Better Nutrition

Balance your blood sugar and ease inflammato­ry skin conditions with burdock root.

This time- tested botanical can help ease eczema and psoriasis, detoxify the liver, combat constipati­on, and more


Ellen Dart, 39, knows the distress of chronic dermatitis all too well. She had good skin when she was younger, but developed chronic skin inflammati­on as an adult— in spite of her healthy lifestyle. “My skin was riddled with inflamed cystic lesions that were almost like boils,” she says, “but I was determined to get to the source of the problems.”

Dart consulted several skin specialist­s and made a few attempts at natural remedies, but nothing was working.

“I knew I needed more, so I thoroughly explored the basis of inflammato­ry skin disease, studied the herbal approach to treatments, and concluded that my dermatitis was caused by a liver so congested and burdened that it wasn’t breaking down, processing, and eliminatin­g wastes properly,” says this Boulder, Colorado, yoga teacher.

“I began taking burdock root and dandelion root, and within nine months of beginning this herbal work, the dermatitis was gone,” continues Dart. Three years have since passed, and “my skin quite frankly, is gorgeous— totally clear and smooth,” says Dart.

A native thistle from Eurasia, burdock ( Arctium lappa) is now firmly establishe­d as a weed in North America. Over the centuries, it’s become a mainline remedy in Western and Chinese herbal systems for a variety of health conditions. The genus name ( Arctium) from the Greek arktos, or “bear,” is a reference to its seed pod’s rough burrs. The species, lappa, comes from “to seize.” Same idea.

This member of the daisy family is rich in anti- inflammato­ry flavonoids, lignins, and bitter glycosides. The root contains up to 45 percent inulin, a non- nutritious fiber, plus assorted other polysaccha­rides.

Potent Skin Saver

There are many fine herbs for the skin, but few are better than burdock root, as Dart’s story perfectly illustrate­s. Burdock has a long history of use as a detoxifier in skin conditions, and it really earns its stripes when it comes to skin inflammati­on, including eczema, psoriasis, and boils.

Clinicians in Britain consider it to be specific for eruptions of the head, face, and neck, for which it’s often combined with dandelion root, yellow dock root, red clover flowers, or cleavers.

Diabetes Remedy

The inulin makes burdock valuable in treating diabetes by grabbing sugars from the digestive tract and preventing them from entering the bloodstrea­m. A 2019 paper summarized its antidiabet­ic action as regulating glucose homeostasi­s and improving oxidative stress. Another 2019 study confirmed that the polysaccha­rides in burdock help regulate blood fats. Bonus: The inulin in burdock also promotes the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria in the intestines.

Other Healing Actions

Burdock root is a general detoxifyin­g remedy that influences skin, kidneys, and mucous membranes to remove accumulate­d wastes. A 2019 study found that it can also treat constipati­on. Burdock is a bit diuretic and diaphoreti­c ( sweatinduc­ing), which, combined with its cleansing qualities, makes it useful for easing arthritis as well.

Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval German herbalist, used burdock to treat cancerous tumors. Today, burdock is a chief ingredient in the popular Essiac and Hoxsey formulas, anecdotall­y used as cancer remedies. One study found that arctiin, a lignan isolated from burdock, prevents mammary cancer, while other burdock lignans slowed the growth of leukemia cells. Research from 2018 has identified arctigenin as another potential anticancer constituen­t. And similar research in 2017 showed that arctigenin may reduce prostate tumors.

British herbalists especially value burdock for addressing all manner of liver toxicity conditions, which are closely linked to skin infl ammation. Scientists in Taiwan confi rmed the powerful liver- protective eff ect of burdock in a series of studies.

The high levels of lignans and inulin in burdock have been shown to have anti- infl ammatory activities, explaining its use in damp heat conditions, such as laryngitis and skin infl ammation. Chinese researcher­s confi rmed these eff ects in 2019.

Burdock’s polysaccha­rides are antioxidan­t- rich, perhaps explaining why the herb is included in many Chinese and Ayurvedic upper- respirator­y formulas. Chinese scientists found that a burdock lignan helped ease fl u symptoms, and another study showed that polysaccha­rides from burdock may help suppress coughs.

Food and Supplement­s

You may have eaten burdock root at a sushi restaurant. In Japan, it is cultivated as a food, where it is called “gobo.” Bearing a resemblanc­e to a long ( up to 3 feet!) brown carrot, the root is crisp, with a sweet, pungent fl avor. Try a glass of fresh burdock root juice, or steam carrot and burdock slices and serve with dill or a light sesame oil sauce. ( Soaking the root before steaming helps reduce some of its harshness.) The peeled, steamed stem is edible, too.

Since burdock is a moderately powerful cleanser, a tea prepared from the dried root can be benefi cial. Try ¼ oz. ( 7 grams) by weight of the dried herb, brewed, per day, or use the equivalent in capsules, powder, or tinctures.

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