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Common Name: Burdock | Scientific Name: Arctium Lappa

Family Name: Asteraceae


I have studied so many plants, sometimes I forget about a really good one. As I was editing the material for Burdock, I forgot how insanely health provoking this common plant is. Its not exotic, in fact, its probably growing in your front or back yard. But, when it comes to staying well, this is really a plant we should all keep around.

I love the medical language from the 1900′s and the way they described things. All the doctors of that day said the same thing, whenever there was any depravity of the body, Burdock could be used to stimulate it back to fresh vibrant health.

My PhD research revealed that this is one of the plants we can call a valerogen, a plant that stimulates health. If you look at it system by system, it activates activity in all the major body systems. If you look at it from a wider angle, you realize it stimulates the force that powers up health, the life force that none of us really understand.

It is probably most similar in action to Echinacea, and used for all the same purposes: infection, cancer, physical collapse resulting from stress, and age related infirmities. The thing to know about it, is that it seems to increase that indescribable thing we call health.

Oh, I have written a lot about this herb!


Fact Sheet
Chapter from book Backyard Medicine Chest
Chapter from my book Thirty Plants That Can Save Your Life
Chapter from My Phd Thesis
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

Fact Sheet

Parts Used: Root

Remember This: Immune Regulator

Reasonable Uses: acne, psoriasis, eczema, poor complexion, boils, rheumatoid arthritis, osteo-arthritis, poor resistance to infection, bacterial infection, viral infections.

History and Traditional Uses
Burdock is a vigorous weed that has spread to the four corners of the globe. Long before the age in instant messaging and discount phone service, Burdock had a reputation as a powerful tonic plant with the ability to stimulate vigorous health. It boasts a convincing 3,000-year global reputation for “boosting well being. Speak to healers in Japan, Ireland, Venezuela, and Appalachia and be prepared to hear a similar story. For a wellness boost, think burdock.

Scientific Back Up
Burdock is a challenge to the rational thinker. It is used to treat conditions where the immune system over reacts, as in arthritis and eczema. It is s used to treat conditions where the immune system is asleep at the wheel, as in viral and bacterial infections.

Contemporary Chinese researchers confirm its effective in seemingly contradictory conditions like inflammation, tumors, and bacterial and fungal infections! Research reveals that it contains inulin, a curious immune boosting compound. Other compounds act to powerfully reduce inflammation. Some compounds stimulate the immune system, other quiet it.

Herbal thinkers say that burdock belongs to a class of remedies that normalize immune function. If immune function is too high, it is reduced with burdock use. If it is to low, immune function is raised with Burdock use. How it does this remains a mystery but it is probably down to the roots complex cocktail of compounds.

Herbalists Use It To …
Quiet cranky skin
Burdock is one of the oldest chronic skin disease treatments still in use today. For centuries it has been used to cure psoriasis, eczema, and acne. Herbalists agree that it takes a minimum of 2 weeks for the herb to start working and must be taken for three months before it is judged. Experts recommend starting out with small doses and work you way up to the full dose.

De-flake dandruff
Dandruff starts with inflammation. The scalp becomes inflamed and when the inflammation subsides, the skin flakes off as if you have had a sunburn. Burdock has been used to reduce scalp inflammation which underpins the problem. Like with other chronic skin problems, it takes weeks and months to take effect!

Annihilate Arthritis
The fundamental problem in arthritis is inflammation around a joint. This inflammation can be down to a worn out joint or the immune system attacking the joint. Burdock is a country cure for these swollen sore joints and one many find highly effective. Like with skin disease, the joint improvement is not felt immediately. Burdock must be used for some time to experience a change for the better.

Invigorate Immunity
Burdock is used to fire up the immune system when the body is threatened by outside forces, namely bacteria and virus. Especially when the skin is affected! Chicken pox, small pox, herpes, and shingles have all been treated with Burdock. Though often used for infections manifesting on the skin, it can be used anytime you have an infection and your body is having a hard time gaining control. If echinacea does not work for you, think about using this immune boosting alternative.

Shopping tips
Burdock is a weed plant and its products are relatively cheap! You won’t have trouble finding it and you wont pay an arm and a leg for it. Read packaging to insure you are buying a product made with the root. Avoid products containing other herbs.

Burdock is regarded as very safe. In Japan, burdock is eaten the way carrots are eaten in the west! Burdock does have a diuretic and laxative effect, so, its best not to take it right before leaving the house. You might find yourself looking for a place to make a stop!

Echinacea(Echinacea angustifolia), Maitake(Grifola frondosa), and Yarrow(Achillea millefolium)
tium lappa

Chapter from Backyard Medicine Chest

Poor complexion……I cant go out with that pimple on my face!

Its bad enough when you wake up in the morning and find a pimple changing your profile at an alarming rate. But, when you turn on the television and find yourself confronted with advertisements designed to make you feel like a sub-human for having a pimple, advertisements created with the simple intent of making you feel badly enough about the fact you have imperfect skin that you run out and do something. As in buy a miracle product which will not only clear your skin, but from the advertisements directly cause you to find true love, riches, and perpetual happiness. Lets get some things straight. Having pimples isn’t the worst thing in the world. There are bigger problems a person could have. Secondly, there is no miracle cure for the problem, anyone that tells there is, has a product to sell and should be subject to suspicion.

People spend a lot of money trying to have perfect skin and understandably. You are probably familiar with the over the counter options and now its time to look into an herbal possibility. Our next plant is indeed excellent for any skin problem, be it acne, eczema, dandruff, wounds that wont heal, and any infection that results in skin eruptions like the chicken pocks.

Before we move on lets take deeper look at acne, here is a quote from a physician writing in 1895. The problem isn’t new is it?

“Acne is a papular eruption caused by a sub-acute or chronic inflammation of the sebaceous glands. It usually manifests itself in small elevations on the skin of the face, and less frequently upon other parts of the body. It is a very common an exceedingly chronic affection, appearing for the most part about the age of puberty. Masturbation has very little, if anything to do with the production of acne.”

