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Bur Marigold

Medically reviewed on March 15, 2018

Scientific Name(s): Bidens aristosa (Michx.) Britt., Bidens tripartita L., Bidens bipinnata L., Bidens pilosa L., Bidens cernua L., Bidens frondosa L., and other Bidens species. Family: Asteraceae (daisies)

Common Name(s): Bastard agrimony , bastard hemp , bur (burr) marigold , hairy beggar-ticks , 3-lobe beggar ticks , lumb , needle grass , Spanish needles , sticktights , water agrimony , water hemp


Several Bidens species have been, and continue to be, used extensively in folk medicine.


There is no clinical evidence to guide dosage of bur marigold.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy during pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Cross-hypersensitivity to other members of the Asteraceae family is possible. Cell-mediated airway inflammation is possible for people with allergies and/or asthma.


Little information is available.


Bur marigold is the common name for any of the 200 species of Bidens ; however, the 6 species listed above are most commonly used in herbal medicine. Bur marigolds are upright annual herbs (0.3 to 1.5 m in height), often found growing in open shade along the edge of woodlands and rivers. They grow best in full sunlight but are adaptable to partial shade. Leaves are arranged alternately and are toothed or lobed on the margins. The plants bloom from September to October, producing numerous solitary bright yellow flowers. The dark brown seeds of the plant have spiky projections at one end that adhere to clothing and animal fur, hence the common name of beggar ticks. Some species are considered to be invasive weeds. 1


African, Caribbean, Chinese, Peruvian, and other folk medicines describe extensive uses of the plant, including for the treatment of angina, high blood pressure, conjunctivitis, cough, diabetes, diarrhea, diuresis, dropsy, dysmenorrhea, dysentery, febrile convulsions, fever, flank pains, food poisoning, fractures, helminthiasis, hepatitis, inflammation, jaundice, rheumatism, sore throat, threatened abortion, and toothache. The leaves, flowers, and whole plant of different Bidens species are used. 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 Bur marigold products are not widely marketed.


Evaluation of the chemical composition of Bidens species has revealed the presence of flavonoids, xanthophylls, volatile oil, acetylenes and polyacetalenes, sterols, aurones, chalcones, caffeine and caffeoyl derivatives, and tannins. 3 , 4 , 5 , 8 , 9 Antimicrobial activity is believed to be associated with phenylheptatriyne, linolic acid, and linolenic acid. 10 Friedelin, friedelan-3-beta-ol, and flavonoids, such as quercetin, are associated with anti-inflammatory activity. 10 Antioxidant action has been attributed to glucopyranosides found in B. pilosa , 9 while polyacetylenic glucosides may act on T-helper cells. 11

Uses and Pharmacology

Anti-inflammatory activity
Animal data

Anti-inflammatory activity has been studied in B. bipinnata and Bidens campylotheca . Compared with dexamethasone, the flavones of B. bipinnata demonstrated greater anti-inflammatory activity in an in vitro experiment using mice. 12 Another study revealed that 5 isolated polyacetylenes from B. campylotheca inhibited the activity of cyclooxygenase and 5-lipooxygenase. 13

Clinical data

There is no clinical data regarding the use of bur marigold as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Antimicrobial activity
Animal data

The genus is associated with antimicrobial activity. B. pilosa whole plant extract was tested for activity against various bacteria and fungi. Some activity was shown against Bacillus coagulans , Citrobacter freundii , and Salmonella typhi , 14 , 15 but not Candida albicans . 14 A minimum inhibitory concentration of 50 mcg/mL was obtained from a sesquiterpene phenol from B. cernua for Candida . 16 , 17 Animal experiments have evaluated B. pilosa antimalarial activity both in vivo and in vitro in mice. Crude ethanolic extracts of the plant roots demonstrated activity against Plasmodium falciparum . Increased mouse survival and decreased parasitaemia have been displayed; this activity is considered to be caused by the presence of polyacetylenes and flavonoids. 18 , 19 , 20

In vitro experiments have demonstrated a dose-dependant effect of whole plant aqueous extract of B. pilosa on the herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2. The median effective dose of the whole plant extract was higher than the positive control acyclovir. 6

Clinical data

No clinical data has been published regarding the use of bur marigold as an antimicrobial agent, despite widespread traditional use in Brazil. 19

Antioxidant action
Animal Data

Several in vitro experiments using human erythrocytes have displayed an antioxidant action of ethanol and aqueous extracts of B. pilosa . 21 , 22 Ethyl acetate and butanol fractions of the plant extract demonstrated free radical scavenging properties comparable with alpha-tocopherol. 9

Clinical data

There is no clinical data regarding the antioxidant activity of bur marigold.

Cardiovascular action
Animal data

Several experiments on extracts of B. pilosa leaves have been conducted on rats to investigate the plant's cardiovascular properties. A hypotensive effect has been observed, with varying results on heart rate and contractility. The researchers sought to establish a mechanism of action and suggest that the extracts possess smooth muscle relaxant properties and a vasodilatory action possibly caused by calcium antagonist action and beta-receptor stimulation. 1 , 23 , 24 , 25

Clinical data

There are no clinical data regarding cardiovascular activity of bur marigold.

Animal data

In a series of experiments in mice, the butanol fraction of a B. pilosa extract moderated the cytokine-mediated differentiation of T-helper cells. In nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice, Th-1 cell differentiation was inhibited, while Th-2 differentiation increased. Polyacetylenic glucosides responsible for this moderation prevented the onset of diabetes in NOD mice. 9 , 11 Enhanced cytokine production by human erythrocytes in response to B. pilosa also has been demonstrated. 22

In other experiments, neither aqueous nor methylene chloride extracts of B. pilosa had any effect on insulin or glucose in fructose-induced hypertensive rats. 2

Clinical data

Despite being recognized in Caribbean 7 and Chinese cultures 11 as a traditional medicine for diabetes, there are no clinical research data relevant to this use.

Animal data

Antiulcerogenic activity has been studied in Bidens aurea and B. pilosa . The results of an in vitro experiment in rats revealed B. aurea flavonoid extracts provided a higher level of gastric protection (increased mucus secretion) compared with ranitidine and omeprazole. 26 , 27 , 28 Results for extracts of B. pilosa contradict one experiment showing dose-dependent antisecretory action and another suggesting no effect on gastric section or volume. However, both experiments demonstrated protection against mucosal injury in induced gastric lesions. 29 , 30

B. bipinnata was evaluated for antidiarrheal activity and demonstrated an effect for up to 4 hours against castor oil-induced diarrhea in rats. The extract showed a rapid relaxant effect on contractile tissues of the duodenum. Higher doses were needed to alter intestinal transit times. 31

Clinical data

There are no clinical data regarding GI uses of bur marigold.


An in vitro experiment evaluated the hepatoprotective effects of 3 Bidens species on acetaminophen-induced acute hepatic lesions in rats. The results indicated that Bidens chilensis exhibited the greatest hepatoprotective effect. 32

B. pilosa showed anticell proliferation on human cells in an experiment designed to evaluate antiangiogenic properties. 33


There is no clinical evidence to guide dosage of bur marigold.


Information regarding safety and efficacy during pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented. Theoretical interactions with calcium channel antagonists, beta-blockers, and cardiac glycosides exist. 23 , 24 , 25

Adverse Reactions

There is little or no information available on adverse reactions caused by bur marigold. However, an allergic reaction may occur in patients hypersensitive to other members of the Asteraceae family. A deterioration of cell-mediated airway inflammation is theoretically possible for asthmatic patients, because of the enhanced production of T-helper 2 cells by polyacetylenic glucosides demonstrated in mice. 11


Research reveals little information regarding toxicology of bur marigold.


1. Bidens tripartita L. USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database, ( January 2007). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
2. Dimo T , Nguelefack TB , Tan PV , et al. Possible mechanisms of action of the neutral extract from Bidens pilosa L. leaves on the cardiovascular system of anaesthetized rats . Phytother Res . 2003;17:1135-1139.
3. Li S , Kuang HX , Okada Y , Okuyama T . New acetylenic glucosides from Bidens bipinnata L . Chem Pharm Bull . 2004;52:439-440.
4. Kumar JK , Sinha AK . A new disubstituted acetylacetone from the leaves of Bidens pilosa Linn . Nat Prod Res . 2003;17:71-74.
5. Sarker SD , Bartholomew B , Nash RJ , Robinson N . 5- O -methylhoslundin: An unusual flavonoid from Bidens pilosa (Asteraceae) . Biochem Syst Ecol . 2000;28:591-593.
6. Chiang LC , Chang JS , Chen CC , Ng LT , Lin CC . Anti- Herpes simplex virus activity of Bidens pilosa and Houttuynia cordata . Am J Chin Med . 2003;31:355-362.
7. Lans CA . Ethnomedicines used in Trinidad and Tobago for urinary problems and diabetes mellitus . J Ethnobiol Ethnomedicine . 2006;2:45-56.
8. Li S , Kuang HX , Okada Y , Okuyama T . New flavanone and chalcone glucosides from Bidens bipinnata Linn . J Asian Nat Prod Res . 2005;7:67-70.
9. Chiang YM , Chuang DY , Wang SY , Kuo YH , Tsai PW , Shyur LF . Metabolite profiling and chemopreventive bioactivity of plant extracts from Bidens pilosa . J Ethnopharmacol . 2004;95:409-419.
10. Geissberger P , Sequin URS . Constituents of Bidens pilosa L.: do the components found so far explain the use of this plant in traditional medicine? Acta Trop . 1991;48:251-261.
11. Chiang YM , Chang CL , Chang SL , Yang WC , Shyur LF . Cytopiloyne, a novel polyacetylenic glucoside from Bidens pilosa , functions as a T helper cell modulator . J Ethnopharmacol . 2006;110:532-538.
12. Wang J , et al. Pharmacological effects of a new anti-inflammatory constituents in Spanish needles ( Bidens bipinnata ) . Zhong Cao Yao . 1997;28:665-668.
13. Redl K , Breu W, Davis B, Bauer R. Anti-inflammatory active polyacetylenes from Bidens campylotheca . Planta Med . 1994;60:58-62.
14. Khan MR , Kihara M , Omoloso AD . Anti-microbial activity of Bidens pilosa , Bischofia javanica , Elmerillia papuana and Sigesbekia orientalis . Fitoterapia . 2001;72:662-665.
15. Bondarenko AS , Petrenko GT , Aizenman BE , Evseenko OV . Antimicrobial properties of phenylheptatriyne, a polyacetylene antibiotic [in Russian]. Mikrobiol Zh (Kiev) . 1985;47:81-83.
16. Smirnov VV , et al. Antimicrobial activity of sesquiterpene phenol from Bidens cernua . Fitoterapia . 1998;69:84-85.
17. Smirnov VV , et al. A new sesquiterpene phenol from Bidens ceruna L. with antimicrobial activity . Rastit Resur . 1995;31:31-37.
18. Brandao MG , Krettli AU , Soares LS , Nery CG , Marinuzzi HC . Antimalarial activity of extracts and fractions of Bidens pilosa and Bidens species (Asteraceae) correlated with the presence of acetylene and flavonoid compounds. J Ethnopharmacol . 1997;57:131-138.
19. Oliveira FQ , Andrade-Neto V , Krettli AU , Brandao MG . New evidences of antimalarial activity of Bidens pilosa roots extract correlated with polyacetylene and flavonoids . J Ethnopharmacol . 2004;93:39-42.
20. Andrade-Neto VF , Brandao MG , Oliveira FQ , et al. Antimalarial activity of Bidens pilosa L. (Asteraceae) ethanol extracts from wild plants collected in various localities or plants cultivated in humus soil . Phytother Res . 2004;18:634-639.
21. Yang HL , Chen SC , Chang NW , et al. Protection from oxidative damage using Bidens pilosa extracts in normal human erythrocytes . Food Chem Toxicol . 2006;44:1513-1521.
22. Abajo C , Boffill MA , del Campo J , et al. In vitro study of the antioxidant and immunomodulatory activity of aqueous infusion of Bidens pilosa . J Ethnopharmacol . 2004;93:319-323.
23. Dimo T , Azay J , Tan PV , et al. Effects of the aqueous and methylene chloride extracts of Bidens pilosa leaf on fructose-hypertensive rats . J Ethnopharmacol . 2001;76:215-221.
24. Dimo T , Rakotonirina SV , Tan PV , Azay J , Dongo E , Cros G . Leaf methanol extract of Bidens pilosa prevents and attenuates the hypertension induced by high-fructose diet in Wistar rats . J Ethnopharmacol . 2002;83:183-191.
25. Nguelefack TB , Dimo T , Nguelefack Mbuyo EP , Tan PV , Rakotonirina SV , Kamanyi A . Relaxant effects of the neutral extract of the leaves of Bidens pilosa Linn on isolated rat vascular smooth muscle . Phytother Res . 2005;19:207-210.
26. Alarcon de la Lastra C , Martin MJ , La Casa C , Motilva V . Antiulcerogenicity of the flavonoid fraction from Bidens aurea : comparison with ranitidine and omeprazole . J Ethnopharmacol . 1994:42:161-168.
27. Calero MJ , et al. Healing process induced by a flavonoid fraction of Bidens aurea on chronic gastric lesion in rat. Role of angiogenesis and neutrophil inhibition . Bioscience . 1996;51:570-577.
28. Alarcon de la Lastra C , et al. Ulcer-protecting effects of a flavonoid from Bidens aurea . Role of endogenous prostaglandins and microvascular permeability . Phytomedicine . 1997;3:327-333.
29. Alvarez A , Pomar F , Sevilla MA , Montero MJ . Gastric antisecretory and antiulcer activities of an ethanolic extract of Bidens pilosa L. var. radiata Schult. Bip . J Ethnopharmacol . 1999;67:333-340.
30. Tan PV , Dimo T , Dongo E . Effects of methanol, cyclohexane and methylene chloride extracts of Bidens pilosa on various gastric ulcer models in rats . J Ethnopharmacol . 2000;73:415-421.
31. Atta AH , Mouneir SM . Evaluation of some medicinal plant extracts for antidiarrhoeal activity . Phytother Res . 2005;19:481-485.
32. Chin HW , Lin CC , Tang KS . The hepatoprotective effects of Taiwan folk medicine ham-hong-chho in rats . Am J Chin Med . 1996;24:231-240.
33. Wu LW , Chiang YM , Chuang HC , et al. Polyacetylenes function as anti-angiogenic agents . Pharm Res . 2004;21:2112-2119.

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