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 Herbal Materia Medica: Burdock  
Arctium lappa


Names: Lappa, Beggar's Buttons.

Habitat: Grows in hedges and ditches in Europe, parts of Asia, N.America; cultivated in Japan.

Collection: The roots and rhizome should be unearthed in September or October.

Part Used: Roots and rhizome.


  • Lignans, including arctigenin, its glycoside arctiin, and matairesinol.
  • Polyacetylenes, in the root, mainly tridecadienetetraynes and tridecatrienetriynes, with the sulphur-containing arctic acid.
  • Amino acids, such as [[alpha]]-guanidino-n-butyric acid
  • Inulin in the roots
  • Miscellaneous organic acids, fatty acids and phenolic acids; includingacetic, butyric, isovaleric, lauric, myristic, caffeic and chlorogenicacids.
Actions: Alterative, diuretic, bitter.

Indications: Burdock is a most valuable remedy for the treatment of skin conditions which result in dry and scaly skin. It may be most effective for psoriasis if used over a long period of time. It will be useful as part of a wider treatment for rheumatic complaints, especially where they are associated with psoriasis. Part of the action of this herb is through the bitter stimulation of the digestive juices and especially of bile secretion. Thus it will aid digestion and appetite. It has been used in anorexia nervosa and similar conditions, also to aid kidney function andto heal cystitis. In general, Burdock will move the body to a state of integration and health, removing such indicators of systemic imbalance as skin problems and dandruff. Externally, it may be used as a compress or poultice to speed up the healing of wounds and ulcers.Eczema and psoriasis may also be treated this way externally, but it must be remembered that such skin problems can only be healed from within and with the aid of internal remedies.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a "general alterative: influences skin, kidneys, mucous and serous membranes, to remove accumulated waste products. It is specific for eruptions on the head, face and neck, and for acute irritable and inflammatory conditions." They give the following specific indications: Eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis.Boils, carbuncles, styes, sores. Rheumatism, gout and sciatica. Ellingwood recommends it for the following patholgies: aphthous ulcerations; irritable coughs; psoriasisand chronic cutaneous eruptions; chronic glandular enlargements, syphilitic, scrofulous and gouty conditions.

Combinations: For skin problems, combine with Yellow Dock, Red Cloveror Cleavers.

Preparations & Dosage: Decoction: put l teaspoonful of the root into a cup of water, bring to boil and simmer for l0-l5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Citations from the Medline database for the genus Arctium


Dombradi CA Foldeak S

Screening report on the antitumor activity of purified Arctium Lappaextracts.

Tumori (1966 May-Jun) 52(3):173-5

Morita K Kada T Namiki M

A desmutagenic factor isolated from burdock (Arctium lappa Linne).

Mutat Res (1984 Oct) 129(1):25-31

Go to Herbal Materia Medica Homepage
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 About The Author
David Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMHWhilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it......more
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