Lyman watkins MD. As you may know it was formerly thought that acne was caused by masturbation, and the enlightened eclectic physician clears that one up right away. I have a medical text from an allopathic physician, that’s the school of medicine we have today, from the same period, that has a different tack to the acne problem. The allopath suggests that acne is caused by masturbation and he suggests obstinate masturbators ought to be castrated. Sounds pretty severe to me.

In the final analysis acne is caused by infection of the sebaceous glands that we all have in our skin. Fortunately the medical tradition that once suggested castration has moved on from that and onto drugs that in theory kill the infection causing the pimples. Herbalists take a slightly different tack, and the burdock plays into this approach. It sounds like this. Why not boost the immune system and then maybe it can fight the infection all on its own.

Lets get to know our skin clearing plant and you will see how it will do this very effective trick.

The root of Burdock plant has been used in its native haunts, which includes much of Africa, Europe , and adjacent lands to improve immunity and overall health. It has been used for at least 3000 years. Like the honey bee it follows civilization. The plant produces a burr that gets stuck on peoples pants and in this manner it has been carried to every continent. Some say it loves to live in the midst of men – in recent years it has been reduced to a weed and its tenacious growth habits really make lawn owners crazy. As already stated, burdock has been used in domestic medicine from time out of date.
The part we use in clearing the skin is the root which needs to be dug in the fall of its first year. The plant is a biennial plant which means that in its second year it blooms and then dies. The plant spends its first year of life working industriously to store all the necessary elements to bloom the next year. All the richness of the plant is safely packed away in the root just as the leaves start to fall and that’s the time to pluck its long tapered root from the ground.

The root contains lignans including arctigenin, glycoside arctiin, and matairesinol, polyacetylenes, including tridecadienetetraynes, tridecatrienetriynes, and sulphur containing arctic acid. Amino acids including alpha guanidino-n-butyric acid. Inulin, organic acids, fatty acids, and phenolic acids.

Burdock works on the skin on two levels. Firstly, poor skin tends to be a symptom of body not in the best of health. It is a mirror into the soul and the innards, if your skin doesn’t look great you may have an idea of how your insides appear. Burdock has the ability to gently stimulate health and as a consequence improve the appearance of the skin. Elements contained in the plant improve digestion of food and its intake into the body which makes the body stronger and able to fight infection.

One of the powers attributed to burdock is its body cleansing action. In days gone by it was considered a blood cleanser, today we say that it offers a stimulating affect on the excretory systems of the body. With the stimulation of the waste removing systems toxins are gotten out of the body. Poor skin can be a result of toxins in the system. Chronic alcoholics have that nasty skin they tend to have as they abuse their livers to the point they are no longer able to get the toxins out of their body and they end up in the skin. The toxins sitting under the skins surface irritate the tissue and low and behold their skin looks shoddy.

Beyond the general health stimulating abilities, like many of the members of the daisy family, chamomile, inula, and calendula included, it has the specific ability to speed the healing of the skin. psoriasis, dandruff, wounds, ulcers, eczema, eruptions on the skin, boils, carbuncles, sties, sores, aphthous ulcerations, chronic acne, are all treated with burdock rather effectively. Whereas calendula is applied to the skin to improve its appearance burdock is taken internally.

In the European capitals burdock was always the plant of choice when it came to improving the skin – when colonials moved on to the new world berdock went along with them. In the appalachian woods of America burdock is made into root tea used to clear the skin. The Europeans were mad about the rhubarb looking plant as were the Chinese half way around the globe.

The Chinese know the plant very well and suggest it being used for any kind of skin problem you might have. The uses include cancers, induration and tumors of the breast, glands, intestines, knee, lip, liver, sinus, stomach, tongue, uterus, corns, warts, ulcerated, glandular, and white tumors, canker sores, leprosy, acne, prurigo, and psoriasis, sores, abscesses and scaly skin. Whereas the Europeans say use it for the skin, the Chinese are a little more specific. They feel berdock will clear up problems with all the glands that lie under the surface of the skin. This is interesting as we know acne is caused by infected sebaceous glands.

The chinese have proven it to be anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, diuretic, antitumor , antifungal, estrogenic, hypoglycemic and antibacterial. Right here you can see how burdock would help skin improve itself. Being anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor its easy to see how burdock would improve the acne situation.

Now the Chinese would tell you that poor skin has to do with toxins trapped in the body that are working their way out via the skin. Their notion is that taking burdock cleanses the body and with the toxins out of the system the skin can clear on its own accord. The acne or eczema is seen as a symptom of toxins in the system and the solution is to get the skin cleaned out. This is an interesting note as the Pennsylvania dutch say the same thing on the other side of the world. It has been a classic blood purifier for several hundred years in the European medical tradition.

The Pennsylvania Dutch are one ethnic group famous for preserving their traditions and one of these is home doctoring. They prefer to handle things at home and only call a doctor in when necessary. Acne and a poor complexion isn’t a highly rated health issue and they tend to deal with it with a weed from the back yard. Burdock root is brewed into a strong tea and used to cure dandruff and when taken internally it is said to clear up skin afflictions of all sorts.

If in fact poor complexion is caused by toxins in the system burdock and its clinically proven ability to act as a diuretic would indeed get the body cleansing itself through the traditional means, urination. It is also mildly laxative and will get things moving out from that exit point as well. The idea that poor skin is caused by toxins in the system gets po-poohed by medical doctors but in a way it makes a lot of sense. People that eat chemical laced food, alcoholics, and drug addicts always have horrible skin. People that work with chemical all the time – painters and farm workers similarly suffer from poor skin. The plants ability to get the fluids of the body may be the reason for its skin clearing powers. It’s worth a try.

In the booklet entitled Health from Field and Forest again this idea of burdock being a cleansing plant surfaces,” The root is one of the best blood purifiers, used in scorbutic, syphilitic, scrofulous and leprous diseases, eliminating very rapidly and impurity or poison from the blood. It is also very useful in gout. The leaves form a cooling and healing poultice for boils, carbuncles, etc., and the seeds are excellent for dropsy and kidney trouble, and are also an effective remedy for neuralgia.” At the time the booklet was written all forms of skin conditions were treated with burdock – even leprosy.
This is also true today. Though we have focused on acne, everything from dandruff to eczema to psoriasis is improved with daily burdock tea. P… , scratches and rashes will all get a helping hand from it! But, much like the acne miracle drug accutane, which generated 125 million dollars in sales in America last year – it does not work overnight. Burdock tea must be taken three times a day for months and the improvement will be seen. Fortunately it is generally boosting to the constitution so you can expect to have better health in the process.

