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Burdock (Arctium lappa)

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Also listed as: Arctium lappa
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Akujitsu, anthraxivore, arctigenin, arctii, arctiin, arctiol, Arctium lappa Linné, Arctium minus, Arctium tomentosa, Arctium tomentosum Mill., Asteraceae (family), balm, bardana, Bardanae radix, bardane, bardane grande (French), beggar's buttons, burdock root, burr, burr seed, carbohydrate inulin, chin, clot-burr, clotbur, cockle button, cocklebur, cocklebuttons, Compositae (family), cuckold, daiki kishi, daucosterol, edible burdock, fatty oils, fox's clote, fukinanolide, fukinone, grass burdock, great bur, great burdock, great burdocks, gobo (Japan), grosse Klette (German), happy major, hardock, hare burr, hurrburr, Kletterwurzel (German), lampazo (Spanish), lappaol, lappola, lignin, love leaves, neoarctin, niu bang zi, oil of lappa, mataresinol, personata, petastilone, Philanthropium, polyacetylonenes, polysaccharides/mucilages (xyloglucan), sequisterpene lactones, sterols, sulfur-containing polyacetylenes, tannins, thorny burr, turkey burrseed, volatile oils, wild gobo, woo-bang-ja.
  • Combination product example: Essiac® (Resperin Canada Limited, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada), a blend of at least four herbs (burdock root [Arctium lappa], Indian rhubarb [Rheum palmatum], sheep sorrel [Rumex acetosella], and the inner bark of slippery elm [Ulmus fulva or U. rubra]).

Background
  • Burdock has historically been used to treat a wide variety of ailments, including arthritis, diabetes, hair loss, inflammation, and wrinkles. It is a main herbal ingredient in the popular cancer remedies Essiac® (also containing rhubarb, sorrel, and slippery elm) and Hoxsey formula (also containing red clover, poke, prickly ash, bloodroot, and barberry).
  • Burdock fruit has been found to lower blood sugar in animals, and early human studies have examined burdock root for diabetes. Nonhuman studies have explored the use of burdock for bacterial infections, cancer, HIV, and kidney stones. There is currently not enough evidence to support burdock for effectively treating any disease.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


Research suggests possible blood sugar-lowering effects of burdock root or fruit. Additional well-designed studies are needed in this area.

C


Early research suggests that burdock may have anticancer effects. Burdock is an ingredient in the popular purported cancer remedy Essiac®. More research is needed in this area.

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Abscesses, acne, anorexia, aphrodisiac, arthritis, back pain, bacterial infections, bladder disorders, blood thinner, boils, burns, cancer, canker sores, catarrh (mucous membrane inflammation), cosmetic uses, cough, cystitis, dandruff, detoxification, diaphoretic (sweating), diuretic (increasing urine flow), dry skin, fever, fungal infections, gout (inflamed joints), hair loss (baldness), hair tonic, headache, hemorrhoids, HIV infection, hives, hormonal effects, ichthyosis (a skin disorder), inflammation, inflammatory skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis), kidney disease, kidney stones, laxative, lice, liver damage, measles, pain relief, pleurisy (lung inflammation), pneumonia, respiratory infections, rheumatoid arthritis, ringworm, sciatica (back and leg pain), scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), seborrhea (sebaceous gland overactivity), sexual disorders, sexually transmitted diseases (gonorrhea, syphilis), skin aging (wrinkles), skin disorders, sterility, tonsillitis (tonsil inflammation), ulcers, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, urolithiasis (urinary tract stones), warts, wound healing.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • No specific dose of burdock has been proven effective or safe, although a range of doses and types of preparations have been used. Dosing regimens are based on traditional health practice patterns, expert opinion, and anecdote. Reliable human trials demonstrating safety or efficacy from a particular dose are lacking.
  • Burdock as a cracker or dried root has been taken by mouth. Two 425-475 milligram burdock capsules have been taken by mouth three times daily. A decoction of 2-6 grams of dried burdock root or 500 milliliters of a decoction (1:20) has been taken by mouth daily. As an alcohol extract, 1-12 milliliters (1:5 or 1:10 in 25% or 45% alcohol) has been taken by mouth up to three times daily. As a fluid extract, 2-8 milliliters (1:1 in 25% alcohol) has been taken by mouth three times daily. As a root tea, one teaspoon or 2-6 grams of dried burdock root has been boiled in water up to three times daily.
  • Burdock has been used as a diuretic (to increase urine flow), with preparations from powdered burdock seeds made into a yellow product called oil of lappa.
  • Burdock has been used on the skin as a compress or plaster for inflammatory skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis), baldness, and warts.

