Burdock (generic name)

treats Quality of life in cancer patients and Diabetes
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Alternate Title

Arctium lappa


Herbs & Supplements


Akujitsu, anthraxivore, arctii, Arctium lappa Linne, Arctium minus, Arctium tomentosa, Arctium tomentosum Mill., Asteraceae (family), bardana, Bardanae radix, bardane, bardane grande (French), beggar's buttons, burdock root, burr, burr seed, chin, clot-burr, clotbur, cocklebur, cockle button, cocklebuttons, Compositae (family), cuckold, daiki kishi, edible burdock, fox's clote, grass burdock, great bur, great burdock, great burdocks, gobo (Japan), Grosse klette (German), happy major, hardock, hare burr, hurrburr, Kletterwurzel (German), lampazo (Spanish), lappola, love leaves, niu bang zi, oil of lappa, personata, Philanthropium, thorny burr, turkey burrseed, woo-bang-ja, wild gobo.


Burdock has historically been used to treat a wide variety of ailments, including arthritis, diabetes, and hair loss. It is a principal herbal ingredient in the popular cancer remedies Essiac® (rhubarb, sorrel, slippery elm) and Hoxsey formula (red clover, poke, prickly ash, bloodroot, barberry).

Burdock fruit has been found to lower blood sugar in animals, and early human studies have examined burdock root in diabetes. Laboratory and animal studies have explored the use of burdock for bacterial infections, cancer, HIV, and kidney stones. However, there is currently insufficient human evidence regarding the efficacy of burdock for any indication.


DISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Diabetes: Animal research and initial human studies suggest possible blood sugar lowering effects of burdock root or fruit. However, the available human research has not been well designed, and further study is needed before a clear recommendation can be made.
Grade: C

Quality of life in cancer patients (breast cancer): Burdock is an ingredient in the popular purported cancer remedy, Essiac®. Preliminary study has shown that burdock may have anti-cancer effects and increase quality of life in cancer patients. More study is needed in this area.
Grade: C


WARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Abscesses, acne, anorexia nervosa, aphrodisiac, arthritis, back pain, bacterial infections, bladder disorders, blood thinner, boils, burns, cancer, canker sores, catarrh, common cold, cosmetic uses, dandruff, detoxification, diuretic (increasing urine flow), eczema, fever, fungal infections, gout, hair loss, headache, hemorrhoids, HIV, hives, hormonal effects, ichthyosis (skin disorder), impotence, inflammation, kidney diseases, kidney stones, laxative, lice, liver disease, liver protection, measles, pain, pneumonia, psoriasis, respiratory infections, rheumatoid arthritis, ringworm, sciatica, scurvy, seborrhea (over-activity of sebaceous skin glands), skin disorders, skin moisturizer, sores, sterility, syphilis, tonsillitis, ulcers, urinary tract infections, venereal diseases, warts, wound healing.


Adults (18 years and older)

No specific dose of burdock has been proven effective or safe, although a range of doses and types of preparations have been used. As a dried root, tablets/capsules, decoctions, tinctures, fluid extract, and root teas are available. Burdock has been used as a diuretic (to increase urine flow) with preparations made from powdered burdock seeds into a yellow product called oil of lappa.

Burdock has been used on the skin as a compress or plaster for eczema, psoriasis, baldness, and warts.

Children (younger than 18 years)

There is not enough scientific information to recommend the use of burdock in children.


DISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.


Allergy to burdock may occur in individuals with allergy to members of the Asteraceae/Compositae family, including ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies. Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) have been associated with burdock. Allergic skin reactions have been associated with the use of burdock plasters on the skin. Caution should be used in patients with allergies or intolerance to pectin since certain parts of the burdock plant contains different levels of pectin complex.

Side Effects and Warnings

Based on traditional use, burdock is generally believed to be safe when taken by mouth in recommended doses for short periods of time. Handling the plant or using preparations on the skin (such as plasters) has occasionally been reported to cause allergic skin reactions. Diuretic effects (increasing urine flow) and estrogen-like effects have been reported with oral burdock use in patients with HIV. Although reports of symptoms such as dry mouth and slow heart rate have been noted in people taking burdock products, it is believed that contamination with belladonna may be responsible for these reactions. Contamination may occur during harvesting.

In theory, tannins present in burdock may be toxic, although toxicity has not been reported in animal studies. Tannins can cause stomach upset and in high concentrations may result in kidney or liver damage. Long-term use of tannins may increase the risk of head and neck cancers, although this has not been seen in humans. Based on animal research and limited human study, burdock may cause increases or reductions in blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood sugar levels may need monitoring by a qualified healthcare provider, and medication adjustments might be necessary. In theory, burdock may also cause electrolyte imbalances (for example, changes in potassium or sodium levels in the blood) due to diuretic effects (increased urine flow).

Several case reports of burdock root tea poisoning exist along with cases of burdock ophthalmia (eye inflammation). There have been several reports of stomatitis (mouth sores) present in dogs that have come in contact with burdock, burs, and bristles.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

Based on animal studies that show components of burdock to cause uterus stimulation, burdock is sometimes recommended to be avoided during pregnancy. Due to limited scientific study, burdock cannot be considered safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

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