Getting your herb:
1. Purchase the root or the tincture made of the root at the health food store/ herb seller.
2.Collect it from the wild. (or your backyard). With a field guide in your back pack you will have no trouble finding burdock growing all over the place. The time to dig the roots is in the fall just as the leaves have fallen. Once cleaned they can be dried in the oven at a low temperature until completely dry.
3. Growsome yourself. This will sound like madness to any gardener that has battled to get the plant out of a well groomed yard, but if you like you can readily grow some. All you need is a few seeds and some space in the garden. Dropping the seeds into the ground will result in burdock plants, and lots of them. The roots are long, penetrating, and hard to get out of the soil in one peice. For this reason loosening the soil and mixing it with equal parts of make you a happier gardener when it comes time to harvesting the roots. Burdock is a biennial plant which means it lives for two years. In the plants first year it works to store energy in its root which will be used to produce the flowers and seeds in the second year. Once the flowering starts the root gets metabolized and by the time its through there is nothing left. For this reason we harvest burdock root in the fall of its first year! Once its pulled from the soil and well washed, it should be dried at a low temperature in the oven.

Chapter from Thirty Plants That Can Save Your Life

Let’s start our next plant, burdock, with a little hocus-pocus talk – a variation on the idea of the doctrine of signatures. A rather famous herbalist recently explained to me that the most vital plants, plants you can’t get rid of, plants that no matter what you do you can’t eradicate, weeds which have an intolerable desire to grow, are in fact the most powerful of the medicinal herbs. Lawn and garden owners have been trying to keep this “garden pest” out of the garden since the first anal lawn was rolled out and neatly flattened with a steam roller. And guess who lost the battle? it wasn’t burdock. The plant grows no matter what, the birds drop some seed in the yard, they sprout, and appear in the spring, and you pull them out, and leave one tiny little part of the root, and guess what happens? it comes back from the tiny piece of root. Burdock is a strong plant, and some herbalist believe when you eat it, the power trapped in the plant gets passed along to you. Remember that the doctrine of signatures says that God hints to us what the plant is good for. If you look for clues you will find the answer. Analyzing this plant, the implication would be that if you eat it, nothing will kill you, in that nothing kills burdock. Who knows, this may be true, the notion is consistent with what the world has to say about burdock.

In case nothing comes up on your monitor when the word burdock gets entered, here are a few aliases that might be found by the word: search button, cocklebutton, cuckold dock, beggars buttons, hurr-burr, stick button, hardock, bardane, clotbur, grass burdock, bardana, burr seed, hardock, hareburn, hurr burr, turkey bur seed.

If this list of country names doesn’t ring a bell, it’s not because you don’t know this plant.
You may not connect the word burdock with the plant, but I am certain you have crossed its path before. Burdock is one of those plants that anyone who has gardened, walked down a street or along a pasture, or owned a lawn, knows. You may only know it as the weed that refuses to die, but you do know it.

If you don’t recognize the plant, you probably recognize the fruit. As the name implies, Bur-dock, is largely known for its burs. In the Bible, Isaiah 34:13, a quote looks something like this, “and thorns shall come up in her palace.” The reference is that when you do bad things, your life will be filled with dust and burs. The plant with the huge rhubarb like leaves produces tenacious burs that always end up in your kids’ or dogs’ hair. Think of what big hints God gave us with this plant. It carries itself into your house and screams, “notice me.” A bad attitude pointed at burdock is as old as the Bible itself. In this case the Bible is just off the mark. Every rose has its thorn, the plant may not be attractive to the eye, but it is especially pleasing to the body. After doing a little research I think you will agree this is perhaps one of the only plants in the yard that shouldn’t be pulled up, and you will welcome the Biblical punishment.

The part used in medicine is the whole plant, but most especially the root. Of course the problem is getting the damn thing out of the ground, no small task. Nothing is free. Let’s dive in and take a look what much of the world thinks of burdock, since we just think it is a weed.

OK, quiz time. What is a spring tonic and how does it apply to you? If you have ever read old herbals or talked to an elderly aunt you may have come across the term. With the advent of total dependance on the grocery store, the concept has gone by the wayside, at the expense of our health. In days gone by fresh greens could only be had when available in your garden. As such, December, January, and February were essentially devoid of greens in the diet. As spring approached people were real tired of eating boiled potatoes and dried meats, and were really craving some green food. They looked happily at the first greens poking up in the garden, the weeds of the field. As soon as these greens stood a few inches over the chilly soil, people were out in the fields gathering big pots of wild greens, boiling them up with great relish. These pots of wild greens were known as spring tonic. They collected them and ate them with great vigor, literally.

Spring meant the advent of the planting and growing season and you had to be fit as a fiddle for this busy time, and people felt that these greens were tonic, health building. After the first pot of wild weeds, people noticed that they suddenly felt strong, colds that had lingered all winter went away, and a blast of energy was had. The water in which the greens had been boiled were always reserved for pregnant women and the ailing; the nasty liquid came to be called pot liquor. The greens are so filled with vitamins and minerals, the water in which they are cooked turns black, and I mean really black. Despite the nasty color, and even nastier taste, people drank the pot liquor with relish, because, it made them feel better, and being in shape to get the crops out was a life or death issue.

Now this business of gathering the first greens of spring for health is as old as the hills and, in fact, an American tradition. In 1772 a certain Mr. Kalm, was traveling around colonial America and one of his stops was in Ticonderoga , New York . From his diary we read the following about burdock, “and the Governor told me that its tender shoots are eaten in spring as radishes, after the exterior part is taken off.”

In time people became adept at telling you which greens available at the first blast of spring were good for what; dandelions for the liver, plantain for the stomach, and burdock for overall strength and vitality. Spring tonic put the blast of energy seen in the spring in each and every body in the house. Have you ever noticed the drama of spring? Suddenly everything goes from being dead to an explosion of color and life. The old fashioned belief was when you ate the explosion, the greens of spring, you and your energy also exploded, and just in the knick of time. Since you probably couldn’t answer the first question in this section, we have obviously stopped running out in the field in spring to make a little spring tonic. Too bad.

