Aretium lappa, Compositae. It is also known as great burdock, clotbur, beggars buttons, lappa and cockle buttons.

The roots, seeds and leaves of the plants are used.

The roots are harvested in the autumn.

Functions of burdock

Burdock is a valuable herb for the treatment of skin conditions which result in dry, scaly skin.


  • is a blood cleanser for detoxification and hastening the removal of toxins from the body. The roots, leaves and seeds are all bitter which stimulates the digestion and liver action and pancreas activity. They can be used to strengthen the digestion, relieve wind, distension and indigestion and act as a mild laxative. It assists with the re-establishment of healthy bowel bacteria and is a remedy for bacterial and fungal infections particularly in the bowel. This aspect also makes it useful in dry, scaly skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis (chronic skin conditions can only be healed from within using internal remedies). The treatment needs to be carried out over some period of time. It is also reported to be effective in the treatment of dandruff when systemic toxic conditions are the cause of the problem.
  • has mild diuretic properties which aids in the elimination of toxins. It can be used for cystitis, water retention and stones (including kidney and gallstones, especially when combined with catnip).
  • aids in the removal of toxins from the skin as it causes sweating if it is taken as a hot decoction. This can also help in bringing down a fever and can be taken at the onset of any infection which has the symptoms of a fever.
  • seeds are effective for treating sore throats, tonsillitis, colds and coughs.
  • helps to bring out eruptions in infections such as chickenpox.
  • is also useful in conditions such as gout, arthritis and rheumatism.

Notes on burdock

  • It is best to start with small doses of this herb and build up as appropriate. Excessive use may lead to a severe release of the toxins into the blood stream.


Decoction: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times per day.

Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times per day.

For the gardener

Burdock will grow in a range of climates from warm humid regions to those with very cold winters. In frosty areas the leaves will die back completely but the roots will survive air temperatures as low as -10 degrees C re-shooting in the spring.

Burdock can be grown from seed planted in the spring or autumn into most soils. If you want strong root development the soil needs to be deeply dug, sandy loam. Burdock does not like acid soils and plants prefer full sun and good drainage. Mulching will help to keep the weeds under control and reduces the need for watering.

The seeds sprout more readily if they are soaked in water overnight.



Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

Hoffmann, D. 2001, Healthy Bones and Joints. Newleaf.

Hoffmann, F. and Manning M. 2002, Herbal Medicine and Botanical Medical Fads. The Haworth Press.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.




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