A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
The dried root of the burdock species of plants is used to make an herbal remedy known simply as the burdock. This remedy is actually made from the dried first year root of the great burdock - botanical name: Arctium lappa L., or from the roots of the common burdock - botanical name: Arctium minus of the plant family Asteraceae found in the temperate regions of the world. The great burdock is not grown widely in the United States and has been naturalized in many parts of the country while it is found to be growing in the wild in continental Europe - to which it is native. The common burdock is the main source of the root for the preparation of the herbal remedy in America. The burdock species from both areas are hardy and coarse biennial herbs, which can grow quite large, they are characterized by bearing many hooked bracts or the sticky burrs which often cling to animal fur and clothing and are dispersed in this way. The great burdock - A. lappa is quite large in size and can grow up to nine feet in height, as for the smaller common burdock, the A. minus - a height of five feet seems to be the maximum size.
The remedy called the burdock has been widely utilized in the treatment of many types of disorders such as various chronic skin conditions affecting individuals, like the common psoriasis and acne - this remedy is also used extensively as a blood purification agent and an internal body cleanser. A diaphoretic ability as well as a diuretic action is attributed to the burdock and these properties benefit many people affected by urino-genital problems. At the same time, it must be mentioned that even though all these properties are attributed to the plant, they are still to be verified in recorded and established clinical trials, the actual presence of any of these positive effects still needs to be verified in scientific studies. At the same time, the chemical composition of the burdock under analysis shows comparatively high levels of the carbohydrate inulin, and with this other compounds such as plant based volatile oils, different types of fatty oils, the carbohydrate sucrose, burdock resin and tannin and other chemicals are also seen. The chemical analysis of the fresh burdock root during one interesting study showed the presence of at least fourteen different polyacetylene compounds in the root of the burdock, bacteriostatic as well as fungistatic properties were displayed by at least two of these isolated chemical compounds from the root tissues of the burdock. This is in stark contrast to the dried and commercially medicated version of the burdock which has these chemicals in minuscule trace amounts - the fresh root of the burdock is to be preferred over the dried product for this reason. Root extracts of the burdock also display a mild antibiotic and cholagogic activity which are of great benefit in the treatment of certain conditions. The ability of the burdock to increase the carbohydrate tolerance in animal models is inferred from a detailed study on the compounds present in the roots and leaves, both of which possess some hypoglycemic activity. Furthermore, the animal model studies also identify the presence of anti-mutagenic activity in the extracts of the burdock.
Some caution is required whenever purchasing marketed herbal burdock products as the root of belladonna herb, also called the deadly nightshade - botanical name Atropa belladonna L.- is often mixed into the burdock for volume. This mixture may not always be from a nefarious motive as both plants posses very similar looking roots of these plants which can often result in creating a great confusion for the cultivator at the time of often harvest and processing. A failure of quality control in the commercial products is also due to the fact that the countries in East Europe are the places from which most of the commercially used burdock originates - needless to say, the processing and control of herbal products is not as rigorous in these countries as it is in the US. The supposed toxic nature of burdock was identified to be the reason fro atropine poisoning when the very first cases of atropine poisoning from consumption of herbal burdock tea were reported - the burdock has now been vindicated. However, the picture began to clear both in the United States and in Europe as more cases of such toxic effects from burdock were investigated clinically; contamination of the herbal product using the root of the belladonna herb was found to be the main cause of the toxicity in all cases.
Certification of all marketed burdock products is justified due to this potential danger of contamination, and a case can be made for the necessity to make all herbal marketers of the burdock run relevant detecting tests on their products for any atropine contamination before the release of such herbal products into the open market. However, all potential users of the plant who have adequate botanical knowledge are advised to collect the herbs for personal use directly from fields or buy them from the cultivator as burdock products of guaranteed quality and due certification are still not available in the mass market. The presence of any therapeutic activity in the burdock has not been scientifically verified even though the herb has had a traditional and extensive use as a folk remedy, this lack of positive scientific confirmation of the beneficial effects of burdock is very surprising as the herb remains popular with users. Burdock is also used as a culinary herb; the young leaves of the plant are often consumed as salad greens. Some antimicrobial properties may be present in the young roots of the burdock especially when they are fresh; unfortunately, this is countered by the absence of any confirmed medical value in the dried root of burdock which is marketed as a commercial herbal product.
Leaves, root, seeds, fruit.