Beyond being the first green of spring, the long thin tap root of the burdock plant, the anchor that keeps it attached to the earth and holds it there despite any effort on your part, was also used as a source of food before the frozen food section ruled us. Gerard, our 17th century herbalist, felt that burdock made a first class root vegetable with the added benefit of stirring up a little lust. This notion is held by the Chinese and their research has concluded it does raise the libido. Gerard states, “the stalk of the clot burre before the burres come forth, the rind pilled off, being eaten raw with salt and pepper, or boyled in the broth of fat meate, is pleasant to be eaten, being taken in that manner it increaseth the seed and stirreth up the lust.” Remember, healthy people have healthy sex drives. The root can be as much as 45 percent inulin, a sugar of great interest to diabetics!

The Pennsylvania Dutch have made a lifestyle of preserving the old time culture, preferring the old ways to the new ways. They still use the plants and herbal medicines everyone used and all grandmothers knew, the things we have forgotten.

In Dutch Country the one year old roots of burdock, or gladda wartzel as it is called in those parts, was used in tea, as a wash for dandruff, externally and internally. The same tea was used as a general blood purifier. They use the seeds for kidney problems, and a tea made of the seed as an external wash for skin problems, including first aid for cuts and burns. The Pennsylvania Dutch still gather the spring greens for spring tonic, and burdock is always included for that needed boost in spring. As they say, to get the winter lead out.

In days gone by, people treated themselves at home to a large extent due to the force of necessity. There were not that many doctors around. When people just felt tired all the time, the doctor of the family, usually a woman or a man with a gift for understanding herbs would say, your blood was weak. Burdock has been one of the top ranked blood purifiers for a long time. From the Tennessee Hills region we have a listing for burdock as a blood builder. A man born in 1920 in Hardin County learned this recipe from his parents. Clean and boil burdock roots for a short time, sweeten to taste, and drink one glassful each day.

The American and European gypsies share the sentiment with the residents of Mammoth Cave , and say that burdock, one ounce boiled with a pint of water, and several teaspoons taken each day will tend to bad blood, and the skin eruptions that result from bad blood.

Burdock seems to be a plant that when taken a little at a time, in increasing amounts, cleanses the body of toxins. It is mildly laxative and diuretic, the means by which it cleans things out. The common cultural belief is that skin diseases are a symptom of the body holding too many toxins. The skin eruptions are the body’s means of working the substances out of the body. Whose job is toxic waste clean up? The liver. Bad skin was a sign of a poorly functioning liver. Ever notice the lovely smooth skin of an active alcoholic? The notion was that the liver’s job was to get all the gunk out of the system, and when it wasn’t, skin problems manifested. Burdock was used to treat skin problems, but really more to treat the liver, the source of the problem. Burdock was a blood purifier in that it stimulated the liver, which in turn tidied up the blood.

Along the lines of cleaning out the body, burdock is used to get the urine flowing. Urination is the body’s way of moving toxins out of the body, people that don’t make water can be dead in a very short time. Gerard was aware of the plant’s abilities in this direction, “he also teaches that the juice of the leaves given to drink with honey, procureth urine, and taketh away the pines of the bladder”. Science has borne out Gerard. Burdock does, in fact, increase urination in the human. Remember, with the urine goes the toxins.

Snake bite seems to have been much more of an issue years back when people spent most of their time out in the fields. Gerard says, “and that same drunk with old wine doth wonderfully helpe against the bitings of serpents.” In the “Treasury of Georgia Folklore,” an informant reports the same, “For rattlesnake bite, drink large quantities of cockleburr (burdock) tea.” This use ties in with the idea that burdock cleanses the body. When a venomous beast bites you, it injects you with poison and the body has to get this poison out of the body. The vehicle of getting the venom out is through urination, and burdock would speed the process along. Gerard goes on to say that if applied to the wound directly, it will additionally draw the “poyson” out.

In the South a classic blood tonic was made out of burdock root, sassafras, and black alder root. The ingredients in equal parts were boiled with water for several hours, the mixture was then strained, sweetened with honey or molasses, and yeast added, fermented, and the resulting hooch taken to strengthen the blood. Strengthen the blood it would do, improving the driving it wouldn’t.

Around the world Burdock is used to treat the lungs. This belief that burdock is good for the lungs is held by Gerard, “also is good nourishment, especially boiled, if the kernell of the pine apple be likewise added, it is the better, and is no lesse available against the ulcer of the lungs, and spitting of bloud than the root is.” The Chinese believe burdock enters through the lung and stomach channels, and find it most effective in pneumonia and chronic coughs. Whenever fever, cough, or sore throats are involved, burdock is the specialist the Chinese call in. And of course they have been using it as a lung booster for a thousand years. New in China means it’s only been used for 5 or 6 hundred years. They, by the by, have proven that burdock has anti-tumor and anti-cancer activities, which dovetails with their use of the plant in treating cancers.

Gerard said, “Apeleius saith that the same being stamped with a little salt, and applied to the biting of a mad dog cureth the same, and so speedily setteth free the sick man”. Our old English herbalist felt that applying the ground plant would stop infection, even in the case of a mad dog bite, otherwise known as rabies. The Shakers used it to treat leprosy, also caused by a microbe. Burdock has since been proven to have an antimicobial effect, due to the polyacetylenes contained in the plant. The Chinese have found its extracts to be antifungal, antibacterial, isolating the bacteriastatic principle being due to a lactone. Applying it would, in fact, kill any nasty microbes hanging out on a wound.

Along these lines, burdock is said to have some strange powers of healing for the skin, beyond healing wounds. More than just being applied to snakebites, burdock has been used for skin ailments of all kinds, taken internally and used externally. In the Louisiana bayou the Creoles and Cajuns alike use herbe coquin, or burdock to speed the healing of wounds and is said to cure the mange.

