Medicinal Properties and Use of Burdock

burdock root

Burdock (Arctium lappa) is one of those troublesome weeks that gives more health benefits than most of us generally credit it. Like dandelion, it’s got a long taproot gardeners who seek a purely aesthetically landscape find more than challenging to dislodge. Herbalists for centuries, however, see the beauty in the harvest simply because Burdock offers us so many benefits it’s hardly an even exchange. We may well spend an hour uprooting most (but rarely all!) of the first-year root in the fall or second-year root in the spring. Burdock gives his life to offer up blood-cleansing, detoxification help, skin-clearing, and help in balancing the fluids of our bodies. This humble plant is often thought of more as a food (gobo as the Japanese call it) than a medicine holds a high capacity to ease many of the ills we face now and in our more distant past.

Burdock in Autumn
Burdock in Autumn

Ancient herbalists, like Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century, recognized burdock’s power in helping their patients recover from illness. Then, like today, burdock helped with the break-down of toxins and metabolic waste, making it easier for our bodies to eliminate that which we no longer need. Conditions ranging from cancers and hypertension to gout, digestive ulcers, and reproductive problems, burdock has offered support and help in recovery through the ages.

For those of us with less life-threatening conditions, burdock can also be a true friend. As burdock encourages your body to better break down and eliminate waste, it also helps you build anew, leaving your whole system generally lighter and more purified in the wake. Folks with gout, dry and irritated skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, as well as general digestive strive can all benefit from a daily serving of burdock root either taken as a food, in a tea or decoction, or as a tincture or glycerite or other herbal medicinal preparation.

Although herbalists generally advise pregnant women to stick to lighter doses, like those commonly found in food preparations like Kinpira Gobo, which is Japanese Braised Carrots and Gobo Root, Burdock is one of the most non-toxic and generally safe herbs we herbalists use. Children and adults like the earthy, slightly sweet flavor despite the mild bitter aftertaste. That bitter aftertaste is burdock’s way of getting your digestive juices flowing, helping your liver and gall bladder get to work to digest your meal. Burdock’s diuretic effects are mild, too, making it a good choice for folks with hypertension or who are bloated or retaining water. For PMS and perimenopausal bloating, a bit of burdock root can help your body move those waters along.

Medicinal Actions

Antibacterial, Anti-inflammation, Anti-tumor, Anti-fungal, Antimutagenic, Antioxidant, Antipyretic, Diuretic, Diaphoretic, Hypoglycemic

How to Include Burdock in Your Diet

Burdock makes a lovely addition to many dishes. If your recipe calls for carrots, you can substitute or add Burdock root. Braised, steamed, stir-fried, you’ll find a myriad of recipes online and in Japanese and Asian cookbooks for Gobo or Burdock root. You can add slices of Burdock root to soups or stews, too. The flavor of Burdock is earthy, sweet, and slightly bitter. It’s fairly mild, even by most picky-eater’s standards, when combined with other more intense ingredients like carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, peppers, or cabbage.

Burdock Flower photo courtesy of Morguefile
Burdock Flower
photo courtesy of Morguefile

Teas and decoctions are just the beginning of drinks flavored with Burdock. Old-timey Root Beer recipes often included Burdock root. Today, you can still find some Burdock-Dandelion sodas to get your daily burdock fix. Just be sure that the soda you’ve chosen uses real burdock root rather than artificial flavorings if you really want to get burdock’s health benefits.

If you make your own kombucha, consider adding a little burdock tea to your fermentation. You can add it in the initial tea, or you can add it when you bottle as a flavor enhancer. In either case, burdock root will add a new dimension to your drink. It’s a nice addition to herbal beers and mead as well.

You can buy (or make) powdered Burdock root from many herbal suppliers, too. I like powdered burdock root for making pastilles or candies. One of my favorite cough drops includes burdock Root, dandelion root, and elecampane root all in powdered form. With a healthy dose of honey, they’re a welcome treat during illness.

Tinctures, syrups, and glycerites are all good ways of adding Burdock to your daily diet, too. I like to make Candied Burdock Root as a pre- or post-meal digestive. In the process, I end up with a cup or so of Burdock Root Syrup, which quickly becomes part of my Three-Root Syrup for post-illness recovery. The Candied Burdock Root pieces are a lovely way to get in a little of Burdock’s medicine, too, of course.


For the most part, Burdock Root is a healthy, safe, non-toxic herb. If you’re pregnant, stick to generally food-doses of Burdock. It’s wise to work with your Midwife, herbalist, or birthing team when you’re pregnant before making Burdock a significant part of your diet. Folks who are on pharmaceuticals of any sort will want to monitor their drug levels as well. Burdock root can help improve your overall digestion, potentially leading to better absorption of nutrients and medicines. Work with your medical team to ensure that as your digestion improves you change your drug levels as needed.


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