Burdock (Niu Bang Zi)

Burdock (Niu Bang Zi)

Botanical Name: Western – Articum lappa L. Eastern – Fructus Arctii Lappae.

Burdock is primarily respected for its blood cleansing and skin healing abilities.  In the West the root is very popular medicinally and in the East (TCM) the fruit/seed is mostly used.  In Asia it is a popular food and in the West it has been parboiled and added to artichoke dishes which also tastes like when cooked this way.

Below is an overview of Burdock, combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Burdock.


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Western Name: Burdock

Also Known As: Bardane, Beggar’s Buttons, Cockle Button

Organs/Systems: Skin, Digestion, Blood

Key Western Actions & Medicinal Uses: Antibiotic, Digestive, Anti-inflammatory, Diuretic, Lymphatic, Alterative, Decongestant, Diaphoretic, Mild Laxative, Antipyretic, Expectorant, Anti-toxic.


Pin Yin: Niu Bang Zi (fruit/seeds)

Also Known As: Gobo, Goboshi, Great Burdock Fruit, Articum

Meridians: Lung, Stomach

Key TCM Actions & Medicinal Uses: Nui Bang Zi (Fructus Arctii Lappae): Cool Acrid Herb that Releases to the Exterior/Clears Wind Heat/Benefits the Throat: pneumonia, fever, cough, sore, red swollen throat.  Clears Heat/Relieves Toxicity: red swellings, carbuncles, mumps, acute febrile rashes, hemrrhoids. Vents Rashes: early stages of measles when there is incomplete expression of the rash. Eczema, acne, psoriasis.  Moistens Intestines: for wind-heat constipation.

Basic Habitat/Botany:

Burdock is a biennal member of the Asteraceae (daisy) family, with long stalks, oblong to cordate, huge hairy leaves and flowers that are pink-red to purple and thistle-like.  Its roots are about an inch wide and can grow to be three feet deep, making them difficult to harvest.  The seeds are picked in the fall, with the roots harvested in the first year or spring of the second year.

Native to Europe and Northern Asia is is now cultivated in China, Japan, Philippines, New Zealand, the U.S. and Canada.

Burdock (Niu Bang Zi) Parts Most Frequently Used: Western – Root, Leaf, Seed. Eastern – Fruit/Seeds, sometimes the Root.

Flavors/Temps: Acrid, Bitter, Cold

Caution: As it is a food it is considered essentially safe.

History/Folklore: The name “Articum” comes from the Greek word for bear and the species name, “lappa” comes from the Latin word, “lappare” which means “to seize”.  The fruit (bur) of the plant is hairy and resembles a fuzy bear that will grab onto its surroundings to spread its seed, therefore the name, “Articum lappa”.  The common name of “burdock” derives from the French word, “bourre” meaning a “tangle of wool” (as it is often entangled with burs) and the German word, “dock” which refers to the plants large leaves.

The roots can be eaten raw or cooked and young leaves can be cooked liked any other vegetable.  The stalks are said to taste a bit like asparagus and can also be eaten raw, boiled or candied with sugar.

Culpeper considered burdock to be a feminie plant.  He said, “The leaves are cooling and moderately drying.  Applied to places troubled with the shrinking of sinews or arteries, gives much ease.  The juice of the leaves, or the roots themselves, given to drink with old wine, doth wonderfully help the biting of any serpents.”

William Cook, in 1869, said burdock mixed with yellow dock, spikenard, elder flowers and ginger could be made into a kind of the modern day herbalists Moore and Hoffman consider burdock to be the best known herbal treatment for skin conditions as it by promoting the flow of bile and increasing the circulation to the skin toxins are released.

Inulin is a carbohydrate that strengthens the liver, helping with the treatment of hepatitis.  The high concentrations of inulin and mucilage aid the soothing effects on the gastrointestinal tract.  As it also stimulates the appetite it is considered good for treating anorexia nervosa.

Burdock is considered helpful in cell regeneration and treating Crohn’s disease.

The fresh root has a distinct aroma and is used as a coffee substitute.  As the white flesh of th root easily discolors once peeled, you’ll need to soak it in mild vinegar solsution until you are ready to cook it to maintain its white color.  Remember this too when harvesting the plant: do not peel off the skin or it will begin to immediately discolor, just scrub it clean and store in a dry cool place.  Peeled and parboiled for a minute to remove the bitter flavor, the roots will taste a bit like artichoke hearts and are delicious if served with them or in salads.  They can be pickled too.

In China good quality fruit/seeds are large and full with a greyish red outer skin.  The seeds/fruit are mostly used medicinally in China and the roots are mostly eaten as a food and as part of dietary therapy.  The roots are very popular in many dishes, especially in Japan. It was introduced from China to Japan around A.D. 940.

Recently it has become an ingredient in hair tonics as it helps treat mature skin and aid hair growth.

Key Constituents:

50% Inulin, Mucilage, Arctiin, Arachidic acid, Gobosterin, Essential and Fatty Oils.

Did you know?

Velcro's Inspiration

The inspiration for Velcro came from the burdock bur. The Swiss inventor was hiking and noticed how much the burs stuck to his socks. He examined the plants hooks and duplicated their gripping action in the lab.


Used in Sushi

The entire plant is edible and is popularly used as a vegetable in Asia. It is even added to some Sushi rolls.

Fun fact!


Do not confuse Burdock with Cocklebur (Xanthium spp.) They each have entirely different properties but are often mistook for one another.


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