Edible Wild Plants: Burdock (Arctium Lappa)

Edible Wid Plant BurdockBurdock (Arctium Lappa) has been traditionally used as a skin remedy for acne, boils, abscesses, eczema and psoriasis. It can be taken alone or mixed with other herbs such as dandelion root or yellow dock root, to balance its strong cleansing action. Burdock can occasionally worsen skin conditions initially due to its strong detoxifying action. To avoid this, build up the dosage gradually.

Historically burdock root has been described as an “alterative” and a “blood purifier” and was believed to clear toxins from the bloodstream and restore liver and gallbladder function. It is considered an immune system stimulator and relieves gout symptoms. Ancient Chinese medicine combined burdock root with other herbs to treat colds, measles, sore throats, and tonsillitis. The Japanese consume burdock root as a vegetable.

As a food-plant the usually common, throughout southern Canada and the more norther United States, and much despised Burdock (Arctium Lappa) has greater possibilities than the neglected Pigweed.

Edible Burdock Plant Weed

In fact, in Japan an esculent garden variety has been developed and, according to some authors, it is in that country “as important as potato is here”; and a century ago the great French botanist, Poiret, expressed astonishment that Burdock was not generally found in French kitchens.

In many parts of Europe Burdock-roots, young leaves and young stems have been much used for food. The roots, at the end of the first season, are described as tender, nutritious, of excellent flavor, in this as well as in form and size resembling salsify, like which they are cooked.

Medicinal Uses for Edible Wild Plant Burdock

Our experiments, following this suggestion, have been surprisingly successful. The tender pith of the root and the leaf-stalks when young, before the stem has begun to lengthen, boiled in two waters (with a little soda in the first water, to break the tough fibers, salt in the second water), make a really palatable and unusual potherb.

Edible Wild Plants of North America: BurdockThe young stems, which are often an inch or more in diameter, are gathered before the flower-heads are well formed, in late spring or early summer, and carefully peeled, great care being taken to remove every shred of the tough, strong-smelling and bitter rind. The remaining pith is a half-inch or more thick, tender, and succulent and, when cooked in two or more water (to remove the strong taste), makes a superior vegetable, in flavor like salsify.

Surely, when our sophisticated tastes have been trained to favor the Burdock (Arctium Lappa), there should be no trouble in exterminating this now obnoxious weed from many back yards.

Edible Parts

  • Leaves
  • Root
  • Seed
  • Stem


Root – raw or cooked. Very young roots can be eaten raw, but older roots are normally cooked. They can be up to 120cm long and 2.5cm wide at the top, but are best harvested when no more than 60cm long.

Old and very long roots are apt to become woody at the core. Although it does not have much flavor the root can absorb other flavors. Young roots have a mild flavor, but this becomes stronger as the root gets older.

The root is white but discolors rapidly when exposed to the air. Roots can be dried for later use. They contain about 2.5% protein, 0.14% fat, 14.5% carbohydrate, 1.17% ash.

The root contains about 45% inulin. Inulin is a starch that cannot be digested by the human body, and thus passes straight through the digestive system. In some people this starch will cause fermentation in the gut, resulting in wind. Inulin can be converted into a sweetener that is suitable for diabetics to eat.

Young leaves – raw or cooked. A mucilaginous texture. The leaves contain about 3.5% protein, 1.8% fat, 19.4% carbohydrate, 8.8% ash.

Young stalks and branches – raw or cooked. Used like asparagus or spinach. They taste best if the rind is removed. The leaf stalks can be parboiled and used as a substitute for cardoons. The pith of the flowering stem can be eaten raw in salads, boiled or made into confections. A delicate vegetable, somewhat like asparagus in flavor.

The seeds can be sprouted and used like bean-sprouts.

Medicinal Uses

Burdock is one of the foremost detoxifying herbs in both Chinese and Western herbal medicine.

The dried root of one year old plants is the official herb, but the leaves and fruits can also be used. It is used to treat conditions caused by an ‘overload’ of toxins, such as throat and other infections, boils, rashes and other skin problems.

The root is thought to be particularly good at helping to eliminate heavy metals from the body.

The plant is also part of a North American formula called essiac which is a popular treatment for cancer. Its effectiveness has never been reliably proven or disproven since controlled studies have not been carried out.

The other herbs included in the formula are Rumex acetosella, Ulmus rubra and Rheum palmatum.

The plant is antibacterial, antifungal, carminative.

It has soothing, mucilaginous properties and is said to be one of the most certain cures for many types of skin diseases, burns, bruises etc.

It is used in the treatment of herpes, eczema, acne, impetigo, ringworm, boils, bites etc].

The plant can be taken internally as an infusion, or used externally as a wash. Use with caution.

The roots of one-year old plants are harvested in mid-summer and dried. They are alterative, aperient, blood purifier, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and stomachic.

The seed is alterative, antiphlogistic, depurative, diaphoretic and diuretic.

Recent research has shown that seed extracts lower blood sugar levels.

The seed is harvested in the summer and dried for later use. The crushed seed is poulticed onto bruises. The leaves are poulticed onto burns, ulcers and sores.

Other Uses

The juice of the plant, when used as a friction, is said to have a stimulating action against baldness.

Where Does Burdock (Arctium Lappa) Grow?

Burdock Arctium Lappa Growing Area

How To Identify Burdock (Arctium Lappa)

Burdock (Arctium Lappa) Leaves

Rosette leaves are broadly heart-shaped, 6-18 inches long, 4-14 inches wide, with hollow petioles and wavy and toothed margins.  The undersides of these leaves are loosely hairy and light green.  Stem leaves are much smaller, alternate, and egg-shaped.

Burdock (Arctium Lappa) Flowers

Occur in clusters at the ends of branches (terminal racemes) or in clusters that arise from the region between the stem and leaves (axillary racemes).  Flowers are purple to lavender, occasionally white, with outer bracts that are “hooked.”  Flowers dry to a bur, and the hooked bracts are often confused with a thistle.

Burdock (Arctium Lappa) Fruit

An achene, mottled dark-gray to black, 4-7 mm long, with a pappus of short bristles.

Burdock (Arctium Lappa) Stems

Produced during the second year of growth.  Stems are erect, branched, hollow, hairy, and ridged. Stems may reach 5 ft in height.

Burdock (Arctium Lappa) Seedlings
Cotyledons are egg-shaped and widest near the apex (obovate) with a waxy surface.  Young leaves are also egg-shaped, except at the truncated base.

Burdock (Arctium Lappa)

Large taproot.



2 Responses to “Edible Wild Plants: Burdock (Arctium Lappa)”

  1. Roseann says:

    Hi I have many burdock plants on my place, so I decided to try them. I picked the young steams, cooked them twice and added olive oil and garlic, they tasted like asparagus. The larger thicker steams I plead boiled and then dipped in egg and bread crumb and then fired them. They also were very good. I have not tired the roots, I did try the leaves but they were to bitter. I enjoyed watching your video. Thank You

    • Suzanne says:

      Hello, I saw your site while researching the ingredients to make Essiac for my boyfriend who was recently diagnosed with Non Hodkins Lymphoma. You mentioned that it grows at your place so I would like to know if I may please get some Burdock plants from you or if you know where I can get some. You can call me at (714) 659-8131. Thank you for any help you can give us. God bless.

      Suzanne Reed

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