What is Burdock Root? Benefits & Side Effects

Burdock root is the underground tuber of the burdock plant and is used as a vegetable and a medicinal herb. Though it is native to northern Europe and Siberia, burdock root, also known as gobo, is quite popular in Japan.

This herb root has been used for thousands of years as a blood purifier and as treatment of skin conditions like eczema. It contains small quantities of many vital nutrients like folic acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, niacin, pyridoxine, iron, manganese, zinc, calcium, selenium, and phosphorus.


Let us learn some more about this root and its health benefits.

What is burdock root?

Burdock root, scientifically known as Arctium lappa, is a genus of biennial plants in the Asteraceae family. It has large heart-shaped leaves and produces bright pink to purple flowers in spring and autumn.

The burdock plant grows to about a meter in height. Its deep roots grow to about 2-3 feet in length and are brownish-green or almost black on the outside.

The flavor of burdock root resembles the taste of parsnips, and they are crispy with a thick consistency.

It is rich in oils, and plant compounds called tannins and sterols.

Nutritional profile

Burdock root is low in calories and is a good source of non-starch polysaccharides such as inulin, glucoside-lappin, and mucilage. One cup of burdock root contains (1) –

  • Calories: 85
  • Protein: 1.8 grams
  • Fat: .2 grams
  • Carbohydrate: 20.5 grams
  • Fiber: 3.9 grams
  • Sugar: 3.42 grams
  • Vitamin B6: .3 milligrams (14% DV)
  • Manganese: .3 milligrams (14% DV)
  • Magnesium: 44.8 milligrams (11% DV)
  • Potassium: 363 milligrams (10% DV)
  • Folate: 27.1 micrograms (7% DV)
  • Vitamin C: 3.5 milligrams (6% DV)
  • Phosphorus: 60.2 milligrams (6% DV)
  • Calcium: 48.4 milligrams (5% DV)
  • Iron: .9 milligrams (5% DV)
  • Copper : .1 milligrams (5% DV)

Health benefits of burdock root

Burdock root has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It has potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Recent studies have also shown that it contains powerful antioxidants like quercetin and luteolin, which are highly beneficial for health.

1. Helps treat diabetes

Burdock roots contain inulin which helps to slow down the speed of glucose absorption in the body. This quality makes burdock an excellent choice for people who are trying to manage their blood sugar levels.

Burdock roots also contain arctiin and acrtigenin, two natural chemicals that help in lowering the blood sugar levels after a carbohydrate-rich meal.

According to a 2004 study published in a Chinese journal, the volunteers who took burdock extract after a meal experienced lower blood glucose level as compared to the volunteers who received a placebo.

An animal-based study also showed that arctiin present in burdock roots decreases the severity of diabetic complications, especially diabetic retinopathy (2).

2. Blood purifier

Burdock root is used as a blood purifier to clear the bloodstream of toxins. It improves the effectiveness of all the elimination systems of the body. It is an efficient diuretic, which means it encourages the excretion of toxins through the kidneys.

It contains active ingredients that detoxify heavy metals from the blood, and improve organ health.

What is Burdock root infographic

3. Helps treat skin issues

The healing properties of burdock make it a safe and natural remedy for various skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help resolve skin issues when it is applied directly on to the skin.

One study even found that burdock extract can improve the sign of skin aging. According to a 2008 study, burdock extract leads to visible wrinkle reduction, which makes it a useful treatment option for mature skin (3).

4. Strengthens lymphatic system

The lymphatic vessels remove blood proteins and excess water from spaces around the body cells, which allows the cells to receive oxygen. A sluggish lymphatic system results in oxygen-deprived cells, which can lead to various diseases and pains.

Burdock root helps stimulate lymphatic drainage. Because of its lymphatic cleansing ability, burdock helps in fighting cancer, improving liver function, and it also helps improve the skin.

5. Can inhibit some cancers

Burdock root has been used for years to treat cancerous tumors. Recent studies have also shown that burdock contains nutrients that help inhibit certain cancers.

According to a 2000 study, burdock seed extract contains arctiin that helps fight mammary, colon and pancreatic cancer (4).  Burdock includes a lignan called arctigenin which helps prevent cancer by stopping the proliferation of cancer cells (5).

