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Medically reviewed on Apr 2, 2018

Scientific Name(s): Arctium lappa L. (Synonymous with A. majus (Gaerth) Bernh, great burdock as well as A. munus (Hill) Bernh., lesser burdock.) Family: Asteraceae (daisies)

Common Name(s): Bardana , beggar's buttons , clotbur , edible burdock , great bur , great burdocks , lappa


Treatment of fever, infection, cancer, fluid retention and kidney stones. Effectiveness and safety for these have not been adequately evaluated. In addition, burdock has been used topically to cleanse the skin and treat dandruff.


There is no recent clinical evidence to guide dosage of burdock. Classical dosage of this herb was 2 g of root.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Documented adverse effects (including oxytocic and uterine stimulant action). Avoid use.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Allergic skin irritation on contact.


Burdock is generally considered a safe and edible food product. A few reports have appeared on burdock root tea poisoning (blurred vision, headache, drowsiness, slurred speech, loss of coordination, incoherent speech, restlessness, hallucinations, hyperactivity, seizures, disorientation, flushing, dryness of mouth and nose, rash, lack of sweating, fever) due to adulteration with atropine-containing plants.


Budock is considered to be native in Europs and Northern Asia; it is naturalized in the US. Burdock is widely cultivated in Eastern Europe especially former Yugoslavia, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. The plant is a perennial or biennial herb, growing up to 3 meters (about 9 feet), with large ovate, acuminate leaves, broad pinkish flowers made up of reddish-violet tubular florets, surrounded by many involucral bracts ending in a stiff spiny or hooked tip. Overall, these are rounded and spiny in appearance. The root pieces are used in teas and are very hard, minimally fibrous, longitudinally wrinkled and grayish brown to balck in color. 1 , 2


In traditional medicine, the fruits, seeds, roots and leaves of burdock have been used as decoctions or teas for a wide range of ailments including colds, catarrh, gout, rheumatism, stomach ailments, cancers and as a diuretic, diaphoretic and laxative. It has even been promoted as an aphrodisiac. Externally, it has been used for various skin problems.


Burdock root yields a wide variety of compounds on analysis that include inulin (up to 50%), tannins, polyphenolic acids (caffeic and chlorogenic), volatile acids (acetic, butyric, costic, 3-hexenoic, isovaleric, 3-octanoic, propionic, etc), polyacetylenes (0.001% to 0.002%, dry-weight basis), and a crystalline plant hormone, gamma-guanidino-n-butyric acid. Studies conducted have isolated and characterized a xyloglucan from the 24% KOH extract of edible burdock. 3 The seeds of burdock yield 15% to 30% fixed oils; a bitter glycoside (arctiin), two lignans (lappaols A and B), chlorogenic acid, a germacranolide and other materials. Other studies have isolated six compounds from burdock seeds including daucosterol, arctigenin, arctiin, matairesinol, lappaol and a new lignan named neoarctin. 4 The levels of arctiin and arctigen in the fruits of burdock that are used in Chinese medicine for the treatment of common colds have also been studied. 5 Others have also reported on the fruit constituents, 6 and even the fruit pulp (pomace). The fruit pulp contains 11% proteins, 19% lipids and 34% inulin.

Uses and Pharmacology

Several researchers have reported on the various biological activities of burdock which include antipyretic, antimicrobial, antitumor, diuretic, and diaphoretic properties. 2

Animal data

Beyond these effects are reported fruit extracts with hypoglycemic activity in rats and fresh root juices with antimutagenic effects probably due to a lignan. 2 Among the more recent studies are the uses of burdock in the treatment of urolithiasis, 7 potential inhibition of HIV-1 infection in vitro, 8 metabolism of burdock lignans in rat gastrointestinal tract, 9 platelet activating factor (PAF) antagonism by burdock, 10 effects of burdock dietary fiber in digestion, 11 lack of effectiveness of burdock in treating streptozotocin diabetic mice, 12 potential antitumor activity of burdock extract 13 and a desmutagenic factor isolated from burdock. 14

Clinical data

No data.

Other uses

Some cosmetic and toiletry type products used for skin-cleaning, antidandruff and hair tonic applications are given in the recent literature. It should be noted that burdock root is fairly commonly used as a food in Asia. Occasionally, US health food stores carry fresh burdock root for sale as a food and nutraceutical (medical food).


There is no recent clinical evidence to guide dosage of burdock. Classical dosage of this herb was 2 g of root.


Documented adverse effects (including oxytocic and uterine stimulant action). 15 , 16 , 17 Avoid use.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Burdock is generally considered a safe and edible food product. Allergic contact dermatitis due to burdock has been reported. 18


While burdock is generally considered a safe and edible food product, a few reports have appeared on burdock root tea poisoning 19 due to adulteration with atropine-containing plants, and allergic contact dermatitis due to burdock. 18


1. Bisset G, ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals . Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers, 1994.
2. Leung A, et al. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients, 2nd ed . New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
3. Kato Y, et al. Isolation and Characterization of a Xyloglucan from Gobo ( Arctium lappa L). Bio Biotechnol Biochem 1993;57(9):1591.
4. Wang H, et al. Studies on the Chemical Constituents of ( Arctium lappa L.) Acta Pharma Sinica 1993;28(12):911.
5. Sun W. Determination of Arctiin and Arctigenin in Fructus Arctii by Reverse-phase HPLC. Acta Pharm Sinica 1992;27(7):549.
6. Yamaguchi S. On the Constituents of the Fruit of Arctium lappa. Yakugaku Zasshi 1976;96(12):1492.
7. Grases F, et al. Urolithiasis and Phytotherapy. Int Urol Nephrol 1994;26(5):507.
8. Yao X, et al. Mechanism of Inhibition of HIV-1 Infection in vitro by Purified Extract of Prunella Vulgaris. Virology 1992;187(1):56.
9. Nose M, et al. Structural Transformation of Lignan Compounds in Rat Gastrointestinal Tract. Planta Med 1992;58(6):520.
10. Iwakami S, et al. Platelet Activating Factor (PAF) Antagonists Contained in Medicinal Plants: Lignans and sesquiterpenes. Chem Pharm Bull 1992;40(5):1196.
11. Tadeda H, et al. Effect of Feeding Amaranth (Food Red No. 2) on the Jejunal Sucrase and Digestion-Absorption Capacity on the Jejunum in Rats. J Nutr Sc Vit 1991;37(6):611.
12. Swanston-Flatt S, et al. Glycaemis Effects of Traditional European Plant Treatments for Diabetes. Studies in normal and streptozotocin diabetic mice. Diabetes Res 1989; 10(2):60.
13. Donbradi C, et al. Screening Report on the Antitumor Activity of Purified Arctium lappa Extracts. Tumori 1966;53(3):173.
14. Morita K, et al. A Desmutagenic Factor Isolated from Burdock ( Arctium lappa Linne). Mut Res 1984;129(1):25.
15. Brinker FJ. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions . 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications; 1998.
16. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD, eds. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals . London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
17. Ernst E. Herbal medicinal products during pregnancy: are they safe? BJOG . 2002;109:227-235.
18. Rodriguez P, et al. Allergic Dermatitis due to Burdock ( Arctium lappa ). Contact Dermatitis . 1995;33(3):134.
19. Bryson P, et al. Burdock Root Tea Poisoning: Case report involving a commercial preparation. JAMA . 1978;239(May 19):2157.

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