Burdock is another popular choice of herbal experts in treating many common and equally complex health related disorders in humans. In this article, we elaborate more about Burdock benefits and its side effects.
What Is Burdock?
Burdock is a traditional herb that has been extensively used by Native Americans, European Settlers and even in Ancient Chinese Medicine. Burdock belongs to the Asteraceae family and in the genus Arctium.
The plant is also known by the following names – Bardana, Bardane, Arctium, Beggar’s Buttons, Cockle Buttons, Cocklebur, Love Leaves, Thorny Burr, Great Burr, Burr Seed, Hareburr, Lappa, Happy Major, Fox’s Clote and Hardock. The herb is predominantly found in Northern parts of Asia, North America and Europe, and is part of the thistle family.
The Burdock grows to about 3-4 feet in height and usually blooms in the months of June and October. The herb has purple colored flowers and greenish white leaves. The medicinal parts of this herb include the following – roots (fresh and dried) and seed.
How Does It Work?
Burdock is rich in many natural vitamins, minerals and important compounds. The herb mainly contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C, thiamine and pectin. The plant contains the following compounds – complex volatile oils, Lignans, Sesquiterpene lactones, Polyynes, Polysaccharides, Phytosterols, Tannins, Triterpenes and Caffeic acid derivatives. Apart from this, Burdock also contains amino acids, starch, protein, fiber and mucilage.
Benefits Of Using Burdock
The anti-oxidant Burdock herb has many positive health effects, such as:
Anti-Bacterial & Anti-Viral Effect
Few documented studies have shown that Burdock works against the following bacteria – Bacillus subtilis and Salmonella typhi H. The herb has anti-bacterial properties due to the polyacetylene constituents. Traditionally, Burdock was used to kill germs and to reduce fever and cold symptoms.
However, documents also show that the herb is not effective against the following – Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, E-Coli and Pseudomonas. Burdock is also used to treat bladder infections and syphilis. One study (in-vitro) also goes on to claim that Burdock has Anti-retroviral properties against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1).
For Skin Disorders
Historically, Burdock was also used to treat skin conditions like the following – acne, psoriasis, dry skin, eczema and seborrhea of the scalp. In Chinese Medicine, the herb has been used to treat ulcers, skin eruptions, chronic rashes and erythema of the skin.
Against Cancer Cells
Few in-vitro studies have highlighted the anti-neoplastic effects of Burdock herb. Few compounds found in the herb showed anti- proliferative activity against five cancer cells. Similarly, another study showed that Burdock has anti-mutagenic activity against a wide range of mutagens. The herb is also used in Essiac tea (alternative medicine) to treat cancer in humans.
For Reducing Stress
Burdock is widely used to treat stress and to increase stamina & resilience in humans. The herb is also used by those in the fitness world and it is known to promote emotional stability.
For Stomach Disorder
Burdock is also used to treat stomach related minor disorders like gas, gout, gastric ulcer and gastrointestinal (GI) complaints. The herb helps in strengthening the stomach and also increases appetite in humans (treats anorexia nervosa). Those with excessive yeast overgrowth (candida) can also benefit a lot by taking this herb.
Other Benefits Of Burdock
Apart from the above, some unproven uses of this herb include the following – treating rheumatism or joint pain, controlling high blood pressure, reducing arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), treating liver disorders, increasing sexual drive, promotes pancreatic & kidney health, for treating measles, throat pain and fluid retention. Apart from having the anti-oxidant properties, the herb has anti-inflammatory effects and significantly helps in inhibiting platelet activating factor (PAF).
Traditionally, the herb was extensively used as a diaphoretic and diuretic to increase sweating and urine output. The Old World also widely used this herb as a blood purifying tonic.
Dosage Levels For Burdock
Herbal experts prescribe a dosage level ranging from 1 gram to 2 grams of powdered Burdock to be consumed in divided doses (3 times a day). In case of burdock tincture, the effective dosage level ranges between two to four ml per day.
Side Effects & Other Important Considerations Of Burdock
Burdock is considered safe when it is used as a food ingredient. However, like every other herb Burdock also offers certain side effects. For example, the herb may trigger allergic reactions in people who are already allergic to ragweed, marigold, daisy, chrisanthemum and other herbs from the Asteraceae and Compositae family. Some people have also complained of skin rashes when the herb was applied externally.
Few others have reported that the herb may cause excessive and frequent urination, especially in those who are diabetic. This is because burdock has the ability to enhance the blood sugar levels in humans causing electrolyte imbalance in the body. Another side effect of this herb is excessive dryness in the mouth. However, mouth dryness using Burdock occurs only when the herb is contaminated with other herbs like belladonna.Burdock also has the potential to alter existing heart rate and may cause stomach problems. Some say this may happen because the herb contains tannin which can be toxic under certain conditions. Other common side effects of burdock root tea are eye inflammation and burning sensation of the eyes.
The herb may lead to iron deficiency in the body as it hampers our body’s ability to absorb iron from other food materials. Overdose and long term usage of this herb may lead to damages to the kidneys, liver and other vital organs. This may happen due to the presence of the toxic compound known as tannin.Burdock also has the ability to increase bleeding and therefore, the herb must be avoided atleast two weeks before a scheduled surgery. The herb must be avoided in pregnant women as it can stimulate the uterus and lead to miscarriage. Breast feeding women should also avoid using the herb.
Burdock is another popular herb recommended and extensively used by the Old World. The herb is also a major ingredient in the Essiac tea, which is considered an alternative cancer treatment medicine. Burdock has many health related benefits and offers an equal number of side effects.
The root of this plant looks very similar to another plant known as belladonna (atropa belladonna). Most small scale commercial manufacturers accidentally use belladonna roots instead of burdock in their herbal products. This may be dangerous and may lead to some side effects as mentioned above. Always buy burdock from a reputed manufacturer. The herb is available in the market in the following forms – capsules, tablets, dried powder, tea powder and in tinctures.
Burdock may interact with anti-coagulants and anti-platelet drugs. It should also be avoided with disulfiram and metronidazole.