You might only know it as a weed, something to get rid of if you see it in your garden, but did you know that the root of the burdock plant can do amazing things? Burdock root looks like a weird cross between a carrot and a stick. But once added to your diet, it turns into a superfood.
- Practitioners have used burdock root in herbal remedies and homeopathic medicine for thousands of years. Scientific research shows that the root can help remove toxins from your body, protect against signs of aging (yes, please!), and might even help fight cancer.
Take a look at why this magic root should be your next big obsession.
What is Burdock Root?
The burdock plant’s other name is Arctium, and it is a part of the Asteraceae family, the same family as daisies. The plant can grow up to a metre tall and have stunning flowers which start as spiky balls and bloom into pinkish-purple flowers. Burdock has large heart-shaped leaves and, notably, an extensive root system.
The root of the burdock plant is a taproot. This means it has one large, central root from which other roots will spread out and grow sideways through the earth. Carrots, parsnips, and beetroots are all examples of a taproot.
- A taproot is basically the storage section of the plant. It’s in this bulky, underground section that a plant can keep all its vitamins and nutrients. This is what makes taproots so suitable for eating – they are tasty and have a super-high concentration of goodness.
The burdock plant
People consider the burdock plant to be a weed, but with such beautiful flowers and a root system that might help cure cancer, it shouldn’t be! We think burdock should be everywhere. The plant originated in the wilds of Europe and Asia, but it has now spread worldwide and grows wild in Australia and the US.
It’s a pretty tough plant and can grow almost anywhere there is water. This is why it’s such a persistent weed. However, the plant is sometimes cultivated. The plant usually blooms later in summer rather than spring, so it helps provide nectar for honeybees after other flowers have wilted. And, of course, people grow it for its super-healthy root.
The plant has huge leaves that can grow up to 70cm long. It looks more like a bush or a tree than an average weed. It can be over a metre tall with spiky burrs that turn into stunning purple flowers. But be careful. Before they flower, the burrs are super sticky and can get caught on clothing and animal fur. They even get caught in bird feathers and can weigh them down and prevent them from flying.
In fact, did you know that a Swiss man walking his dog saw lots of burdock burrs stuck in his dog’s fur? When he got home, he looked at the burrs under a microscope and saw they each spike had tiny hooks. It was this that led the man to invent Velcro. In some languages, the word for Velcro and burdock are the same!
Burdock root is the taproot section of a burdock plant. Usually, the plant is considered a weed, but it is now cultivated because of its many health benefits. The plant flowers begin as small burrs that get stuck on clothing and fur and led to the invention of velcro.
Brief History of Burdock Root
Burdock is one of those herbs that has been around forever. However, the exact history of the plant is difficult to trace because it goes by so many different names and is used in so many ways, it’s hard to keep track.
As far as we know, the first recorded use of burdock root in medicines dates back to the 19th century. Herbal remedy books contain references to burdock root in a range of medications. In fact, burdock was a staple in medicines across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In reality, burdock root has been used for much longer than a few hundred years.
Native Americans were using burdock before Europeans arrived in the country in the 1400s. The Anglo Saxons used it throughout the 11th and 12th centuries. There is also evidence of the Greeks using burdock root over 2000 years ago, but the Greeks called it Arctium Lappa or Arcion.
- People have used burdock for thousands of years to help flush out toxins, help prevent kidney stones, cure stomach aches and even control arthritis. There is also evidence of traditional medicine practitioners using burdock to cure syphilis, treat colds and the flu, and help with childbirth.
To cut a long story short, for thousands of years, people all around the world knew that burdock was good for you, so they put it in almost everything. There is evidence of it in herbal remedies in Japan (where it’s called Gobo), China, America, Australia, and across Europe.
A recent bad reputation
Burdock has been popular for thousands of years, but in the 1970s, it was almost banned, and people were afraid of using it. This is because burdock root was super popular and was commonly used to make burdock root tea. This tea was sold worldwide but especially across America and Europe. Unfortunately, someone who didn’t have much botanical knowledge accidentally mistook the deadly nightshade plant as burdock.
Deadly nightshade isn’t actually fatal unless you ingest a lot of it. But it can make you incredibly ill, which is exactly what happened to many people in the 1970s.
People panicked, and burdock got a bad name. Luckily, the mistake was identified before burdock was banned. Since then, burdock has been clearing its reputation and growing in popularity again.
There is evidence of burdock root being used in herbal remedies and home cooking for thousands of years. The Egyptians and the Ancient Greeks used burdock, and it was popular across Europe in the Middle Ages. It was confused with the poisonous deadly nightshade plant in the 1970s, leading to a string of poisonings.
Making burdock tea
Although burdock root tea got a bad reputation many years ago, it can be a super healthy and delicious drink if you use proper burdock. Burdock tea has a very grounded, earthy flavour which has nutty undertones. It makes a really great base to combine with other teas as it can complement many flavours. This recipe is one of our favourites for a warming, relaxing cup of burdock root tea.
- 1 teaspoon/ 8-10 strips dried burdock root
- 1 teaspoon dried dandelion root
- Squeeze of lemon
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Bring one cup of water to a boil.
- Add the burdock root and the dandelion root
- Leave to brew for a minimum of 5 minutes. For a strong flavour, leave for a maximum of 10 minutes.
- Strain the tea, removing the dried burdock and dandelion.
- Add a squeeze of lemon and stir in honey for sweetness.
May detoxify the body
One of the major uses of burdock root in herbal medicines is its ability to help detoxify the body. Burdock has been used to remove toxins from the body for centuries, and it is still used today in detoxification products.
- The plant has strong anti-inflammatory properties meaning it can help prevent damage to internal organs, which allows your body to naturally detoxify.
Toxins come in many shapes and forms, including alcohol, smoking, air pollution, and chemicals in skincare. Your body can naturally remove these toxins, without the need for additional detox products. However, damage to crucial organs can prevent your body from doing its job properly. Burdock root supports the body’s natural functions allowing for regular, natural detoxing.
Can improve liver function
Since the liver plays a large part in your body’s natural detoxification process, having a healthy liver is key to effectively removing toxins. Burdock has a vital role to play in keeping the liver healthy. One study found it is so effective, it can even help reverse damage to the liver caused by alcohol.
Burdock is anti-inflammatory and has antioxidative properties, which help protect your cells from damage. Burdock also increases glutathione production in the liver. Glutathione helps fight toxins and encourages a healthy liver. It also helps rebuild the amino acids and proteins that your body needs to repair damaged cells and keep your liver and immune system fit.
- With a healthy, functioning liver, your body can naturally detoxify without the need for synthetic detoxification. Adding burdock to your regular diet means there is no need to buy additional detox teas; burdock tea is a detox tea!
An effective diuretic
Burdock tea is a diuretic. This means you will feel the need to go to the toilet more frequently after drinking it. Your body gets rid of a lot of toxins in urine, so increasing the amount to expel increases the number of toxins removed from your body.
The kidney plays an essential role in detoxing your body. Burdock root can help keep your kidneys healthy, allowing your body to actively remove toxins from the bloodstream and add them to your urine to be expelled from the body. Burdock stimulates your kidneys to encourage more frequent urination, which in turn helps to detoxify the kidneys and therefore detox the rest of the body.
Burdock root can help support your body’s natural detoxification functions by promoting a healthy liver and kidneys. This allows your body to effectively remove toxins from your blood and expel them in urine.
Might be an aphrodisiac
If you’re looking for an excellent reason to add burdock to your diet, how about this; it might be an aphrodisiac! That’s right, adding burdock root to your diet might give your sex life a significant boost.
Although scientists aren’t really sure why, early studies have shown that when consumed daily in small amounts, burdock root tea can increase testosterone levels. The testosterone hormone is responsible for getting you feeling hot under the collar.
- Furthermore, it’s thought that flavonoids, saponins, and lignans can influence the central and peripheral pathways in your nervous system. This not only boosts feelings of sexual desire, but also makes you more sensitive to certain sensations… not bad!
