you throw at one another those heads in your childhood. Burdock is as old as Earth. No wonder this plant has been used for different purposes for centuries.
Official (botanical) name of the Burdock is Arctium lappa L. (Great burdock) or Fructus Arctii.
Other names are: Arctium Radix, Arctium minus, Bardana, Beggar’s Buttons, Clotbur, Gobo, Personata, Thorny Burr and others.
How it does it look? The Plant has nice wavy green leaves that are pretty long, about 45 cm when growing. The leaves are ovate and underneath they are woolly. Plant has prickly heads of purple flowers – burrs – that are catching to almost everything starting from your clothing to animals’ fur. Remember those intestinal hairballs in your dog after running through burdocks…:)
Great burdock (Arctium lappa) is native to Europe and Asia, it also is naturalized throughout North America. It is also widespread weed in New Zealand and England (though rarely in Scotland). World famous and valued by herbalists worldwide burdock has plenty of medicinal treasures. The plant is mainly cultivated for its sweet-tasting root, though other parts are also used for medical and other purposes. The plant does not need special conditions for growing; its favorite places are on waste ground and about old buildings, by roadsides and in fairly damp places.
As Burdock has many medicinal qualities all its parts are used in many herbal remedies: the leaves (mainly for tea), the burrs, the seed, the stem and the root.
The seeds (or flower-heads) are collected when ripe – this is during the latter part of the summer or in autumn. They are shaken out of the head and dried by spreading them out on paper in the sun. The leaves should be harvested before or during early flowering. The roots should be unearthed in September or October of the first year, or as alternative in the following spring when the flowers appear. The root is sweet to the taste and has a gummy consistency.
In what forms it is available on the market? You can find Burdock in tea, juice, powder and capsules.
Burdock root is in the following forms:
– in herbal tea (2 – 6 grams for a cup three to five times per day);
– in oil (for your hair – regularly, after washing);
– in the form of fresh or dried root (the second one – steep 2 – 6 grams in boiling water for 10 – 15 minutes and then strain and drink three times a day);
– in tincture (2 – 8 mL three times per day);
– in fluid extract ((1:1): 2 – 8 mL three times a day);
– in decoctions (liquid made by boiling down the herb in water).
Such a wide rang of useful properties are explained by the amount of treasures in Burdock root. Burdock root contains high amounts of inulin (27-45% ) and mucilage (up to 75% of the root is carbohydrate in the form of fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS) including inulin), essential oil with 66 identified components (0.06-0.18%), vitamins (B1, B6, B12, and E), polyphenols including caffeic acid (1.9-3.65%), antibacterial polyacetylenes, sitosterol and stigmasterol, different powerful flavonoid-type antioxidants, trace minerals (phosphorous, sodium, chromium, cobalt, iron, potassium, magnesium, silicon, zinc), etc.
High amounts of inulin and mucilage of the root give splendid soothing effects on the gastro-intestinal tract. And inulin itself provides a helpful sugar for diabetics and hypoglycemics because it does not elicit fast insulin production; it also has the ability to slightly lower blood sugar.
Useful effect in improving digestive functions is also very popular with Burdock root due to its bitter properties.
Vitamins and minerals are irreplaceable in treating and preventing acne.
Some chemicals of the root promote the loss of water from the body, that can be a useful in treating fever and swelling, as it increases the production of both urine and sweat. No wonder it has long considered by Chinese and European herbalists to have a “lightly warming, moistening effect”. It is one of the best natural “blood purifier” in the herbal system. It is classified as an alterative, diuretic and diaphoretic. As a diuretic it clears the bloodstream of toxins (due to the above mentioned mechanism). More over, it purifies the blood without side effects. The detoxification of the body has its consequences in all the useful effects of the burdock. That is why it is so difficult to separate the benefits into plain list. It all goes like everything comes due to the ability to flush impurities from the body.
In a few studies on animals the root appeared to prevent liver damage that was caused by alcohol, medications or chemicals. It may be explained by the antioxidants in the burdock that protect body cells from damage caused by oxidation (but the exact mechanism of action is not yet known). Polyacetylenes are the traditionally known anti-microbial firs aid. Polyacetylenes inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi and this prevents the infection penetration, especially useful in skin. Also it prevents colds, flu and cystitis. Its antibacterial and antifungal effects are helpful remedies in athlete’s foot, dandruff, diaper rash, acne eczema, and others.
Burdock besides other benefits can in some way increase circulation to the skin, helping to detoxify the epidermal tissues. It is good in treating different skin conditions including psoriasis and acne.
Burdock root oil extract, also called Bur oil, when regularly used helps restore and maintain healthy scalp and hair. It also helps to improve scalp conditions and relieve scalp irritation.
But it is not all in the list of advantages of ‘Poor-man’s potato’, Beggar’s button, Bardana, Clot-bur, Gypsy rhubarb, Love leaves and Happy major (this is all the folk names of a Burdock). They (advantages) are numerous and absolutely without side effects. This massive herb is a true medicinal storehouse.