In North Carolina a folk belief is that burdock root, boiled with vinegar and a copper penny creates a solution that will cure boils. In Utah , an informant told a folklorist that to cure impetigo, burdock should be boiled, the liquid drunk. The Shakers included burdock in all their salves used to treat the skin, used to soothe burns, cuts, and irritations. Burdock is still used in cosmetics today due to its reported value in healing the skin and its ability to leave it healthy and glowing. The Chinese use it to treat abscesses, excema, scaly skin, sores, and carbuncles.

Aside from being used to treat skin afflictions, it has been used to treat the infectious surface on the skin, as in measles, small pox, chicken pox, and rubella. The Shakers treated syphilis with the one year old roots of burdock and others have used it in herpes.

In the West Virginia Folklore Society’s journal, a choice piece of information was collected in 1962. The informant was Frank King, born in Wetzel County , at the turn of the century. The journal states, “his knowledge of home remedies and unending tales of past experience, makes him one of the most interesting characters in my community.”

In days before inoculation and anti-biotics, measles were a dangerous disease, an epidemic leaving a community physically maimed and many dead. In folk medicine one finds many a useful hint for dealing with the measles. Let’s see what Frank King had to say about treating the measles. “Measles may sometimes be dangerous if they tend to go inside instead of breaking out on the surface as they should. Sheep nanny tea (made from sheep manure) can be used to make the measles break out as can a brew made by boiling burdock roots in sweetened water.” The same guidance was found in a number of Southern books on folk medicine. In parts of Georgia the roots are soaked in whiskey, the cocktail taken to get rid of measles or to avoid getting it in the first place.

Fancy that, sitting down for a cup of sheep poop tea. If I had the choice of going to school or staying home for a brimming cup of sheep poop tea, I think I would have stayed home from school a lot less. Anyhow, Frank does say our plant, burdock, which for centuries has been used to prop up the immunity system and guard against or break up infectious diseases.

The Chinese go along with the Southerner’s notion and go one step further stating that burdock, or niu bang zi, as they call it, is good for measles and all other infectious diseases. They say it is especially good for those diseases that appear in epidemic fashion, as in when a bug sweeps through an office. On the proof side of things the Chinese have proven that burdock tea has a serious inhibitory effect on a number of obnoxious bacteria and fungus.

This applies to we moderns, most of us work in group situations where one person gets a cold, and everybody has it. “It’s going around the office” has replaced “a bad humor is sweeping the village.” Burdock should be brought back into the modern world as a shield against the diseases air conditioners spit in your face while you’re sitting in your cubicle.

I think Gerard summed it all up when he said that burdock strengthens the back. Burdock is used as a strengthener, a tonic that makes the body robust. And that’s what it’s all about, getting the body strong so you can do what you want to do. The Seminole Indians felt that tfkacok lofka, “or sticks on,” made a powerful tonic to increase vitality. In Utah the leaves are ground and used as a poultice to treat rheumatism, the tea a classic hill treatment for a bad case of the rheumatiz, as granny from the Beverly Hillbillies would say. In a recipe book kept at Hancock by the Church family from 1828 to 1846, formulas for all sorts of concoctions could be found. This Shaker found that burdock, or bardana as they called it, alone and in combination was effective in treating debility. Some feature in the plant makes for a strong back, which is a good thing to have as the whole body has to hang on it.

So what we seem to have is a lung tonic, blood cleanser, and a body disinfectant, and of course, a back strengthener. Sounds like a healthy addition to any tea pot. Now getting burdock is not an issue, it can be had at any herb sellers, and just about any abandoned lot. The problem is getting the damn thing out of the ground. To accomplish this wait until your area has had several rainy days so the ground is good and wet, and the roots will pull out a little easier. With a deep spade start digging a foot away from the plant and keep working it until you feel the plant pull away from the soil, then give it a good yank. The whole plant can be used in the tonic, fresh or dried, fresh is, of course, better. The plant stays evergreen year round, so getting it fresh won’t be an issue. The plant is most packed with healing in the late fall, just as the leaves are falling, so try to gather it then.

Why fight this plant? if you are looking for a ground cover, why not use this fuzzy rhubarb like plant? Just go for a walk in the woods, and when you get home, pull the burs off your body and toss them in some garden soil, and you will have a thick ground cover.

Chapter from My PhD Thesis

Part Used
Seeds and root

Chemical Constituents
Significant phytochemicals include inulin, phytosterols, polyacetylenes, and sterols. (13)

480 grains to the fluid ounce alcohol 30%. Dose: 2–4 drams in four ounces water, a teaspoonful every one, two, or three hours. Must be used for a long periods of time. (2)

Arctium lappa is a common Old World weed that became naturalised in Asia and Africa early in human history. Medicinally, it has been used in African, Asian, and European medical systems since time immemorial. Introduced into North America by the European colonials, it rapidly became a common weed plant. Used in domestic medicine in North America in the early colonial period, the drug was in the secondary list of the USP until 1870. In 1880, it became an official drug and remained one until 1910. In 1910 the drug was dropped from the USP. (1)

Eclectic use (1–12)
Alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, aperient, resolvent, stimulant to the formative forces necessary for the renewal of tissue, sudorific, increases excretion of urea, uric acid, and other solids, influences the blood and thereby remedies chronic diseases of the skin and mucous membrane, corrects abnormalities of the gastrointestinal mucous membrane, encourages normal secretion, and promotes digestion.

“To lessen irritation of the urinary apparatus, and increase secretion of urine, especially in cases where saline diuretics are contraindicated. Also, useful in chronic diseases due to abnormal condition, or taint of the blood. Specific lappa acts upon the urinary and glandular systems, and upon cutaneous structures. It increases the flow of urine and quiets irritation, being especially beneficial where saline diuretics cannot be employed, and in chronic diseases. It promotes digestion and is a remedy for blood taint. It is a remedy in broncho-pulmonic irritation, with cough, and in rheumatic and other constitutional diseases. Its action upon skin disease is marked, psoriasis, boils, styes, milk crust, eczema, and obstinate ulcers having yielded kindly to it. The indications are impaired nutrition of the skin, and dry scaly eruptions.” (2)

Scorbutus, syphilis, venereal disease, tuberculosis, systemic tuberculosis, gout, leprosy, nephritic disease, rheumatism, wasting, deterioration of tissues, chronic disease, apthous and catarrhal ulceration.

