Burdock (Niu Bang Zi)

Botanical Name: Western – Articum lappa, Articum lappa L.(or Articum minus).  Eastern – Fructus Arctii Lappae.

Burdock is well known for cleansing the blood and helping to clear various skin conditions from acne to psoriasis. It is a medicinal and culinary herb used in the West and East. Medicinally, the root is popular in the West, and in the East, the fruit/seeds are used medicinally. Both use the root in culinary dishes.

Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – Using Burdock East And West.

Below is an overview of burdock, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. 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: Blood, Liver, Cardiovascular, Digestive, Skin, Kidney, Bladder

Key Actions: Antibacterial, Digestive, Anti-inflammatory, Diuretic, Lymphatic, Alterative, Decongestant, Diaphoretic, Mild Laxative, Antipyretic, Expectorant, Anti-toxic

Medicinal Uses: Cleanses blood, psoriasis, coughs, rashes, hepatitis, sore throat, liver tonic, hair growth, anorexia.


Pin Yin: Niu Bang Zi (fruit/seeds)

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

Meridians: Lung, Stomach

Key Actions: Cool Acrid Herb that Releases to the Exterior, Clears Wind Heat, Benefits the Throat, Clears Heat, Relieves Toxicity, Vents Rashes, Moistens Intestines

Medicinal Uses: Pneumonia, fever, cough, sore, red swollen throat, red swellings, carbuncles, mumps, acute febrile rashes, hemorrhoids, early stages of measles when there is an incomplete expression of the rash, eczema, acne, psoriasis, constipation.

Basic Habitat / Botany:

Burdock is a biennial 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, it is now cultivated in China, Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, the U.S., and Canada.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Western – Root, Leaf, Seed. Eastern – Fruit/Seeds(medicinal), Root(culinary).

Flavors/Temps: Acrid, Bitter, Cold

Caution: Considered safe.

Key Constituents: 50% Inulin, Mucilage, Arctiin, Arachidic acid, Gobosterin, Essential and Fatty Oils

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 fuzzy bear that will grab onto its surroundings to spread its seed, hence the botanical 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 plant’s large leaves.

The roots can be eaten raw or cooked and young leaves can be cooked like any other vegetable. The stalks taste like asparagus and can be eaten raw, boiled, or candied with sugar.

Culpepper considered burdock to be a feminine 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 beer. The modern-day herbalists Moore and Hoffman consider burdock the best-known herbal treatment for skin conditions because it promotes bile flow and increases circulation to the skin, helping to release toxins.

Inulin is a carbohydrate that strengthens the liver, helping treat hepatitis. The high concentrations of inulin and mucilage found in burdock, aid its soothing effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Burdock also stimulates the appetite and is considered useful 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 the root easily discolors once peeled, you’ll need to soak it in a mild vinegar solution 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 discolor, scrub it clean and store it in a dry cool place. Peeled and parboiled for a minute to remove the bitter flavor, the roots taste 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 greyish outer skin. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) the seeds/fruit are mostly used while the roots are mostly eaten as food and used as part of dietary therapies. The roots are 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.

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 plant’s 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 have entirely different properties but are often mistaken for one another.

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