There is also a small amount of evidence that burdock can encourage the production of dopamine and serotonin. Both these hormones play a significant role in the bedroom and can help you feel relaxed, happy, and connected to your sexuality. So not only does burdock make you want more sex, but it might actually also help you have better sex!
Early research suggests that burdock root is a natural aphrodisiac. It can increase testosterone levels and heighten sensations in the central and peripheral nervous system. This means more sex and better sex!
Could help prevent cancer
It turns out that burdock root might also have some anticarcinogenic properties. That’s a fancy way of saying it might help prevent cancer. Research is in its early stages because no one really thought this little plant could be capable of such miracles. There are recipes and medicines in medieval times which suggest that burdock can help slow the growth of tumours, but no one took this seriously until a study found that, actually, it might!
Since research is still in the beginning stages, we aren’t really sure how exactly burdock root stops cancer. The best guess we have is that because it helps prevent cell damage, removes toxins, and kills harmful bacteria, these things combined help stop cancerous cells from multiplying.
- This means that as well as helping slow the spread of existing cancers, burdock might be beneficial in actively preventing cancers from forming in the first place. It can boost the activity of the cells in your body to encourage them to reject cancerous growths.
So far, evidence suggests the plant can be used to help treat pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, tumours, and liver cancer. Since research is only just beginning, chances are that this list will grow.
Early research suggests that a combination of antioxidant, antibacterial, and detoxifying properties in burdock root makes it effective at slowing tumor growth. Furthermore, some studies show it can help stop cancers from forming in the first place.
Might improve heart health
As a taproot, burdock contains an abundance of nutrients that are good for your body. One of these is potassium. Potassium is absolutely essential for helping to maintain a healthy heart. Heart disease is one of the biggest killers worldwide, and many people don’t know they are living with heart disease until it’s too late.
- Potassium plays a vital role in helping regulate and steady your heartbeat, ensuring your heart isn’t overworked and stressed. If your heart is working too hard, you may suffer from a heart attack, so adding more potassium to your diet is essential for a long, healthy life.
Moreover, burdock root can help lower blood pressure and ensure there is a good balance between the fluids in your bloodstream and your muscles. This helps reduce stress on your heart and ensures your heart doesn’t have to work too hard. This can lower your chances of high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, and even death.
Burdock root is full of potassium which can help reduce stress on your heart. This lowers blood pressure and decreases your chance of heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks.
May help protect against ageing
The taproot of the burdock plant is effectively the storehouse of the plant, meaning it holds all the plants’ goodness and makes it a fantastic source of health benefits. One of the significant benefits is that the root contains antioxidants.
Antioxidants move through the body seeking out toxins and free radicals, destroying them. This happens on a cellular level which helps keep your body younger and healthier. One of the major benefits of increasing your antioxidant intake is that it helps prevent signs of ageing.
- The antioxidants in burdock root can help prevent fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin. The antioxidants keep your skin cells healthy and plump and can repair signs of ageing skin as well as damage caused by pollution and sun damage.
Furthermore, the antioxidants can promote cell turnover meaning your skin looks bright and plump for longer, slowing the aging process.
Not just ageing skin
Because antioxidants help protect our body on a cellular level, they can also slow the ageing process inside your body. As we age, our cells are subject to a build-up of toxins and damage, and start to degenerate. This can lead to disease and illness. By ensuring your cells are healthy, your body can function normally for longer.
Antioxidants are also useful in helping to keep your brain healthy. This is because they promote cell turnover and prevent tissue damage. As you age, you are more likely to experience memory loss; antioxidants can help stop this from happening. You are more prone to neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s as you get older. Hence, making sure your brain tissue is healthy is an important way to help prevent these diseases.
