Burdock (Arctium lappa)

Family: Asteraceae

Parts commonly used: Root and seed.

Properties/energetics: Alterative, hepatic, diuretic, bitter, diaphoretic, aphrodisiac/Cool; bitter, slightly sweet.

Systems predominantly affected:  Skin, blood, digestive, genitourinary, musculoskeletal.

Uses: Burdock is one of the most widely used alteratives (blood cleanser). The high inulin content of the root suggests it works as an osmotic diuretic, thereby increasing the removal of fluids and wastes through the kidneys. Used over an extended period, this plant is most valuable for protecting against the buildup of waste products in the tissues and acts as one of the best tonic correctives of skin disorders such as acne, boils, psoriasis, and dry, scaly eczema. (Echinacea is better used to treat active acute toxicity that manifests as skin eruptions.) Burdock contains essential oils that have diaphoretic action; taken internally, these volatile oils promote elimination of wastes through sweating. This is most efficient for clearing conditions such as boils, sties, canker sores, and other infections. Along with this diuretic action, Burdock seeds promote kidney function, helping the body clear excessive blood acidity and kidney-related toxemia, which helps clear joint inflammation of the extremities. Burdock stimulates appetite and flow of digestive juices, especially bile secretions, due to its bitter properties and hepatic actions. Over time, the alterative action of Burdock enhances metabolic processes and builds the body to a state of health, treating the surface indicators of poor health, such as skin disease, aching joints, and sluggishness of the reproductive organs.

Combinations: Used internally with Sarsaparilla, Cleavers, Yellow Dock, and Red Clover for skin problems. Decocted with Comfrey root and taken internally for treating chronic persistent skin ulcers. Combines well with Saw Palmetto, Damiana, and Sarsaparilla for strengthening male reproductive organs.

Affects on specific body types: Along with Dandelion, Burdock is probably the premier tonic for the Warrior. It gently cleans liver and kidneys, counteracting the Warrior’s anabolic nature. An osmotic diuretic relieving sodium retention, it increases urine volume and associated waste-product excretion. Burdock is a useful cleanser for skin and musculoskeletal problems caused by toxicity or accumulated metabolic waste, and it is high in alkalinizing minerals that help buffer the blood against acidic conditions. A tincture of the seed is excellent for treating hot, red inflamed joints. Although it’s a primary Warrior tonic, this herb is a gentle cleanser and, combined with other nutritive tonics, is a reasonable alterative for Seers with skin imbalances. Burdock is nontoxic and remains effective when used over a long period.

Preparations/dosage: Infusion: Prepare a cold infusion of the root and take 1 cup three times a day. Decoction: Decoct the seeds and take 1/2 cup three times a day for at least two weeks. If diuretic action is too great, drink the last portion in late afternoon rather than evening. Tincture: Take up to 20 to 50 drops three times a day.

By James Green, Herbalist, copyright 2008

For more information please refer to James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition