Greater Burdock

Arctium lappa

Greater Burdock is a biennial plant with crimson-violet flowers. The flower heads produce the famous ‘burrs’ that give Burdock its name.

The plant is typically found on waste ground in cities, towns and the countryside.

Greater Burdock has been used as medicine in China for more than 3000 years1. Its Latin name comes from the Greek word ‘arktos’, meaning ‘bear’, alluding to the roughness of its thistley burr.

In Old English, the name for Burdock was herrif, aireve, or airup, derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘hoeg’, a hedge, and ‘reafe’, a robber.

Traditional uses
  • Greater Burdock treats diseases of the respiratory tract2
  • It is commonly used to treat skin diseases such as boils, rashes and other skin problems such as herpes, eczema, acne and impetigo2,3
  • Burdock was also used to treat symptoms of gout2
  • Greater Burdock contains tannins, inulin and mucilage. The last soothes and calms irritations to the skin due to its moisturising qualities
  • Greater Burdock has anti-inflammatory properties1 (in vitro & in vivo evidence)
  • The species also has anti-microbial and anit-viral properties1
  • Burdock can be used as an anti-fungal 1
  • The plant can also be used as a diuretic3, encouraging the production of urine which helps to get rid of waste material in the body
How it can be used
  • A boiled-down concentrate of the root can be applied externally to treat wounds and eczema4
  • Do not used if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Evidence for claimed efficacy is not strong and German Commision E do not recommend therapeutic applications of this plant2
  • Hairs from the seeds are toxic when inhaled5
  • Can cause allergic reactions5
  • Contact dermatitis caused by A. Lappa preparations have been reported4
The information provided here is only intended to augment people's awareness and knowledge of the properties and uses of some plants. This information is not intended to substitute advice from a physician and is not a substitute for professional medical care. The authors do not recommend collecting and using wild plants from an urban environment as these can be contaminated by several types of pollutants that are harmful to human health.

Although references are provided and information has been compiled with care, errors may be present. The remedies listed here should not be used without prior consultation with a qualified healthcare professional. The authors are not responsible for any adverse effect or consequences resulting from the use of the information published in this website.
  • In vitro evidence: evidence from studies using isolated components of living organisms such as cells or purified molecules
  • In vivo evidence: evidence from studies with whole living organisms
  • Clinical trial evidence: evidence from clinical trials conducted with humans
  1.  Jones, P. Just weeds: history, myths, and uses. (Prentice Hall Press, 1991).
  2. Blumenthal, M., Ph.D, W. R. B. & Goldberg, A. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. (Elsevier Health Sciences, 1999).
  3. Crellin, J. K. & Bass, A. L. T. Herbal Medicine Past and Present: A reference guide to medicinal plants. (Duke University Press, 1990).
  4. Chan, Y.-S. et al. A review of the pharmacological effects of Arctium lappa (burdock). Inflammopharmacology 19, 245–254 (2011).
  5. Plants for a future database:
  6. Panda, H. Handbook On Medicinal Herbs With Uses. (National Institute Of Industrial Re, 2004)
  7. Barnes J., Anderson L.A., Phillipson J.D. Herbal Medicines.Third Edition. Pharmaceutical Press (an imprint of RPS Publishing): London, 2007; 102-104.
  8. Blaschek W., Hänsel R., Keller K., Reichling J., Rimpler H., Schneider G. (Hrsg.). Hagers Handbuch der Pharmaeutischen Praxis, Drogen A-K,Vol 5. 2thed.Springer: Berlin Heidelberg, 1998; 140-158.
  9. Final assessment report on Arctium lappa L., radix. European Medicines Agency 2011.
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