Burdock root is full of essential nutrients and minerals, including antioxidants. These antioxidants can help prevent signs of aging in the skin, including preventing fine lines, wrinkles, and dullness. The antioxidants also keep cells in the body healthy and can prevent age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Might prevent bloating, water retention, and indigestion
As a strong diuretic, burdock root can encourage you to go to the toilet more regularly. This can be a great help if you find yourself retaining water. The plant is well-known as a great after-dinner drink as it can help fight symptoms of overeating and indigestion. We’ve broken it down so you can see precisely how burdock root helps fight indigestion and bloating.
Encourages good digestion
- Burdock is also great to have after a big meal because it consists of a massive amount of fibre. Fibre is extremely helpful to your digestive system and helps your body digest food more easily and quickly. By encouraging a functioning digestive system, you will experience fewer symptoms associated with overeating. For example, bloating, cramps, heartburn, and indigestion.
By encouraging digestion, burdock can help relieve constipation and ensure you are properly digesting food and removing it from your body. Furthermore, the plant also contains inulin, a type of fibre that has been proven to reduce inflammation in the gut and help kill harmful bacteria.
A healthy lymphatic drainage system
Part of the reason burdock root is considered to be so healthy is that it can stimulate your lymphatic system. This is a system of tubes running throughout your body that helps remove excess fluid and fluid build-up in your blood and tissues. Fluid retention is also known as edema and can be very frustrating and sometimes painful. Your body may feel large or puffy if you are retaining too much water, so having burdock regularly can help prevent this.
Scientists aren’t really sure how it helps, but early studies show that burdock helps to stimulate your lymphatic system to drain more water. This can help relieve symptoms of indigestion. It is believed the water-soluble fibre known as inulin attracts excess fluids and stimulates the system into removing and filtering extra fluids. This can help if you suffer from water weight or bloating.
Burdock root can help promote a healthy digestive system, thereby eliminating overeating symptoms such as cramping, bloating, gas, and heartburn. In addition, the inulin in the plant’s root can help stimulate your lymphatic drainage system helping prevent water retention and bloating.
Could help with respiratory issues
Burdock root tea has decongestant properties, meaning it can help clear a blocked nose and blocked sinuses. The tea can help relieve cold and flu-like symptoms. It’s thought that the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties help soothe swollen and irritated passageways, helping to calm and remove blockages.
- In addition, scientists aren’t exactly sure why, but the plant seems to help slow the production of mucus and phlegm. This means you’ll be able to breathe more easily and won’t suffer from increased pressure in your sinuses.
As an added benefit, burdock root is mildly antibacterial. So, as well as reducing symptoms of a cold and flu, it can help tackle the underlying infection. People who drink burdock tea while mildly ill have shown faster recovery times than people who don’t drink it.
Drinking burdock tea can help relieve symptoms of a cold and flu by unblocking your nose and sinuses. The plat antibacterial properties can also help tackle the underlying infection speeding up recovery time and shortening your illness.
Could help relieve pain
Burdock root may also have significant benefits if you suffer from recurring or chronic pain. The plant has some anti-inflammatory properties, which means it can help soothe and calm inflammation. It is particularly effective at helping reduce pain caused by joints. Often joint pain is caused by swelling pressing on your nerves. By helping calm swelling, you should feel less pain when you move.
- This means burdock tea is very popular with people who suffer from arthritis. One study found that regularly drinking burdock tea is particularly effective at dealing with joint pain in your knees. It’s also thought that the antioxidants in the root can help prevent oxidative stress and cell damage caused by joint pain.
Further studies have found that burdock decreases the levels of uric acid in the blood. This is especially good for people who suffer from gout as it can help reduce pain on a long-term basis. By reducing swelling and inflammation, your body has a chance to recover and repair damage caused by inflammation. This means that the impact of burdock root has a long-term benefit, even after it has left your system.
Burdock root can help alleviate pain caused by swelling around the joints. The anti-inflammatory properties help soothe and calm conditions such as arthritis and gout.
Might fight diabetes
Burdock root is commonly used to help prevent spiking blood sugar in people who suffer from diabetes. Burdock contains a fantastic type of fibre called inulin. This fibre is soluble, and it’s a form of prebiotic. It’s thought that this can contribute to lower blood sugar levels by boosting digestion and absorbing excess sugars.