The rapid elimination of accumulated toxins in the blood is accomplished by the burdock. The wonderful and very effective blood cleansing and the strong detoxification ability of the herb is a very well known property of the herb and is made use of by many herbalist around the world. Burdock effectively stimulates the digestive system and the functioning of the liver and also activates the pancreas as the roots, the leaves and the seeds have a very bitter flavor. These different parts of the burdock herb are used to bolster a weakened digestive system, they are also used to relieve excessive wind and flatulence, the burdock also has a mild laxative action, and is used for the treatment of abdominal distension as well as long term indigestion. Bacterial and fungal infections which are persistent can be effectively treated using the burdock; the herb is also very helpful in reintroducing and establishing the normal complement of bacteria inside the gut of affected patients. The elimination of toxic substances via the urine is also aided by the burdock due to its mild diuretic property. Remedies made from the burdock herb are also used in the treatment of disorders such as water retention problems; they are used in the removal of internal stones and gravel and for treating the disorder called cystitis. Perspiration is induced by the burdock when the herb is ingested in the form of a hot decoction, it can be a very effective in this role as a detoxification agent, as it can aid in the rapid removal of toxins through the skin along with the perspired liquids. The high temperatures associated with a fever can be reduced by taking burdock, and as soon any signs of feverishness or at the onset of infection, it can be used to bring about rapid recovery and lowering of elevated body temperatures. The treatment of conditions and disorders such as persistent sore throats, long term tonsillitis, persistent colds and coughs can also be treated using the seeds of the burdock in the form of teas, tinctures and prepared medications such as tablets and capsules. The time involved in full recovery from skin infections such as the measles and the chickenpox can be increased and speeded up by taking burdock remedies - this is because the herb can induce skin eruptions sooner than they would normally appear on their own - this leads to faster healing and recovery times. Many chronic inflammatory disorders including the gout, persistent arthritis and rheumatism can also be treated using the burdock herbal remedies, as the herb can effectively push accumulated toxins into the bloodstream for quick elimination via the normal channels in these cases. The action of the sebaceous glands on the skin are also promoted by burdock and for this reason, remedies made from the burdock are effective and excellent for the complete treatment of all kinds of skin diseases affecting patients. Elevated blood sugar levels in diabetics can also be lowered effectively by the burdock and thus the herb can be used in the treatment of blood sugar problems in diabetes affected patients. Traditional medications made from the burdock root have been used to regulate the menstrual periods; this remedy is known to stimulate the functioning of the uterus in women. For this reason, this remedy has traditionally been used for the treatment of prolapse in women; it is also used to strengthen the women before and following childbirth when physical strength is low.
Where toxicity is a key factor in the onset of the disease, the effective diuretic property, the antibiotic action, as well as the mildly bitter actions of the burdock come into beneficial play and is considered very effective in the treatment of different skin disorders such as the common acne, different types of boils anywhere on the body, in the treatment of abscesses, to treat localized infections of the skin, in the treatment of disorders such as eczema, and in the treatment of psoriasis in individuals affected by the condition.
While the burdock plant is generally used in the making of herbal remedial mixtures with the addition of other beneficial herbs for example the dandelion, in a remedy where the other herb is added to balance the strong individual cleansing action of the burdock.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
Many temperate areas of the world contain burdock plant, though the herb itself is an original and indigenous plant of temperate areas in Europe and Asia, the plant has spread to other temperate regions including the US and now grow in many places in the North American continent. Extensive areas in Europe and China are involved in the cultivation of burdock for the commercial market and the plant is normally propagated during the spring using seeds from the previous harvest. The entire plant is generally dug up and harvested during mid summer, though the seeds themselves are usually harvested as soon as summer begins.
The antibiotic property of the burdock root has been identified and confirmed in many laboratory studies carried out on the burdock plant in Germany - 1967 and in Japan - 1986, these test have identified the polyacetylenes in the root as being the active antibiotic agents - fresh roots tend to display the strongest antibiotic effects over all.
As has already been mentioned in the previous section, fungicidal as well as bactericidal actions are displayed by burdock based remedies. The herbal remedies made from the burdock also have distinct diuretic and hypoglycemic effects on the body - these remedies are capable of lowering the elevated blood sugar levels in many diabetics. An anti-tumor action is also believed to be present in the burdock, though this has still to be confirmed in studies. A chemical compound called arctiin derived from the burdock herb is a relaxant on smooth muscles in the body.
