By Sarena-Rae Santos, Contributing Writer
What is Burdock?
Burdock root, also known as Arctium lappa and sometimes called gobo, beggar’s buttons, love leaves, or clot-bur, is a bright pink-red to purple thistle-like flower with long stalks and huge hairy leaves that’s native to Europe and Asia (1). Burdock root has been used for thousands of years throughout Western folk herbalism and traditional Chinese medicine, primarily for its cleansing and skin smoothing properties (2).
Health Benefits of Burdock
Recognized mainly for its burrs; burdock’s plant compounds consist primarily of carbohydrates, volatile oils, plant sterols, tannins, and fatty oils (3), responsible for health benefits including:
Several studies have been done on burdock’s ability to act as an antioxidant. Antioxidants can help fight damage from harmful free radicals. The buildup of free radicals has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. Due to the antioxidant activity of burdock, early studies have found that burdock root actively seeks out and destroys free radicals (4). Earthley’s Super Foods Powder is great for these benefits.
Burdock is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its antioxidant compounds, which also can reduce inflammation, especially from free radical damage. Chronic inflammation has been linked with many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (5). One study found that burdock significantly decreased inflammation in people with knee osteoarthritis (6). I’d recommend Earthley’s Lymphatic Cream for these benefits.
May Lessen Skin Issues
Burdock has been used for thousands of years to lessen skin conditions such as acne. Burdock’s anti-inflammatory properties may help resolve skin issues when applied topically to the area. Acne is a condition that occurs when your hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and oil (7). One study concluded that burdock positively impacted acne, especially acne caused by inflammation (8). I highly recommend Earthley’s Prebiotic Mask for these benefits.
May Remove Toxins From the Blood (Purify Blood)
One of the most common uses for burdock today is to remove toxins from the blood (purify blood). Recent evidence has found burdock contains an active ingredient in its root system that can actually remove toxins from the bloodstream and effectively detoxify the blood while promoting circulation at the skin’s surface (9).
May Help Manage and Prevent Infections
Burdock’s ability to remove toxins from the blood is said to help manage and prevent infections. Traditional healers have used and recommended burdock root to fight sore throats, the common cold, and other ailments for centuries. Still, scientific research now proves burdock to be even more versatile. Research has found that burdock may have the ability to kill some types of bacteria, such as Klebsiella pneumoniae (10). One study found that burdock could manage biofilm-related urinary tract infections (11).
May Improve Blood Sugar & Diabetes
As of 2020, 34.2 million (1 in 10) Americans have diabetes, and another 88 million (1 in 3) Americans have prediabetes (12). On the bright side, one study found that burdock could prevent dangerously high blood glucose in a petri dish and live animals (13). In another study on mice, researchers found that fermented burdock significantly reduced blood sugar in mice (14).
Not only does burdock remove toxins from the blood, but it may also inhibit certain types of cancer (15). Research has found that burdock has “potent inhibitory effects” on the growth of liver cancer tumorigenesis and significantly interferes with cancer cell growth (16). Another study found that burdock may be a natural alternative for several types of cancers, including breast tumors, ovary, bladder, malignant melanoma, lymphoma, and pancreatic cells, thanks to burdock containing Arctigenin, which has shown the ability to remove the tumor cells (17).
As per trusted herbalist Richard Whelan, there is healthy respect in the old teachings about burdock that this is an herb that can bring about a healing crisis (where things get worse before they get better) and that it is a powerful medicine that needs to be used with care and caution.
The Toxicology of Botanical Medicines identifies burdock as a uterine stimulant, suggesting that burdock should not be used during pregnancy. However, please note that there are no reports of adverse reactions in the literature, which is likely only a theoretical concern.
Burdock might reduce platelet aggregation by inhibiting platelet-activating factors, so, theoretically, taking burdock with anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs might increase the risk of bleeding due to decreased platelet aggregation. Some of these drugs include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin).
Note that these concerns are theoretical only. No evidence of adverse reactions or drug interactions has been published, and so long as it is used with care, burdock can be safely used by young and old and at any stage of life when it is needed (18).
How to Use Burdock
You can find burdock in dried bulk, pills, powders, teas, extracts, or tinctures. Tinctures always contain the most concentrated amount of herbs. Teas and soups are also options, especially when following ayurvedic medicine recipes.
Follow the recommendations of any supplement; some of my recommendations include:
Earthley’s Lymphatic Cream is a lotion created to help relieve achy parts of the body caused by swollen lymph nodes. This cream tackles lymphatic congestion at the source and gently encourages drainage to help detox, reduce soreness, and improve overall wellness.
Earthley’s Prebiotic Mask feeds your skin’s microbiome resulting in glowing, even-toned skin! Your skin has natural bacteria on it, just like your gut. So don’t forget to show your skin’s microbiome some love too.
Earthley’s Super Foods Powder is a nourishing powder rich in naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It can support gut health, immune health, natural energy levels, and hormone balance. Mix it into yogurt or a smoothie for a whole-body boost!
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and nothing in this post is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything. If you have questions, please do your own research or seek advice from a health professional.