by Chrissy Bergey and Shivani Patel
Arctium is a genus of
plants commonly referred to as burdock that is classified in the
Asteraceae (Aster) family (Newcomb 1977; Kemper 1999).Other common names for
burdock include arctii, beggar’s buttons, burr, cocklebuttons, gobo,
hurrburr, sticky buttons, and ngau pong (Kemper 1999; Stephens
2012).The species of
the genus Arctium are
coarse weeds commonly found growing in waste areas with well-drained
soils rich in humus (Newcomb 1977; Foster and Duke 2000; Stephens
indigenous to Europe and Northern Asia and grows wild throughout the
United States due to its introduction by early settlers (Kemper
1999; Stephens 2012).Taxonomists
recognize two species of burdock, Arctium lappa (great
burdock) and Arctium minus
similar physical appearances.They have roots that average two feet long, toothed,
egg-shaped leaves, and reddish purple thistle-like flowers in fruit
producing burrs that readily attach to fur and fabric (Newcomb 1977;
Foster and Duke 2000; Stephens 2012).
Burdock, especially the species A. lappa,is a popular medicinal
plant in folk medicine used to treat a variety of ailments and is
commonly eaten as a vegetable in Japan (Kemper 1999; Kratsova &
has been used therapeutically in Europe, North America, and Asia for
hundreds of years to treat gout, rheumatism, dermatologic
conditions, diabetes, and as a diuretic and pathogenic agent (Kemper
1999; Azizov, et. al.
2011; Chan, et. al.
in Japan used the root to treat such ailments as constipation and
mercury poisoning and the leaves externally to heal rashes and burns
Ayurvedic medicine, burdock root is made into a tea and used to
treat upper respiratory infections and pneumonia (Kemper 1999).Native Americans employed
burdock for its blood purifying abilities, as a kidney tonic, to
increase mental concentration, and as an herbal remedy for women in
labor (Kemper 1999; Lewis 2003; Anonymous 2012).A. lappa has also been
historically used to treat hair loss (Kemper 1999; Anonymous 2012).
In current western
cultures, burdock is used both internally and externally for many
conditions of the skin, such as acne, boils, abscesses, and eczema,
for situations of chronic inflammation, such as rheumatism,
arthritis, and gout, as an antimicrobial, and as a treatment for
cancer, stomach ulcers, urinary tract infections, premenstrual
symptoms, and HIV (Kemper 1999; Wua, et. al. 2010; Anonymous
Such a broad spectrum of therapeutic activity for burdock is due to
its chemical composition that includes essential oils, phenolic
compounds (lignans, flavonoids, tanning agents), organic acids,
alkaloids, and trace elements (Kravtsova & Khasanov 2011).The lignin arctiin (the
glucoside of arctigenin) is unique to the Aster family (including A. lappa), displays an
anti-proliferative effect by inhibiting cell division, and may have
a protective effect on carcinogenesis induced by
2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP), particularly
in the mammary gland during the oncogenic promotion period(Lewis 2003; Matsuzaki et al 2008 ). Lignans are also known to
exhibit antibacterial activity, allowing burdock to be useful in
treating Helicobacter pylori
associated with stomach ulcers (Kravtsova & Khasanov 2011; Wua,
et. al. 2010).The trace elements Cu,
Zn, Na, K, Mn, Pb, Cd, Fe, and Mg exhibit an overall positive
physiological effect and are important for burdock’s use in treating
principally functional active compound in burdock is inulin, which
is known to have a favorable effect by reducing the sugar level in
blood after meals (Azizov, et.
active components of the burdock plant include pectins, minor
fumaric, succinic, and malic containing chlorogenic acids not found
in nature, and caffeoylquinic acids. The latter are considered valuable for their
antioxidant properties (Maruta 1995; Mkrtchian, et. al. 1998; Ferracane, et. al. 2010; Jaiswal &
Kuhnert 2010; Liu 2012).
A. lappa has traditionally
been used for its anti-inflammatory effects (Knipping, et. al. 2008). Burdock
extract reduced release of inflammatory mediators in vitro, and in later
trials, acute skin responses in mice were inhibited (Knipping, et. al. 2008). Burdock
also decreased edema in the rat-paw model of carageenan-induced
inflammation (Kemper 1999).
Burdock is also used to treat gastrointestinal ulcers. Ethanolic
extract reduced free radical generation and increased scavenging of
free radicals in vitro,
ultimately revealing that burdock root extract in ethanol promotes
regeneration of gastric mucosa in vivo in rats (da Silva,
et. al. 2013).
In vivo and in vitro studies also
indicate that burdock has hepatoprotective and antioxidant effects.
In mice, burdock was found to repress serum glutamic oxaloacetic
transaminase (SGOT) and serum glutamic pyruvic
transaminase (SGPT) liver enzyme elevations induced by
carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), thus alleviating the
severity of liver damage (Lin, et. al. 2000). Water
extracts of burdock showed inhibitory effects on lipid peroxidation
of rat liver homogenate in
vitro, indicating burdock’s use as a primary antioxidant (Duh
Burdock has also been used as an antimicrobial and antineoplastic.
Burdock roots demonstrated activity in vitro against several
gram-negative bacteria and HIV, and they additionally showed
cytostatic activity against certain cancer cell lines (Kemper 1999).
Although there are many
in vivo and in vitro trials involving
burdock, currently, there are no reported clinical trials associated
with A. lappa.
Adverse reactions regarding burdock include redness, contact
dermatitis, and in severe cases, anaphylactic shock (Rodriguez, et. al. 1995; Lewis &
Elvin-Lewis 2003; Sasaki, et.
poisoning and other anticholinergic-type poisonings after drinking
tea made from burdock have been reported (Kemper 1999). The lignin arctiin in
burdock may be weakly carcinogenic to the liver and pancreas (Lewis
2003). Burdock is
known to interfere with hypoglycemic therapy in diabetic mice
Overall, the medicinal value of burdock, although broad, has been
supported through in vitro and in vivo studies with
few reported adverse side effects or interactions. Continued
research, especially clinical trials, is needed to further
understand the full medicinal potential of Arctium
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Chan, Y.S., L.N. Cheng, J.H. Wu, E. Chan, Y.W. Kwan, S.M. Lee,
G.P. Leung, P.H. Yu, & S.W. Chan. 2011. A review
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Andre, L.M. de Souza, T.R. Cipriani, N. Dartora, M.C. Marques,
C.H. Baggio, & M.F. Werner. 2013. Ethanolic
extract of roots from Arctium lappa L. accelerates the
healing of acetic acid-induced gastric ulcer in rats: Involvement
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lappa Linné): Its scavenging effect on free-radical and
active oxygen. Journal of the American Oil Chemists'
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characterization of five new classes of chlorogenic acids in
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L. Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative
Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,
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This paper was developed as part of the BIO 368 - Medical Botany
course offered at Wilkes University during the summer of 2013.
Course instructor was Kenneth M. Klemow, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
information contained herein is based on published sources, and is
made available for academic purposes only. No warrantees, expressed
or implied, are made about the medical usefulness or dangers
associated with the plant species in question.