The burdock plant demands a lot of attention because of its large leaves. Ancient classical authors used the leaves of burdock as masks to cover up their faces. Hence, the plant was given the name of personatia, since theater masks were called “persona.”
We do not know how the effects of this plant on the skin were discovered. Perhaps one of those actors had acne or furuncles on his face, and after some plays, the appearance of his skin improved.
Whether this is true or not, the medicinal properties of burdock have been known for many ages and were noted by Dioscorides, the great Greek physician of the first century A.D. However, in the modern era, the properties of this plant were celebrated up to a point it was called “cure-all.” The famous London physician of the eighteenth century, John Hill, thought that burdock was the ultimate solution for gout; unfortunately, he died at age 59, suffering from intense gout attacks.
Burdock Plant Scientific Facts
- Other names: Bardana, burr seed, clotbur, cocklebur, grass burdock, hardock, hareburr, hurrburr, turkey burrseed, great burdock.
- French: Bardane
- Spanish: Bardana
- Environment: It grows near roads and populated places, where human or animal excretions be abundant. Very common in warm regions of Europe and America.
- Description: Strong plant of the Compositae family, growing up to one meter high. It is a biennial plant that takes two years to flower. It has large leaves, half a meter wide, or even more. The flower heads are surrounded by thorns, which allow them to stick to clothes and hair. From their upper part, small purple or pink flowers grow. This plant is sometimes mistaken for Arctium minus, which has similar properties. It is considered to be one of the burdock look alikes.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The root and the leaves when fresh. They are gathered in the spring (just before blooming) of the plant’s second year.
Preparation and Use
- Infusion with 50g of root per liter of water. Drink two or three daily cups.
- Cold extract of 20-30g of ground root in a liter of water, steeping for six hours. Boil the resulting liquid for one minute. Drink two or three cups daily. This method enhances its depurative properties.
- Compresses: Made with the same infusion or decoction taken internally but slightly more concentrated. Apply from two to six times a day, for 10-15 minutes.
- Poultices: With mashed fresh leaves, or the root, well-boiled, make a paste and apply it on the affected skin for around 10 minutes, several times a day.
- Lotions: Applied with the fresh juice of the plant.
The root and leaves of burdock contain different active components which explain its properties:
- Antibiotic: Artiopicrine, mainly contained in the root, is a plant antibiotic of the glycosidic type, proven to be especially effective against staphylococcus, a germ that causes many skin infections. Its use in external (compresses, poultices, lotions) and internal (infusion or cold extract) applications are recommended for skin infections caused by staphylococci, such as abscesses and furuncles gumboils, adenitis, and infected sebaceous cysts.
It is also helpful for chronic eczema, acne, and eruptive infectious diseases (measles, chickenpox, scarlet fever, etc.) The antibiotic properties of burdock are eliminated through the urine and are thus recommended for cystitis and recidivist urinary infections.
- Depurative: Because of its content in essential oil and mineral salts rich in potassium, burdock is an excellent sudorific and depurative plant. It promotes the elimination of waste substances through the skin. Thus, the skin, which is also an excreting organ, frees itself of impurities. Its mild diuretic properties also contribute to this action. It is recommended for gout (excess of uric acid), arthritis, and renal lithiasis.
- Hypoglycemic: Burdock root decreases the sugar level in the blood, partially because of its content in inulin (a carbohydrate that is useful for people who have diabetes). It produces fantastic results as a complement for diabetes treatment, allowing the patient to reduce insulin or antidiabetic medicines.
- Hair invigorant: Some people use burdock, with unequal success, applied on the scalp as compresses or lotion, intending to grow hair.
The maximum cleaning and beauty effects of burdock on the skin are achieved by drinking herbal teas and at the same time applying it externally.
Burdock Plant Root Recipes
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 697, 698. Print.[burdock plant]