Burdock - Interactions, Side Effects and Precautions of Use-Herbal Medicines

Burdock - Interactions, Side Effects and Precautions of Use-Herbal Medicines

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Taxonomic Class


Common Trade Names

Multi-ingredient preparations: Anthraxiviore, Burdock Blend Extract, Burdock Root, Burdock Sarsaparilla Compound

Common Forms

Available as capsules (425 mg, 475 mg, cream for topical administration, dried root, liquid extract, tea, and tincture (made from crushed seeds).


The crude drug is extracted from the dried root of the great burdock, Arctium lappa, or common burdock, Arctium minus. The seeds and leaves of burdock plants have also been used in folk medicine. Burdock is a large biennial herb grown in China, Europe, and the United States. The plant can be identified in the spring by the round heads of its purple flowers.

Chemical Components

The principal component of burdock root is a carbohydrate, inulin, which can account for up to 50% of the total plant mass. Additional components include anthroquinone glycosides; nonhydroxy acids; a plant hormone, gamma-guanidino-n-butyric acid; polyacetylenes; polyphenolic acids; tannins; and volatile acids. Seeds contain chlorogenic acid, fixed oils, a germacranolide, a glycoside (arctiin), Iignans, and other compounds. Some commercial teas that contain burdock have been prone to contamination with atropine.


Burdock is claimed to exert antimicrobial, antipyretic, diaphoretic, and diuretic activities. Uterine stimulation has been reported in in vivo studies. In animal studies, burdock extracts have reportedly demonstrated strong hypoglycemic activity and antagonism of platelet activating factor .

Various in vitro and animal studies have found that burdock possesses antimutagenic effects .

Reported Uses

Burdock is claimed to be useful for a wide range of ailments, including arthritis; cystitis; gout; hemorrhoids; lumbar pain; rheumatism; sciatica; skin disorders, such as acne, canker sores, dry skin, eczema, and psoriasis; and ulcers. It has also been used as a blood purifier. In the Far East, burdock is used to treat cancer, impotence, and sterility. Some studies have reported the use of burdock in the treatment of kidney stones and HIV infection.


Burdock is taken internally as a tea or used externally as a compress.

Dried root: 2 to 6 g P.O. t.i.d.

Liquid extract (1:1 in 25% alcohol): 2 to 8 ml P.O. t.i.d.

Tea: I cup P.O. t.i.d. or q.i.d.

Tincture (1:10 in 45% alcohol): 8 to 12 ml P.O. t.i.d.

Adverse Reactions

Skin: allergic dermatitis.

Other: allergic reactions.


Insulin, oral antidiabetics: May increase hypoglycemic effects. Avoid administration with burdock.

Contraindications And Precautions

Burdock is contraindicated during pregnancy-especially in the first trimester-because of the effects of anthraquinone glycosides found in the roots of burdock plants. It is also contraindicated in patients who are hypersensitive to the herb or related plant species.

Special Considerations

Allergic reactions have been demonstrated in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Other members of this family include chrysanthemum, daisy, mangold, and ragweed.

Alert Poisoning caused by atropine contamination of some commercial burdock teas can occur. Signs and symptoms of toxicity include blurred vision, dilated pupils, and rapid pulse rate. Treatment, if needed, includes physostigmine reversal .

Inform the patient that burdock products may be significantly contaminated with atropine and that toxicity has resulted from this contamination.

Inform the diabetic patient that burdock may increase the risk of hypoglycemia and that insulin or oral antidiabetic drug doses may need to be reduced.

Inform the patient that few scientific data evaluate burdock's effects in humans.

Caution women to avoid using burdock during pregnancy or when breast-feeding.

Points of Interest

Burdock root is commonly eaten in Asia, less often in the United States.


Animal and in vitro studies suggest that burdock use might offer therapeutic benefits. Clinical trials are needed to support these claims. Also, data regarding the safety and efficacy of burdock are lacking.

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