Dosage recommendations differ from one traditional herbalist to the other, usually most herbalists will suggest taking 2-4 ml of the burdock herbal root tincture as a single dose daily during treatment. Dosages for the dried herbal root preparation which come in the form of capsules also differ, in this case the normal dose can be about 1-2 grams of the herb taken thrice daily during the duration of the treatment. Combinations of the burdock root with different alterative herbs are also found in many herbal medications, thus burdock is often combined with other beneficial herbs including the yellow dock, the red clover, or the cleavers, dosages for these sorts of medications are usually printed on the label and must be followed strictly.
Drinking a combination catnip and burdock based herbal tea is a very effective remedy to eliminate stubborn kidney stones and gallstones affecting a person. To prepare this combination herbal drink, boil four cups of water and then add two tbsp. of finely chopped and fresh burdock, if this is not available, and then the diced dried root may be used. Let the herb steep into the boiling water for sometime, and then reduce the heat in the stove to let the herbs simmer for about ten minutes, keep the pot covered with a lid as it is being heated. At this time, three tsp. of the finely chopped and fresh or the diced dried catnip herb can now be added to the mixture immediately following the removal of the pot from the source of heat. The dried catnip must be allowed to steep in the liquid for about one and a half hours till the essence from the herb begins to seep into the drink. Following this, the liquid can be strained into cups using a good mesh and to each cup of the stained herbal decoction, must be added one tsp. lemon juice followed by half a tsp. pure maple syrup to sweeten the herbal liquid, the herbal drink can also be sweetened using the blackstrap molasses if maple syrup is not available. The herbal drink so prepared must always be drunk slowly or sipped in small amounts for a long time. Every dose of the herbal burdock and catnip drink must be followed exactly ten minutes later, by an oral dose of 1 tbsp. pure virgin olive oil. The same dosage regimen must be repeated at least thrice every day of the treatment period. Irritated tissues within the body are soothed and alleviated by the herbal burdock and catnip tea, at the same time it enables the disintegration and elimination of toxins and partially dissolves internal stones, a lubricating action is provided by the secondary dose of the virgin olive oil and the dissolved stones are eliminated easily from the body due to this action. During the period of treatment, care should be taken regarding the diet, and greasy or fried foods, all kinds of carbonated soft drinks, all refined carbohydrates such as commonly used white flour and white sugar products must be avoided, it is also important to avoid all red meat and poultry till treatment is over. If this dietary elimination of some foods is not undertaken during the treatment period, then the chances of total and complete success may not become a reality and cannot be guaranteed for the patient. Patients must sleep on the right side of their bodies at night, once they have finished consuming the last cup of herbal tea and spoonful of olive oil for the day, lie down on the right side with a pillow underneath the armpit for support and then go to sleep. The removal and elimination of stones from the body is eased and hasten by taking this resting posture according to some traditional experts.
Side effects and cautions
Side effects though rare are not unknown, and as far as the use of the burdock root remedies in the dosages stated are concerned - they will pose no problems or side effects. At the same time, caution is advised on the use of the burdock by women during pregnancy as taking very large quantities of the burdock root can actively stimulate the uterus and create a multitude of problems for the woman concerned.
How it works in the body
Traditional treatment of kidney stones and gout, has been carried out utilizing the effective and very strong diuretic effect possessed by the plant; burdock remains a standard remedy for such ailments in many traditional system of medications around the world. Aside from these disorders, different rheumatic conditions are also usually treated using the burdock. The burdock is used extensively in the treatment of psoriasis, eczema, boils and many different skin ailments affecting people. The burdock possess strong alterative or blood cleansing properties that aid in the quick and rapid removal of waste products arising within the body as a result of metabolic processes. The arctigenin of the burdock is known to be very effective against malignant and benign tumors in the body, and the burdock is also known to rapidly lower the elevated blood sugar levels in the body. The presence of the polyacetylenes in the fresh root of burdock is believed to endow the plant with a very strong antibiotic quality, which is very useful in the rapid treatment of infections in the body. The burdock is extensively used in the Republic of China to treat various catarrhal disorders and it also finds use in the treatment of persistent fevers, hacking coughs and long term sore throat. The Chinese also use the burdock to treat different infective diseases such as the mumps and as an early medication in the initial stages of measles. The performance of the liver is aided by the burdock, and the herb can also stimulate the digestive system and enables rapid digestion by increasing the production of enzymes within the body. Intestinal constipation is also treated using the burdock in China. Burdock is attributed with acrid, bitter, and cold properties in the Chinese system of medicine.
Using a piece of cloth, prepare a poultice by combining the egg white and the crushed burdock leaf. Replace 2 to 3 times a day.
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