Feeble cutaneous circulation.

Impaired nutrition, catarrhal and apthous ulceration’s of the GIT, dyspepsia.

Inflammation of the kidneys, nephritic disease, dysuria, dropsical conditions, renal obstructions, chronic urinary diseases, diseases of the kidneys, irritation, insufficient renal production, inadequate excretion of morbid substances, dropsy, painful urination.

Glandular enlargements.

Rheumatism, problems with the muscular and fibrous tissues, chronic articular rheumatism where there are no permanent structural changes in the joints from previous inflammations, stubborn cases of chronic rheumatism, muscular and articular rheumatism.

Broncho-pulmonary irritation, cough, mucous membrane abnormalities when from a blood abnormality, irritable cough.

Cutaneous disease, obstinate ulcers, dry and scaly eruptions, scrofulous disease manifesting in the skin, eruptions depending upon local faulty nutrition, crusta laca, chronic cutaneous erysipelas, psoriasis, tetter, eczema, boils and styes on the eyelids, chronic cutaneous eruptions.

The drug from Selye’s perspective

State of Resistance

The drug was used to raise resistance to scorbutus, syphilis, venereal disease, tuberculosis, gout, leprosy, nephritic disease, rheumatism, respiratory disease, and cutaneous disease.

State of Exhaustion

The drug was used when resistance failed and State of Exhaustion commenced. Signs of State of Exhaustion , treated with the drug, included wasting, local depravity of tissues, apthous and catarrhal ulceration, feeble cutaneous circulation, ulceration of the GIT, and obstinate ulcers.

Adaptation Energy

From Selye’s perspective, the drug was used to augment the GAS. This suggests the drug increases adaptation energy. Evidence to this effect includes the following. The drug was used to raise resistance to a number of infections. It was used to treat degenerative conditions that robbed the patient of vitality, either from within (rheumatoid arthritis), or from without, (syphilis). The drug was used to inspire healing in non-healing wounds. Lastly, the drug was seen as a stimulant to the basic body functions, especially waste and repair.

Brekhman’s Adaptogen Criterion
An adaptogen should be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism.

The drug is reported to be safe and non-toxic by Eclectic and contemporary literature. (1–13)

The action of an adaptogen should be non-specific i.e. it should increase resistance to adverse influences of a wide range of factors of physical, chemical, and biological nature.

Clinically, the drug was used to raise resistance to acute and chronic bacterial infections, acute and chronic viral infections, autoimmune disease, and cancer. (1–12)

Experimentally, the crude drug has been shown to increase liver resistance to toxic compounds (alcohol, carbon tetrachloride, Acetaminophen) and to increase resistance to free radical damage. (13–15) In addition, the drug contains several compounds shown to increase resistance to viral infection, HIV infection, bacterial infection, gram positive bacterial infection, mutagenicity, tumours, and breast and colon cancer. (13)

An adaptogen may possess normalising action irrespective of the direction of the foregoing pathological changes.

Clinically, the drug was used to normalise the physiological abnormalities associated with State of Exhaustion (chronic ulceration of the skin and mucous membranes, digestive abnormalities, wasting, etc.) (1–12)

Experimentally, the crude drug was shown to inhibit inflammation. (16) The drug contains several compounds that have been shown to normalise aberrant physiological function including leukaemia, lymphoma, water retention, diabetes, diarrhoea, dysentery, osteoporosis, poor gastric function, hypercholesterolemia, hyperglycaemia, immune suppression, constipation, oedema, inflammation, and hypertension. (13)

The drug exhibits properties consistent with Brekhman’s definition of an adaptogen.
Arctium lappa is one of the oldest medicines still in active use. If you travel the globe, you will find it growing whereever you stop, and you will find local people using it for similar purposes. All report the drug useful in increasing resistance to debilitating disease. Consistently, it is used in cancer, infection, and autoimmune disease. Bearing this in mind, the Eclectic uses of the drug are not surprising. They were simply in accordance with the rest of the world.

However, the Eclectics did identify a somewhat new use for the drug. The Eclectics recommended the drug in chronic kidney disease and when resistance to chronic kidney disease could not be maintained and constitutional collapse was imminent.

Potential clinical applications
The drug may prove useful in raising resistance to infection, chronic immune dysfunction, and cancer.

Future Research
• Arctium lappa and the GAS. The drug should be tested out in the animal model to determine its specific effects on the GAS.

• The efficacy of Arctium lappa—seed versus root. The Eclectics used both the root and the seed of the plant. The root and the seed should be tested out in the animal model to determine which is the superior drug.

• Arctium lappa and viral infection. The drug has been used to increase resistance to chronic viral infections (1–12) and this use has been confirmed by contemporary research. It acts as an antiviral agent and an immune stimulant. (13) Its role in raising resistance to the HIV and the Hepatitis C should be examined.

• Arctium lappa and cancer. The drug is a folk remedy for cancer. It has been shown to increase resistance to some of the known predisposing factors for Carcinogenesis (chronic bacterial and viral infection, mutation, free radical damage, etc.) (13) It has also been shown to improve immune function, the first line of defence against cancer. In addition, it contains arctiin, a compound shown to inhibit Carcinogenesis. (17) The drug should be reviewed for its ability to increase resistance to cancer.

• Arctium lappa and kidney disease. The drug was used to increase resistance to kidney disease and prevent kidney-related State of Exhaustion . Its role in kidney disease should be examined.

Burdock is a rapidly growing weed. It is readily grown in the farm setting.

