Using Burdock as a Health Supplement

burdock in a bowl
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Often touted as an herbal detox remedy in alternative medicine, burdock is a daisy-family plant that grows as a weed in the United States and several other countries.

Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine sometimes blend burdock with other herbs to soothe sore throat and colds. Some proponents claim that burdock can benefit people with arthritis, diabetes, eczema, psoriasis, and cancer.

Health Benefits

Very few scientific studies have explored burdock's health effects. Still, animal-based research suggests that a type of fiber extracted from burdock may promote the growth of probiotics (immune-regulating bacteria naturally present in the human digestive tract). Other tests on animals show that burdock may fight free radicals (chemical by-products known to damage DNA) and alleviate liver damage induced by alcohol consumption.

Burdock is one of the key ingredients of Essiac and Flor-Essence, herbal formulas marketed as wonder remedies for people coping with cancer. While advocates claim that Essiac and Flor-Essence can shrink tumors, prolong survival, provide pain relief, and boost immunity, there's a lack of evidence supporting such claims. What's more, one 2006 study found Essiac and Flor-Essence may actually stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells.

In addition to burdock, Essiac contains slippery elm inner bark, sheep sorrel, and Indian rhubarb root. Flor-Essence includes the same ingredients, as well as watercress, blessed thistle, red clover, and kelp.

Where to Buy It

Many health food stores offer burdock supplements, as well as dried root powder, tinctures, and liquid extracts. Fresh burdock may also be found at grocery stores and farmers markets.


Since burdock may lower blood sugar, anyone on diabetes medication should avoid this herb. Burdock may also worsen dehydration, as well as trigger an allergic reaction in people sensitive to daisies, chrysanthemums, or ragweed.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

Using Burdock for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend burdock for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using burdock for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

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Article Sources
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