- Studies have shown that ingesting inulin regularly lowers blood sugar overall, but it can also help regular and control sugar spikes. This makes burdock root a natural way to manage blood sugar levels.
Burdock contains a high amount of potassium, which has been proven to help regulate blood sugar levels. Potassium is a form of electrolyte which can help regulate your heartbeat to ensure even blood flow and create a balance between the fluids in your tissues and your bloodstream.
Repairing damage caused by diabetes
Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to damage to the kidneys. Ensuring you get enough potassium is essential for preventing this damage and repairing it. Furthermore, potassium can help prevent damage caused by dehydration.
Burdock root can help regulate and maintain blood sugar levels. It is a natural form of glucose control and can prevent spiking. Additionally, the potassium in burdock root can help repair damage to the kidneys caused by badly-controlled diabetes.
Can help treat skin conditions
- Another reason to add burdock root to your life is that it could have a significant impact on the condition of your skin. We’ve already seen how the antioxidants can help prevent signs of ageing and protect your skin against sun damage, but did you know that you can use burdock to treat minor skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis.
Burdock root extract is sometimes used in skin care creams and lotions because it can be applied topically. Firstly, the plant is mildly antibacterial, which means it can help prevent infection and can kill the bacteria that cause acne. Furthermore, the plant is anti-inflammatory, meaning it can help soothe and calm angry, irritated skin. It can also help to reduce swelling and encourage calm, healthy skin.
Not to mention, the same antioxidants which help fight signs of ageing can help stop cell damage when applied as a cream. This can help to soothe and repair damaged and broken skin.
Ingesting burdock for skin
Burdock root can help skin conditions from the inside out. Ingesting burdock root as a tea or in cooking can help promote healthy skin. The antioxidants in the root help repair damage and encourage cell turnover meaning your skin can repair itself more effectively.
- The plant’s antibacterial properties also help fight infections and encourage healthy skin. The plant supports your body’s natural ability to repair and heal itself. This means burdock can be used alongside other skincare and supplements to promote beautiful, glowing skin.
Burdock can also help to detoxify the body through urine. With fewer toxins in your body, your skin will not need to remove toxins, creating acne. This means that drinking burdock can treat existing acne and help prevent acne from forming in the future.
People have used burdock for centuries to help treat skin conditions. The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties in the plant can soothe irritated skin and kill off acne-causing bacteria. Burdock root can benefit your skin when ingested or applied topically.
Nutritional values of burdock root
Burdock root is a taproot which means it is the central part of the plant’s root system. This sizeable main root contains all the plant’s nutrients and vitamins which is why burdock root is so healthy. Here’s a breakdown of all the good stuff packed into the tiny root.
For every cup of burdock root, there is:
0.3mg vitamin B6 (14% DV)
3.5mg vitamin C
Cooking burdock roots
Burdock roots look a lot like carrots, and they can be used as substitutes for carrots and other root vegetables in cooking. You’ll find burdock in lots of Asian recipes and salads. It has a soft, nutty flavour similar to artichokes.
Here’s one of our favourite recipes for roasted burdock root.
- Burdock roots
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Soy sauce
- Sesame seeds
- If you want, begin by peeling your burdock roots to remove the skin. However, burdock root skin is edible and adds extra flavour, so some people choose to leave it on.
- Cut the roots into small, round sections.
- Place the roots in a bowl and cover with the oil, and season with salt and pepper.
- Place on an oven-proof tray and roast for 15 minutes at 200C. Once golden, flip each root over and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Remove and place in a serving bowl.
- Sprinkle some soy sauce over the top and finish with a dusting of sesame seeds.
What does burdock taste like?
Burdock root has a very earthy flavour. Burdock root is popular because of its nutty, earthy taste. It does have a sweetness to it, which pairs well with honey, but some don’t feel it needs extra sweetness. Unlike other earthy teas, burdock tea has a mild flavour that isn’t overpowering, making it great to pair with different flavours.
What is burdock root used for?