• Lloyd, John Uri. Origin and History of all the Pharmacopoeia vegetable drugs, chemicals and preparations. The Caxton Press. Cincinnati . 1921. P. 179.
• Lloyds’ Dose Book of Specific Medicine. The Lloyd brothers. Cincinnati . 1907. P. 164.
• King, John. The American Eclectic Materia Medica. Moore , Wilstach, and Keys. Cincinnati . 1854. P. 239.
• Dyer. The Eclectic Family Physician. A scientific system of medicine on vegetable principles designed for families. 1855.
• Scudder, John Milton. The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Published by the author. Cincinnati . 1883. P. 481.
• Watkins, Lyman. An Eclectic Compendium of the practice of medicine. John M. Scudder’s Sons. Cincinnati . 1895. P. 425.
• Webster, HT. Dynamical therapeutics—a work devoted to the theory and practice of specific medication with special references to the newer remedies. Webster Medical Publishing Company. Oakland , California . 1898. P. 301, 420, 511, 539.
• Felter, Harvey and Lloyd, John Uri. King’s American Dispensatory. Ohio Valley Company. Cincinnati . 1898. P. 1118.
• Felter, Harvey. Syllabus of Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Scudder Brothers Company. Cincinnati . 1901 P. 360.
• Fyfe, John William. Pocket Essentials of Modern Materia Medica and Therapeutics. The Scudder Brothers Company. Cincinnati . 1903. P. 163.
• Lloyd, John Uri. History of the Vegetable Drugs of the Pharmacopoeia of the United States . Eclectic Bulletin 18: Pharmacy number 4. 1911. P. 53.
• Ellingwood, Finely. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics, and Pharmacognosy. Ellingwood’s Therapeutist. Chicago . 1919. P. 378.
• Dr.Dukes Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Data bases. Agricultural Research Service. USDA.
• Lin SC et al. Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa on liver injuries induced by chronic ethanol consumption and potentiated by carbon tetrachloride. J.Biomed.Sci 2002 Sep–Oct;9(5):401–9. From PubMed abstracts.
• Lin SC et al. Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa on carbon tetrachloride and acetaminophen induced liver damage. American Journal of Chinese Medicine 2000; 28(2):163–73. From PubMed abstracts.
• Lin CC et al. Anti-inflammatory and radical scavenge effects of Arctium lappa. American Journal of Chinese Medicine 1996; 24(2): 127–37. From PubMed abstracts.
• Hirose M et al. Effects of arctiin on PhIP-induced mammary, colon, and pancreatic Carcinogenesis in female Sprague-Dawley rats and MeIQx induced hepatocarcinogenesis in male F344 rats. Cancer Letter 2000 Jul 3; 155(1): 79–88. From PubMed abstracts.

Notes from the Eclectic Physicians


Properties and Uses – Alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic and aperient. Useful in scorbutic, syphilitic, scrofulous, gouty, leprous and nephritic diseases. To prove effectual its use must be perservered in for a long time. The seeds are more diuretic than the root, and are said to be likewise a more useful alterative; they are principally used in nephritic complaints. Externally the leaves or their juice in the form of an ointment, have been employed with advantage in cutaneous diseases, and obstinate ulcers Dose, of a decoction or syrup, half a pint three times a day.

1855; Dyer (Vegetable Principles)
Medical use – Useful in rheumatism, scrofulous affections, and inflammation of the kidneys. It must be used for a long time to be of much benefit. Dose . Take two ounces of the root, and boil in three pints of water, to two pints, and one pint given a day. The seeds are diuretic, and should be given in tablespoonful doses three times a day.

1883: Scudder: (alterative)
Therapeutic action: Burdock is described as alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, aperient, and resolvent.

It is a very excellent remedy, though but little used by recent physicians. it is simple, mild, and unirritating in its operation on the system., but it is undoubtedly capable of exerting a highly sanative influence upon the nutritive fluids, and upon the constitution generally, by virtue of of its deputative , resolvent, and qualities. It is not adapted to the relief of acute disease, its action being manifested upon the system only after its long and continued use. it promotes the secreting of the exhalant and secreting vessels and organs to a slight extent, and acts as a mild alterative. Though alterative , it is too feeble an agent to be expected to effect the removal of obstinate and formidable disease unaided by other means;never the less, it is a valuable auxiliary to more energetic remedies.

1895: Watkins
Feeble cutaneous circulation, dry and scaly eruptions, impaired nutrition. Ten drops to one drachm of the tincture three times a day.

1898: Webster(Lymphatic System)
This remedy is credited with anti-scrofolous properties, and is supposed to influence the lymphatic glands in struma and syphilis, but the clinical testimoy rather seems to prove a selective affinity for the skin, as it is in afffections of this organ that it has accomplished the most satisfacotyr results. It may be possible that the “alterative” influence refred to may be accredited soemwhat, but the proposition, that it positively influences the lympahti system, may be accepted with considerable reserve.
I think the only scofulous affections that will be found to improve under its influence are those manifesting themselves upon the skin, and these are probably due to a local depravity of tissue, rather than to faulty elaboration of the blood.

1898: Webster (Urinary System)
This remedy possesses some reputation in dysuria and in dropsical conditions resulting from renal obstruction. Professor Scudder suggestion that it acts best in the cure of those cases of urinary diseases that have become chronic, where the removal of worn out tissue is requisite-where a remedy influencing the formative forces in the renewal of tissue is necessary. The best preparation is that prepared from the fresh seeds, after they have matured. This is represented by the specific medicine.

Form for administration: the specific medicine.
Dose: from the fraction of a drop to ten drops.

1898; Webster; (Muscles)
Burdock acts upon muscular and fibrous tissue to relieve rheumatism. It acts best in chronic articular rheumatism where there has been no permanent structural change about the joints from previous inflammatory action. The best part of this plant for such purposes is the seeds. These should be separated from the burs as soon as ripe, bruised, and covered with alcohol. In fourteen days the tincture is fit for use. The specific medicine is prepared from the seeds.

I have known some stubborn cases of chronic rheumatism cured with this remedy.

Dose – From five to twenty drops.

1898; Webster; (Skin)
Burdock exerts a specific influence on the skin, and can be relied upon for the relief of eruptions depending upon depraved nutrition of the part. Among the diseases cured by it are crusta lactea, chronic cutaneous erysipelas and psoriasis.

The best form of this remedy is a saturated tincture of the recently ripened seeds. I have seen this act promptly in the cure of tetter, eczema, and other cutaneous eruptions. Some skin specialists rely upon it in the treatment of psoriasis.

Form for Administration – A saturated tincture of seeds not more than a year old; If more recent the better. If the seeds can be obtained and tinctured as soon as ripe the best tincture will result.

Dose – From ten to twenty drops.

