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Burdock

What Should I Know About It?

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Updated July 12, 2013

What Is Burdock?

Often touted as an herbal detox remedy, burdock is a daisy-family plant that grows as a weed in the United States and several other countries.

Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine sometimes blend burdock with other herbs to soothe sore throat and colds. Some proponents claim that burdock can benefit people with arthritis, diabetes, eczema, psoriasis, and cancer.

Health Benefits of Burdock

Very few scientific studies have explored burdock's health effects. Still, animal-based research suggests that a type of fiber extracted from burdock may promote the growth of probiotics (immune-regulating bacteria naturally present in the human digestive tract). Other tests on animals show that burdock may fight free radicals (chemical by-products known to damage DNA) and alleviate liver damage induced by alcohol consumption.

What Is Essiac?

Burdock is one of the key ingredients of Essiac and Flor-Essence, herbal formulas marketed as wonder remedies for people coping with cancer. While advocates claim that Essiac and Flor-Essence can shrink tumors, prolong survival, provide pain relief, and boost immunity, there's a lack of evidence supporting such claims. What's more, one 2006 study found Essiac and Flor-Essence may actually stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells.

In addition to burdock, Essiac contains slippery elm inner bark, sheep sorrel, and Indian rhubarb root. Flor-Essence includes the same ingredients, as well as watercress, blessed thistle, red clover, and kelp.

Where to Buy Burdock

Many health food stores offer burdock supplements, as well as dried root powder, tinctures, and liquid extracts. Fresh burdock may also be found at grocery stores and farmers markets.

Side Effects

Since burdock may lower blood sugar, anyone on diabetes medication should avoid this herb. Burdock may also worsen dehydration, as well as trigger an allergic reaction in people sensitive to daisies, chrysanthemums, or ragweed.

Sources:

Li D, Kim JM, Jin Z, Zhou J. "Prebiotic effectiveness of inulin extracted from edible burdock." Anaerobe 2008 14(1):29-34.

Lin CC, Lu JM, Yang JJ, Chuang SC, Ujiie T. "Anti-inflammatory and radical scavenge effects of Arctium lappa." American Journal of Chinese Medicine 1996;24(2):127-37.

Lin SC, Lin CH, Lin CC, Lin YH, Chen CF, Chen IC, Wang LY. "Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa Linne on liver injuries induced by chronic ethanol consumption and potentiated by carbon tetrachloride." Journal of Biomedical Science 2002 9(5):401-9.

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