Arctium minus & spp. – Burdock

BurdockArctium minus & spp.

Arctium = L. for “bear”;

minus = L. for “smaller”;

Identification: These large biennial herbs stand 1 – 2.5 m tall and have broad alternate leaves with several flower heads. The leaves are ovate to oblong, even cordate and up to 50 cm long. The flowers are tubular, pink or purplish. The seeds are borne in prickly burrs.

Distribution & Habitat: The plant was introduced from Europe and now grows in waste lands throughout North America.

Preparation & Uses: I find the young shoots and leaves are quite tasty cooked as a pot herb, but some consider them too strong. The inner pith-like material of the stems can be eaten raw. The roots are eaten both boiled and roasted and are often used as a coffee substitute.

An infusion of the roots is used as a cleansing tea, especially in the spring. It cleanses the liver by stimulating bile flow and has a mild laxative effect. The tea or a tincture of the roots has been used for stomach complaints and for a prolapsed uterus. A decoction of the roots is used for gout and rheumatism, to wash sores and as an antidote after eating poisonous food, especially mushrooms. The powdered seeds have been used as a diuretic. The leaves can be used as a poultice for poison ivy, poison oak, to soothe skin irritations, for impetigo, syphilis, gonorrhea and sunburn.

The seeds are an excellent diuretic. A tincture of the seed has been used as a folk remedy for joint inflammation.

Caution: Burdock seeds should not be used in pregnancy as it can cause spotting and even the rare case of miscarriage.