1898: Felter and Lloyd
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage – The root is alterative, aperient, diuretic, and sudorific. A decoction of it has been used in rheumatic, gouty, venereal, leprous, and other disorders, and is preferred by some to that of sarsaparilla. It is also useful in scurvy, scrofula, etc. The seeds are recommended as very efficient diuretics, given either in the form of emulsion, or in powder to the quantity of a drachm, or, preferably, in alcoholic form, as in specific lappa officinalis. They form a good diuretic alterative, and are used in diseases of the kidneys, and to remove boils an dstyes on the eyelids. The action of the seeds upon the urinary tract is direct, relieving irritation and increasing renal activity, assisting at the same time in eliminating morbid products. In chronic disorders lappa may be used to remove worn out tissues, where the saline diuretics are inadmissible. Dropsy an dpainful urination, due to renal obstruction, have been relieved by it. A tincture of the fresh fruit or specific lappa should be employed. It is of marked value in catarrhal and aphthous ulcerations of the digestive tract. A favorable action is obtained from it in dyspepsia. When a cachectic condition of the blood is manifest, and where an alterative is demanded, it relieves broncho-pulmonic irritation and cough. Rheumatism, both muscular and articular, when previous inflammations have left no structural alteration, are said to be benefited by the seeds. Skin diseases, depending upon a depraved state of the cutaneous tissues and less upon the state of the blood itself, are conditions in which lappa has gained a reputation. It has been particularly praised in psoriasis, its use being long-continued to produce good results. Chronic erysipelas, milk crust, and various forms of eczema have been cured with it. The cutaneous circulation is feeble in cases requiring burdock seeds. A tincture of the recent seeds may be given in doses of from 1 to 60 drops; of specific lappa officinalis, 1 to 25 drops. An ointment of the leaves, or their juice, has been used advantageously in certain diseases of the skin and obstinate ulcers. The dose of a decoction, or syrup, of the root is from 4 to 6 fluid ounces, 3 or 4 times a day.

Specific Indications and Uses – Feeble cutaneous circulation; scaly, dry eruptions; impaired mutrition of skin; urinary irritation; psoriasis.

1901: Locke
This agent is a much neglected alterative. It directly influences the renal apparatus, relieving irritation, increasing the flow of urine, and assisting in eliminating morbid material. It may be employed for the removal of worn out tissues when the saline renal depurants would do harm.

A tincture of the seeds, long administered, is said to be one of the best of the remdies for psoriasis. It certainly exerts a favoriable influence upon dyspepsia, with a cachectic state of the blood. Both cough and bronchial pulmonary irritation are relieved by it when an alterative is demanded. Give specific lappa in doses of from one to ten drops three times a day for a continued period.

1907: Ellingwood
It relieves irritation of the urinary apparatus, promoting a free flow of the urine containing urea, uric acid, and a full quantity of excrete solids.

1911: Fyfe
glandular enlargement; dropsy of renal origin; obstinate chronic cutaneous eruptions; scrofulous, syphilitic, gouty, and rheumatic difficulties of long standing; irritation of the urinary apparatus with lessened secretion of urine. Lappa officinalis is alterative, aperient, diuretic, and sudorific.

1911: LLOYD
This widely distributed plant known under several botanical names, such as Lappa minor (De Candolle) Lappa major (Gaertner) and Lappa tomentosa (Lamarck) is now official as Arctium Lappa. The commercial name Burdock seems, however, so expressive as to have become an universal appellation, and needs no interpretation.
The root of this plant has been ever used in its native haunts, which cover much of Africa, Europe , and adjacent lands. Like the honey-bee it follows civilization, and like the English sparrow craves the company of man. Its burr journeys with man into all inhabited countries and whether or not it be a welcome guest, its broad leaves are to be found about every dwelling. As already stated, Burdock has been used in domestic medicine from time out of date. Several varieties, however, have inherited the common name, such works as Salmon, 1683 (570a) Samuel Dale, 1737 (179) Quincy , 1749 (532) Lewis, 1768 (382) Motherby, 1775 (451b) testifying thereto. In all these it is titled Bardana .

1919: Ellingwood
Synonym – Burdock

Constituents – Indulin, mucilage, sugar, resin, tannin, glucoside, fixed oil, wax.

Preparations – Extractum Lappae Fluidum. Fluid Extract of Lappa. Dose, from a half to one dram. Specific Lappa. Dose, from five to thirty drops.

Therapy – This agent closely resembles yellow dock in its action as an alterative; it has a direct influence upon the blood, and thence upon diseases of the skin and mucous membranes. Its influence upon themucous membranes of the stomach encourages normal glandular secretion and promotes digestion. In aphthous ulcerations of these membranes and in catarrhal ulcerations, it is excellent.

It influences the mucous membranes of the air passages when irritated from any blood disorder, alleviating irritable coughs.

It cures psoriasis and chronic cutaneous eruptions.

It has a marked influence upon chronic glandular enlargements, and is beneficial in syphilitic, scrofulous and gouty conditions.

It relieves irritation of the urinary apparatus, promoting a free flow of the urine containing urea, uric acid, and a full quantity of excrete solids.

1921: Lloyd
Introduced in 1850, but in Secondary List, occupying this position in 1860 and 1870. Official in 1880, 1890 and 1900. Dropped from 1910 edition.

This widely distributed plant, known under several botanical names, such as Lappa minor (De Candolle), Lappa major (Gartner), and Lappa tomentosa (Lamarck), is now official as Arctium Lappa. The commerical name, Burdock, seems, however, so expressive as to have become its universal appellation, needing no interpretation.

The root of this plant has ever been used in its native haunts, which cover much of Africa, Europe and adjacent lands. Like the honey bee, it follows civilization; and like the English sparrow, it craves the company of man. Its burr goes with man into all inhabited countries, and whether or not it be a welcome guest, its broad leaves are to be found about every dwelling. If the plant were rare, florists would probably consider it very attractive. Burdock has been used from time out of date in domestic medicine. Several varieties have inherited the common name, such works as Salmon, (570a), 1683; Samuel Dale, (179), 1737; Quincy , (532), 1749; Lewis, (382), 1768, and Motherby, (451b), 1775, testifying thereto. In all these it is titled Bardana.

Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.