Another study that was published in the Journal of Natural Medicines found that arctigenin, a cancer-specific phytochemical extracted from burdock plant, helps kill human lung cancer cells, human liver cancer cells and human stomach cancer cells (6).

6. Improves kidney function

Burdock root is a natural diuretic. It helps the body get rid of excess water by increasing urine output, which makes the kidneys more efficient.

This root also helps in reducing the chances of developing kidney stones as there is less residue left in the kidneys. So, if you have an issue with water retention, burdock root may be the answer for you.

7. Helps manage arthritis

Burdock root has potent anti-inflammatory properties that assist in the management of arthritis. According to a study published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, burdock root tea improves the inflammatory status and stress in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

The study showed that when 36 patients were given burdock root tea three times a day for 42 days, it significantly lowered their inflammatory markers (7).

Burdock oil is also useful in treating pain related to arthritis. Applying and consuming burdock oil are helpful in treating arthritic pain.

8. Treats enlarged spleen

The spleen helps keep our body free from infections, viruses, and pathogens. The spleen gets enlarged when the immune system is not able to deal with the infection.

Burdock root is exceptionally useful in cleansing and protecting the spleen along with the blood. It improves blood quality, liver health, promotes circulation and fights inflammation.

9. Fights tonsillitis

Burdock root can treat tonsillitis caused by bacterial infection. Burdock enables tissue healing, relieves coughs, sore throat, pain and alleviates inflammation.

10. May treat impotence and sterility

Burdock root has been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac. It is used to treat infertility and sterility in China, and Native Americans also use it for women in labor.

According to a 2012 study, when researchers gave burdock root extracts to male rats, it enhanced their sexual behavior. The aphrodisiac effects of this root may be due to the presence of flavonoids, saponins, lignans, and alkaloids.

The results support the use of these extracts to treat impotence and sterility (8).

11. Improves digestive system

Burdock root contains antioxidants like phenolic acids, quercetin, and luteolin, all of which are very helpful in improving the digestive system. Burdock root helps in treating problems like indigestion, acidity, and constipation.

Side effects

Burdock root is generally considered safe and is often consumed in Asian countries. However, it does have some side effects.

  • Pregnant women should avoid burdock root as it may cause harm to the fetus.
  • Burdock root is a diuretic, and it can be harmful to people who are already dehydrated.
  • If you are taking a diuretic pill, avoid taking this herb as it can increase dehydration.
  • If you are allergic to Compositae family of plants, stay away from burdock.
  • Burdock roots resemble the roots of deadly nightshade or belladonna, which can be highly toxic. So, make sure you purchase it from a reputed company.

Ways to use burdock root

Burdock root is available fresh and also in the form of tea, powder, and extract.

You can purchase fresh burdock root from health stores and Asian specialty stores. Always make sure that you buy these supplements and extracts from a reputed store.

Supplements are not monitored by the Food and Drug, and they can have issues with quality if not purchased from the right store.

Burdock roots can stay fresh for months if kept in a cool well-ventilated area.

To use fresh burdock roots, wash and clean them thoroughly. Peel off the skin like a carrot. You can eat it raw with some salt or pickle it as well.

You can also fry, boil or sauté this root to make dishes like Kinpira gobo, and Japanese sautéed and braised burdock root.

Burdock tea is considered extremely healthy. To make burdock root tea cut fresh and cleaned burdock root into thin slices.


Now dry these slices in the sun for two to three days and cook in a pan without oil till they are crisp. Store these slices in an airtight jar.

To make one cup of tea, boil a cup of water and simmer five to ten burdock tea leaves in it. Brew for ten minutes, and add some honey.

Final thoughts

Burdock root has been used in traditional medicine for years to treat different health conditions. Its benefits include treating diabetes, blood purification, improving kidney function, diabetes control and managing arthritis.

You can have it raw, fry it, make tea with it or have it in the form of supplements. Though generally considered safe, burdock root can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Pregnant women and people who are dehydrated should avoid having burdock root. Make sure that get your burdock root from a reputed seller as it resembles the roots of deadly nightshade or belladonna, which can be highly toxic.


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