The healing properties of burdock root have been recognized as far back as the Middle Ages. Both Western and Eastern medicine have included burdock root in their pharmaceutical toolkit for its powerful anti-inflammatory and antibiotic effects. If you’re serious about detoxing, you should be taking a closer interest in this humble but potent root.
Note: the content of this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
What is Burdock Root?
As you would expect, burdock root is derived from the burdock plant. Burdock is native to Europe and the northern parts of Asia, but it happily grows in North America as well. Botanically, burdock is a member of the Asteraceae family and is related to asters, daisies, and sunflowers. One fun fact about burdock comes from its burrs or seeds, which are covered in prickly hooks and often stick to the socks and pants of hikers. These spiky seeds called burs are supposed to be the inspiration for Velcro!
You can also harvest the leaves and seeds, but the roots are the most potent parts of the plant. Burdock sends long roots deep into the soil in search of nutrients, this is what concentrates its beneficial properties.
What is Burdock Root Good For?
Burdock is an excellent source of Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and the minerals manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, and copper. It is also a good source of protein and fiber and has lower sodium than the other powerful detoxification herb, dandelion root.
Herbalists in Western and Eastern traditions use burdock for a wide range of health conditions, from skin diseases to digestive problems.
Research has shown that burdock root is a powerhouse of anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants including luteolin, quercetin and phenolic acids. These antioxidants ‘mop up’ the free radicals that can cause disease, inflammation, and cell oxidation leading to oxidative stress.
Burdock root’s anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent treatment for fever, joint pain, colds, tonsillitis, and influenza. A study in 2014 showed it to be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis, with data showing a significant decrease in inflammatory markers.
Burdock’s detoxing effects make it a natural response for overburdened liver, kidney conditions, enlarged spleen, gastrointestinal disease, catarrh, and gout. Burdock has been shown to stimulate lymphatic drainage and is a natural diuretic.
Burdock has long been known as a tonic for the liver, even more powerful than dandelion root. It was shown to reverse liver damage in a 2002 study on rats.
If you have any sort of digestive health issues, burdock can help regulate your gut biome. It is full of inulin, a soluble prebiotic fiber, which acts as a tasty treat for your gut bacteria and helps to lower your blood sugar, making it a natural choice if you have pre or full-blown diabetes. Burdock also contains mucilage, which soothes your gut lining, reducing inflammation and allowing healing.
How Does Burdock Root Work?
Burdock root’s primary mechanism is detoxing your body through the lymphatic and digestive systems and the skin. Renowned as a blood purifier, you can think of burdock root as a kind of internal vacuum cleaner for your body, seeking out and expelling toxins, free radicals, and other harmful substances.
How Do You Use Burdock Root?
Burdock root is available in a number of forms:
- Fresh burdock root (available at health food stores or Japanese grocery stores or markets)
- Dried root powder either loose or in capsule supplements
- Burdock tea
- Burdock extract or oil
- Burdock tonic
You can eat fresh burdock root as it comes, sliced or grated, and eaten cooked or raw. Fresh burdock root looks like other long slender vegetables like carrots or parsnips, but it has a dark brown or even black skin and can grow up to two feet long. You can keep the cleaned, dry roots in a cool, well-ventilated cupboard or pantry. It is better to use sliced and peeled burdock immediately, but you can store it in the refrigerator for a short time, say overnight.
To cook burdock root peel off the skin, then you can choose to grate or slice it into salads or stir-fries. You can also boil or steam it until tender. In Japan, burdock root is braised, sautéed or pickled.
Dried burdock root powder can be added to your usual recipes or smoothies.
To make burdock tea, you can use a prepared tea mix from your herbalist or health food store, or simply steep the sliced fresh root.
Your natural health practitioner may prescribe burdock root in supplements, extract, oil, or tonic forms. Be sure to follow the prescriber’s directions in taking burdock in these forms.
Is Burdock Root Safe?
Taken in moderation, burdock root is generally regarded as safe to include in your daily routine. Herbalists recommend a cup of burdock tea per day.
You should never gather burdock root in the wild and only source it from suppliers you trust. Burdock can easily be confused with belladonna (deadly nightshade), which is highly poisonous and often grows in the same location as burdock. It is also safer to buy your fresh burdock from a reputable supplier, as you can’t guarantee that root harvested in the wild hasn’t been sprayed or contaminated by other humans or animals.
Burdock is contraindicated for pregnant and nursing women, or women who are trying to conceive. Only give burdock root supplements to children on the advice of your health practitioner.
If you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums or daisies, you may also react to burdock, so it is safer to avoid it. Do not take burdock root if you are dehydrated as burdock is a potent diuretic, and you risk becoming severely dehydrated.
Similarly, avoid burdock if you are taking diuretic medication. Consult your health practitioner before adding burdock root to your diet if you take medication for diabetes, blood-thinning, or high blood pressure.
Stop taking burdock in any form two weeks before you are scheduled for surgery, as burdock may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising post-surgery.
Burdock root is one of nature’s great all-rounders. Research has confirmed what health practitioners all over the world have known for centuries.
Delicious and easy to prepare, adding burdock to your regular diet can help to lower bodily inflammation, reduce the oxidative stress on your body, and lead to a happier, detoxed you!
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