"Natural Healing with Herbs for a Healthier You"
by Marilyn Light
[History] [Location] [Chemical Constituent] [Medicinal Qualities] [Contra-Indications] [Known Herbal Formulas] [Dosages & Applications] [Personal Experiences] [Bibliography]

Burdock Root contains a number of medicinal properties that have been used for hundreds of years.  Traditionally herbalists all over the world use Burdock Root as a blood purifier.  It is the root of the Burdock plant that is harvested for folk medicinal use. The roots are about an inch wide but up to three feet long and are best dug in July.  They should be lifted with a beet-lifter or a deep-running plough, due to the long tap root.    As a rule they are 12 inches or more in length and about 1 inch thick; sometimes, however, they extend 2 to 3 feet, making it necessary to dig by hand. They are fleshy, wrinkled, crowned with a tuft of whitish, soft, hairy leaf-stalks, grey-brown externally, whitish internally, with a somewhat thick bark, about a quarter of the diameter of the root, and soft wood tissues, with a radiate structure.

Burdock has been used by herbalists worldwide to treat a variety skin diseases such as abscesses, acne, carbuncles, psoriasis and eczema.    Burdock can be either taken alone or combined with other remedies, such as Yellow Dock and Sarsaparilla.    The beneficial effects of this herb includes increasing circulation to the skin, helping to detoxify the epidermal tissues.   Burdock Root has been reported to destroy bacteria and fungus cultures.  It is a popular detoxifying agent that produces a diuretic effect on the body which aids the filtering of impurities from the bloodstream.   By promoting perspiration, Burdock Root eliminates toxins through the skin.   By producing a detoxifying effect, Burdock Root aids blood circulation and produces a variety of positive side effects.  As before mentioned, it contains inulin, a carbohydrate that strengthens the liver.    The high concentration of inulin and mucilage aids in the soothing effects on the gastrointestinal tract. The high concentration of inulin is helpful for individuals that are afflicted with diabetes and hypoglycemia as it provides helpful sugar that does not provoke rapid insulin production.   Inulin, which is very high in Burdock, is a resinoid or camphor-like hydrocarbon that is aromatic, stimulant, expectorant, tonic, stomachic, and antiseptic.

Burdock Root contains polyacetylenes that gives the herb its antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is used as a mild laxative that aids in the elimination of uric acid or gout.  It is classified as an alterative, diuretic and diaphoretic. It helps the kidneys to filter out impurities from the blood very quickly. It clears congestion in respiratory, lymphatic, urinary and circulatory systems.    Burdock  releases water retention, stimulates digestion, aids kidney, liver and gallbladder function.  It also functions as an aperient, depurative, and antiscorbutic.

Decoctions of Burdock have also been historically used for soothing the kidneys, relieving the lymphatic system, rheumatism, gout, GI tract disorders, stomach ailments, constipation, catarrh, fever, infection, fluid retention and skin problems. An article in Chemotherapy identified the chemical arctigenin contained in Burdock as an “inhibitor of experimental tumor growth.”
Both European and Chinese herbalists have long considered burdock root's "lightly warming, moistening effect an excellent tonic for the lungs and liver.  It reportedly stimulates toxic waste through the skin and urine, improving digestion and is good for arthritis and rheumatism.

Burdock is an aid to circulation because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

A recent study showed that Burdock blocked dangerous chemicals from causing damage to cells, suggesting to the possibility that burdock may help decrease the risk of developing cancer from toxic chemicals.

Some other miscellaneous disorders Burdock Root is good for are:
Helpful in cellular regeneration 
Useful in cleansing and treatment of Crohn's disease and diverticulitis
Aids in alleviating distress related to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Useful in the treatment of recovery from Hepatitis
Burdock stimulates the appetite, so modern experts recommend it for anorexia nervosa

Burdock is useful for most of the same needs as Yellow Dock (rumex crispus) and is effective in treating gout and high cholesterol.

Based on many studies with animals exposed to toxic chemicals, the tea very effectively protects the body against cellular damage and abnormal growths.   The tea also has powerful anti-inflammatory activity based on studies and reduces liver damage from toxic chemicals.   As a mildly bitter-tasting herb, it increases saliva and bile secretion, which aids digestion and cleanses the liver.  Burdock root tea can also be applied externally for treating skin conditions.

Despite Burdock’s reputation as a noxious weed, it is the source of several very palatable foods.  Edible components of the Burdock plant are its roots, seeds, and its young stems.   Young stalks are boiled to be eaten like asparagus, raw stems and young leaves are eaten in salads.      Both the root and leaves are used in herbal remedies, but most recipes call for the root which has  a sweetish and mucilaginous taste.   Fresh burdock root also has a distinct aroma. It has been used, after chopping and roasting, as a coffee substitute.

Originally cultivated in China for medicinal purposes, this unique root has become a sought-after specialty in Japan. Flavorful and crunchy, burdock is an excellent source of fiber, along with the vitamins and minerals.   Its nutty taste is delicious sautéed in combination with carrots or just some soy sauce and a bit of sugar, or it can be deep-fried in a tempura batter. Avoid rinsing this brown-skinned vegetable until you're ready to use it.  In markets, it's sold with the dirt still lingering on the roots because it is quick to wilt when washed.    The white flesh immediately discolors once peeled.   You'll want to soak it in a mild vinegar solution until you're ready to cook it to maintain the color.

You can harvest the large, deep, beige taproot from the basal rosette form (as soon as the flower stalk appears, the root becomes tough and woody) from early spring to late fall. 

Scrub the root with a coarse copper scouring pad, but don’t peel it. Slice it razor-thin on a diagonal, oriental-style, or use the finest slicing disk of a food processor.  Simmer 20 minutes or until tender. You may also sauté  it, but add liquid and cook it in moist heat another 10 minutes afterwards, or it may not get tender.    You may also harvest the immature flower stalk in late Spring, before the flowers appear, while it’s still tender and very flexible.  Peeled and parboiled for 1 minute to get rid of the bitterness, it tastes like artichoke hearts, and it will enhance any traditional recipe that calls for the heart of artichokes. Cook this another 5-10 minutes.

Its hearty flavor is a little like that of potatoes, although it’s related to artichokes. Mashed roots can also be formed into patties and fried.  The white pith can be added to salads or simmered in syrup to make candy or soaked in vinegar  to make pickles.

Kinpira Gobo Recipe
Beginners usually get into trouble when they sauté root (gobo in Japanese) instead of simmering or steaming it because sautéing makes it harder to make the root tender. The trick is to slice the root razor-thin and braise it after sautéing, as in this spicy Japanese side-dish.

2 tbs. dark (toasted) sesame oil
2 cups  root, very thinly sliced
2 cups wild or commercial carrots, thinly sliced
2 tbs. fresh ginger, thinly-sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled but not cut
1/2 cup redbud wine, mirin (Japanese rice wine), or white wine
1/4 cup whole sesame seeds
2 tbs. tamari soy sauce
1 tbs. chili paste or 1/2 tbs. cayenne hot pepper, or to taste

Sauté the carrots, ginger, and garlic in sesame oil 10 minutes, stirring often.  Remove and discard the garlic as soon as it turns slightly brown.  Meanwhile, toast sesame seeds in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they pop and become slightly brown and fragrant.  Remove the sesame seeds from frying pan and set aside.  Add the remaining ingredients to the sautéed vegetables, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes.  Add the sesame seeds.  Serve hot as an appetizer, a condiment, or a side dish. 

Makes 2-1/2 cups
Preparation Time: 35 minutes