Children (younger than 18 years)

  • There is not enough scientific information to recommend the use of burdock in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid with known allergy or sensitivity to burdock, its parts, or members of the Asteraceae or Compositae family, including ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies. Caution should be used in patients with allergies or an intolerance to pectin, because certain parts of the burdock plant contain different levels of pectin complex.
  • Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) has been associated with burdock, in addition to redness of the skin, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and wheezing. Allergic skin reactions have been associated with the use of burdock plasters on the skin.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Burdock is generally safe when taken by mouth or spread on the skin in recommended amounts and when consumed as a vegetable.
  • Burdock may alter blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Burdock may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or those taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Use cautiously in children and in people with dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, glucose intolerance, and heart problems. Use cautiously in people taking diuretics (agents that increase urination) and agents that reduce blood clots or platelet aggregation. Use cautiously in people with allergies or intolerance to pectin, because certain parts of the burdock plant contain pectin.
  • Avoid with known allergy to burdock, its parts, or members of the Asteraceae or Compositae families, including ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies. Avoid during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Avoid contaminated burdock products, because burdock root tea has been associated with atropine poisoning. Avoid contact with the eyes, due to reports of the plant's needles becoming stuck in the eye and of burdock-induced eye inflammation.
  • Burdock may also cause anticholinergic effects (blocking acetylcholine), blisters, estrogenic effects, eye trauma or inflammation, increased urine output, inhibition of platelet-activating factor (PAF) binding, itching, low heart rate, oxytocin-like effects, rash, redness of the skin, and stimulation of the uterus.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

  • Burdock may cause oxytocin-like effects and stimulate the uterus. Due to limited scientific study, burdock is not considered safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • Many tinctures contain high levels of alcohol and should be avoided during pregnancy.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Burdock may alter blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also alter blood sugar. People taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Burdock may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • Because burdock contains estrogen-like chemicals, the effects of other agents believed to have estrogen-like properties may be altered.
  • Burdock may also interact with agents for cancer, inflammation, or gout; agents for HIV; agents for the heart; agents that increase urination; antibiotics; disulfiram (Antabuse®); hormonal agents; and metronidazole (Flagyl®).

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Burdock may alter blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also alter blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
  • Burdock may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • Because burdock contains estrogen-like chemicals, the effects of other agents believed to have estrogen-like properties may be altered.
  • Burdock may also interact with antibacterials; antioxidants; antivirals; herbs and supplements for cancer, inflammation, or gout; herbs and supplements for the heart; herbs and supplements that increase urination; hormonal herbs and supplements; ginger; and nondigestible oligosaccharides.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Cicero, A. F., Derosa, G., and Gaddi, A. What do herbalists suggest to diabetic patients in order to improve glycemic control? Evaluation of scientific evidence and potential risks. Acta Diabetol. 2004;41(3):91-98.
  2. Chan, Y. S., Cheng, L. N., Wu, J. H., Chan, E., Kwan, Y. W., Lee, S. M., Leung, G. P., Yu, P. H., and Chan, S. W. A review of the pharmacological effects of Arctium lappa (burdock). Inflammopharmacology. 2011;19(5):245-254.
  3. Fan, H., De-Qiang, D., Yu, S., Lin, Z., Hong-Bin, X., and Ting-Guo, K. Plasma pharmacokinetics and tissue distribution of arctiin and its main metabolite in rats by HPLC-UV and LC-MS. Planta Med 2012;78(8):800-806.
  4. Flickinger EA, Hatch TF, Wofford RC, et al. In vitro fermentation properties of selected fructooligosaccharide-containing vegetables and in vivo colonic microbial populations are affected by the diets of healthy human infants. J Nutr 2002;132(8):2188-2194.
  5. Hirose, M., Yamaguchi, T., Lin, C., Kimoto, N., Futakuchi, M., Kono, T., Nishibe, S., and Shirai, T. Effects of arctiin on PhIP-induced mammary, colon and pancreatic carcinogenesis in female Sprague-Dawley rats and MeIQx-induced hepatocarcinogenesis in male F344 rats. Cancer Lett. 7-3-2000;155(1):79-88.
  6. Holetz FB, Pessini GL, Sanches NR, et al. Screening of some plants used in the Brazilian folk medicine for the treatment of infectious diseases. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 2002;97(7):1027-1031.
  7. Kasai, H., Fukada, S., Yamaizumi, Z., Sugie, S., and Mori, H. Action of chlorogenic acid in vegetables and fruits as an inhibitor of 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine formation in vitro and in a rat carcinogenesis model. Food Chem Toxicol 2000;38(5):467-471.
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  9. Lee, Y. J., Choi, D. H., Cho, G. H., Kim, J. S., Kang, D. G., and Lee, H. S. Arctium lappa ameliorates endothelial dysfunction in rats fed with high fat/cholesterol diets. BMC.Complement Altern.Med 2012;12:116.
  10. Lin, S. C., Chung, T. C., Lin, C. C., Ueng, T. H., Lin, Y. H., Lin, S. Y., and Wang, L. Y. Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa on carbon tetrachloride- and acetaminophen-induced liver damage. Am J Chin Med 2000;28(2):163-173.
  11. Lin SC, Lin CH, Lin CC, et al. Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa Linne on liver injuries induced by chronic ethanol consumption and potentiated by carbon tetrachloride. J Biomed Sci 2002;9(5):401-409.
  12. Sasaki Y, Kimura Y, Tsunoda T, et al. Anaphylaxis due to burdock. Int J Dermatol 2003;42(6):472-473.
  13. Sera, N., Morita, K., Nagasoe, M., Tokieda, H., Kitaura, T., and Tokiwa, H. Binding effect of polychlorinated compounds and environmental carcinogens on rice bran fiber. J.Nutr.Biochem. 2005;16(1):50-58.
  14. Wang, W., Pan, Q., Han, X. Y., Wang, J., Tan, R. Q., He, F., Dou, D. Q., and Kang, T. G. Simultaneous determination of arctiin and its metabolites in rat urine and feces by HPLC. Fitoterapia 2-1-2013;86C:6-12.
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Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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