Burdock, scientifically known as Arctium lappa is an herb that’s been used for medicinal purposes throughout Asia, Europe, and North America for the past several centuries. In particular, its roots have many popular uses in traditional Chinese medicine. In this ancient practice of naturopathy, burdock root is known as a blood detoxifier that boosts circulation and heals skin ailments. Modern medicine has been able to prove these effects and has determined that burdock root also offers health-boosting antioxidant, antimicrobial and antidiabetic properties .
1. Contains Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
Burdock root is a good source of antioxidants, including luteolin and arctigenin. These are compounds found in plants that neutralize free radicals throughout your body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that accumulate as a byproduct of oxygen consumption in the body. By stabilizing these molecules, antioxidants reduce the damage they cause, which is called oxidative stress–a contributing factor to the development of several diseases, including heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer .
2. May Help Fight Cancer
Arctigenin, an antioxidant found in burdock root, has been shown to stop the production of NPAT proteins in cancer cells, which inhibits their ability to multiply . One study found that arctigenin also kills three different types of cancer cells, including lung, liver, and stomach cancer cells . Burdock root has also been shown to help stop the growth of tumors caused by pancreatic carcinoma .
3. Helps Lower Blood Sugar
Preliminary research shows that burdock root may be beneficial in treating diabetes. In one study, burdock root extract was able to lower blood glucose levels, as well as triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels, in diabetic mice. It also raised insulin levels in the mice, which are too low in patients with diabetes. The researchers who conducted this study concluded that burdock root has antidiabetic and insulinotropic effects, which may be helpful in the treatment of diabetes .
4. Helps Fight Infections
Burdock root also has antimicrobial properties, which means it may be useful as a natural antibiotic. One study tested the antimicrobial activity of burdock root against five different strains of bacteria commonly found in tooth infections. According to the results, burdock root stopped the growth of all microbes tested, suggesting it could help improve dental health and may be effective against other types of pathogens as well .
5. Detoxifies the Body
Detoxifying the blood is burdock root’s most famous traditional use, and recently it’s been corroborated in scientific studies. In addition to removing toxins such as heavy metals from your bloodstream by improving circulation and lymphatic drainage. It also helps blood circulate at the surface of your skin, which allows it to detoxify [1, 5].
6. Treats Skin Conditions and Burns
Because of its ability to purify the blood and stimulate circulation in your skin, along with its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities, burdock root is amazingly effective in helping to treat a wide range of skin conditions. It helps clear up skin problems when taken internally or applied topically, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis. To treat psoriasis, herbalists have traditionally prescribed 2 to 4 milliliters (mL) of burdock root extract daily . According to one study, burdock root can even help heal burns and has been used in Amish traditions for this purpose .
7. Enhances Sexual Function
Burdock root boosts your libido and has been historically used as an aphrodisiac, as well as to treat erectile dysfunction and infertility in men. A study on rats found that burdock root extract increased sexual behavior in male rats . Premature ejaculation is the most common symptom of sexual dysfunction in men. Pharmacological treatments for premature ejaculation involve activating serotonin receptors, which are associated with delayed ejaculation. Animal studies show that burdock root exhibits the same action as these drugs, effectively reducing premature ejaculation .
8. Counteracts the Appearance of Aging
When used topically, burdock root extract can even diminish the signs of aging skin. It’s been found to increase the rate of skin cell turnover, which means new skin cells are generated at a faster rate. This slows the aging process and results in visibly reduced wrinkles. Burdock root also locks moisture into the skin’s structure, giving it a more “full” look as opposed to wrinkled or saggy. Because of these benefits, burdock root is appearing more and more frequently in skin care products .
9. Helps Treat Arthritis
Thanks to its powerful ability to reduce inflammation, burdock root can reduce joint pain caused by arthritis. In a clinical study, 36 patients with knee osteoarthritis who drank 3 cups of burdock root tea a day for 42 days had reduced inflammation and oxidative stress .
Burdock Root Sources and Safety Considerations
Burdock root is eaten as a vegetable in Japanese cuisine, but to get the most out of the benefits it provides, you’ll want to take it as a dietary supplement. You can take burdock root powder in capsules, or add it to smoothies. If you prefer a liquid form, you can find burdock root extract or burdock oil. Another way to take burdock root is to brew it as an herbal tea. If you want to use it externally, try mixing burdock oil with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Because burdock root increases circulation and lowers blood glucose levels, you want to avoid taking it with any blood-thinning medications or diabetes medications.