People often use burdock in cooking to give a rounded earthy flavour with natural sweetness and a nutty undertone. However, burdock root is also featured in many herbal remedies and homeopathic medicines for a range of health benefits. Burdock can help detox the body and flush out toxins. It is used to help prevent cancer, prevent ageing, and it can be used to treat mild skin conditions. Burdock is used in medicines because of its anti-inflammation properties.
What is burdock root?
Burdock root is the central taproot section of the burdock plant. The taproot stores all the plant’s nutrients and vitamins making it extremely healthy. People use burdock root raw, dried, roasted, or ground into burdock powder.
Is burdock root poisonous?
No, burdock root is not poisonous. However, it got a bad reputation after it was mistaken for a similar-looking plant called deadly nightshade. Deadly nightshade is mildly toxic and can make you feel ill. If you are sick after having burdock, double-check that it is burdock. You may be having an allergic reaction, but the burdock plant is not dangerous for humans.
Will burdock root make me pee?
Yes. Burdock root has diuretic properties, which means that it might make you want to pee more frequently. This can help with detoxifying the body, but as a side effect, you may become dehydrated. If you find yourself going to the toilet more frequently, make sure to drink plenty of water.
Can pregnant women have burdock root?
While burdock root isn’t proven to be dangerous for pregnant women, it is best avoided. Pregnant women and breastfeeding women should avoid burdock root if possible. It is also good to avoid if you are trying to conceive.
How much burdock root per day?
Burdock root has very few side effects, so it is pretty safe to consume regularly. Guidance suggests you shouldn’t have more than 10 grams a day if you have it every day. If you have it less frequently, you can have more than this, but watch out for dehydration as burdock is a diuretic.
Is burdock powder the same as burdock root?
Usually, burdock powder is made from the dried and ground-up burdock root. It has all the same health benefits and flavours as burdock root. You can make burdock powder at home or buy it pre-ground. Some powders are mixed with healthy roots or herbs to give additional flavour and benefits. If you have allergies or want pure burdock root powder, check the ingredients.
Can you use fresh burdock root?
You can use burdock roots freshly cut from the plant. Generally, it is sold in bundles and can be dried, roasted, ground, used in cooking, or used to make burdock root extract. Fresh burdock root needs to be soaked in water and then peeled or scrubbed to remove the outer layer. The inner, lighter core is the bit people use.
Can I pick my own burdock root?
You can grow and pick your own burdock if you would like. However, it is best to only pick your own if you know the plant is definitely burdock. The plant looks very similar to the deadly nightshade plant, which is poisonous. Only pick burdock if you are sure. Otherwise, it is better to buy burdock from a trusted source.
Although a lot of people consider the plant to be an aggressive weed, its root is quite valuable. It is fast becoming one of the most in-demand weeds in the world. The health benefits of burdock root are almost countless. People have used it for hundreds of years to help cure a range of illnesses and diseases, and it is still incredibly popular.
Burdock root is usually used to help boost the body’s natural detox functions by promoting a healthy liver and kidneys. It can even help repair damage to the liver caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. As a diuretic, it can help remove toxins from your body.
Furthermore, early research suggests it might help prevent cancers, and it can undoubtedly help beat bloating and water retention after a large meal. The antioxidants in the root can help prevent signs of aging by encouraging healthy hair and skin. The anti-inflammatory properties can also be used to soothe other skin conditions such as eczema and acne.
Despite gaining a bad reputation in the 1970s, burdock root is becoming increasingly popular. As a taproot, it contains lots of nutrients and vitamins to help keep you healthy and support your body’s natural functions.
Adding just one cup of burdock root to your daily routine is enough to start seeing the benefits. Burdock root has an earthy, nutty flavour and pairs well with other teas, so you can create your own personal burdock tea recipe.
Get in touch
We’d love to hear how you use burdock or what you like to use it with. Do you use it in cooking? Or do you have a favourite burdock tea recipe? Get in touch and share your ideas so we can all benefit from burdock root.
You can drop us a comment in the comments section below or contact us directly via email.