Arctium lappa


Known throughout the world, burdock is a superb nutritive tonic, a powerful cooling alterative, a rejuvenator and a deep healer. It was written about by Shakespeare, and used by the ancient Anglo-Saxons, Celts and Chinese.

Called such names as happy-major, clot-bur, and beggar’s buttons, burdock helps those dealing with skin problems including boils, skin rashes, acne, eczema, psoriasis and herpes. I apply a fresh root poultice or compress, use the infusion of dried root as a wash or fomentation or apply the infused oil. A cup of dried root infusion or 40-100 drops of fresh root tincture, taken at least twice a day, hastens resolution.

One of burdock’s constituents, arctigenin, inhibits tumor growth and the formation of cancerous cells in the laboratory. First Nations people use it to treat cancer and it is one of the herbs in Essiac, a well known anticancer remedy. I combine burdock roots with red clover, slippery elm and yellow dock roots (Susun Weed’s Wessiac) and have given this formula to numerous people with excellent results, including people suffering from severe side effects of chemotherapy. Daily use of 2-4 cups of burdock root infusion or 200 drops of fresh root tincture brings slow but steady results.

German researchers have found oxyacetylene in burdock, which kills disease-causing bacteria and fungi. To treat fungus infections, candida overgrowth and ringworm, herbalists recommend a cup of infusion, or 20-60 drops of tincture, at least twice daily.

Cherokee use burdock root as a female tonic, a remedy for rheumatism and to treat venereal disease. Potawatomi, Ojibwa and Chippewa use roots as a blood nourishing tonic. Meskwaki use it to ease labor pains.

Known as bardana maggiore, lappa bardana and lappola in Southern Italia, burdock roots are much appreciated and utilized for their remarkable benefits for the skin. The leaves are called Cardoon. They are gathered in spring, cleaned, boiled, dipped in egg wash and breadcrumbs and fried to a delicious golden brown. The leaf juice is employed as an astringent, for its wound healing effects and is also rubbed into oily hair and scalp to keep dandruff at bay. External application of crushed leaves applied to skin heals boils and acne.

As a superior long-term strengthener of the immune system, burdock is a mighty ally for those dealing with HIV, AIDS, cancer or chronic fatigue. It helps neutralize and eliminate carcinogenic chemicals. Burdock’s profuse mucilage binds with chemicals, heavy metals and unwanted by- products of metabolic processes, helping them to exit the large intestine quickly. Burdock is a reliable aid when constipation is a problem as well.

Burdock also nourishes intestinal flora. After a course of antibiotics I take 20-40 drops of fresh burdock root tincture twice daily for several weeks. The abundant inulin in the roots is an excellent probiotic.

Burdock root may be up to 40 percent inulin - a substance which helps stabilize blood sugar levels. Inulin slows digestion, including the digestion of carbohydrates. This allows sugar to be released slowly without spiking, promoting healthy blood sugar levels. Those dealing with diabetes or hyper/hypoglycemia may find regular use of burdock, in any form, helpful. Inulin can also help the body to better absorb calcium, so helps create a stronger skeletal system.

Rooted way down inside the body of Mother Earth, burdock is rich in nutrients such as iron, magnesium, calcium, chromium, cobalt, silicon, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, carotenes, protein and mucilage. Burdock root also contains volatile oils, terpenes, tannins, flavonoids, phytosterols, insulin, sugars, starch and resins. The fresh root is loaded with vitamin C, essential fatty acids and vitamin B2.

Asians call burdock gobo and eat it as a vegetable, believing it offers gifts of longevity and sexual vitality. Ayurvedic healers consider

burdock root an effective remedy against colds, flu, sore throat and pneumonia. Chinese herbalists call burdock seeds niu bong zi and use them to remedy the common cold and sore throats.

Burdock seeds help heal chronic urinary problems, ease inflammation or irritation of the bladder and act as a tonic to the kidneys. In Appalachia, burdock seeds are used to counter rheumatism and to nourish the blood. Burdock seeds affect both the sebaceous and sudoriferous glands. They do a wonderful job restoring health to hair, skin and nails. Burdock works slowly but surely. One to three years of daily use is typical. Burdock combines well with dandelion root, the two enhancing each other like a supportive compatible couple.

Flower Essence Burdock flower essence rejuvenates the brain, clearing distracting thoughts and enhancing the ability to stick to a task.

Magical Lore Keep a piece of burdock root to honor your ability to find nourishment for the deepest parts of yourself, and to offer deep healing to others. Sprinkle an infusion around the house to dispel negativity.

Culture I dig burdock roots late in the fall, after their first year of growth, or very early the following spring, before the leaves have begun to grow again. Inside the black outside layer is a beautiful, sparkling, white center with a surprisingly sweet taste. Sometimes we plant the seeds of burdock in the garden in spring so we can easily harvest the long taproots in fall. These roots can be added to your soups and stews all through the winter to boost immunity and help prevent colds and flu.

I tincture fresh burdock roots in a alcohol or vinegar, or infuse them in oil or honey. I dry them for infusions by hanging them whole or place them, whole or sliced, on a screen. Fresh burdock roots stored in the root cellar like carrots maintain their integrity all winter long. Gather burdock seeds when they turn brown and tincture fresh in alcohol or infuse in oil.

“God has arranged all things in consideration of everything else.”

Hildegard von Bingen


Burdock is a plant of Venus and of water, therefore it is associated with the feminine divine…when working with Burdock, appeal to a favorite Goddess of the Depths, such as Venus Aphrodite, Isis, or Stella Maris, Star of the Sea. Make offerings of white flowers, to remind of the foam of the sea and the sacred birth of all things that came from the depths of the sea…mare, mater, mother. 


Burdock has also been long known as a plant dedicated to the Norse god Thor, god of heaven and earth, and of thunder and storms.


When song burdock to deal specifically with bacterial skin infections, we offer our prayers to St. Agrippina who is invoked against evil spirits, leprosy, skin issues, bacterial infections and thunderstorms. Saint Agrippina is an apocryphal saint - she probably did not really exist but is a composite of other earlier feminine deities. Her legends say that after she was martyred by the Roman Valerian, three holy women carried her body to Sicily where she is still venerated today, even though the Catholic church no longer acknowledges her as a saint. 


Make a healing blessing oil with the burdock root or seeds…dedicate it to Saint Agrippina, maybe label the bottle of oil with a picture of her that you find on the internet or in a book of saints and use it specifically to heal bacterial infections.


Here is a prayer to invoke Saint Agrippina: 

The holy relics of St. Agrippina 

Are the defense of the land of Sicily,

Medicine to the misfortunate and the sick

And a protection from the battlesome hoards.

By the prayers of Saint Agrippina

May many miseries pass us by.


When open sores on the skin are diagnosed as cancer we appeal to Saint Peregrine, a 12th century healer who was devoted to the sick and the poor. Known also as the Angel of Good Counsel. He is the patron saint of all who dance with cancer. He had a very bad wound, an open sore on his leg, diagnosed as cancer. The doctor was going to amputate his leg the following morning. That night he prayed all night for a miracle and feel into a deep trance…when the doctor came in the morning to perform the amputation, there was no sign of the cancer remaining. 

An ending blessing for us today: 

Most of our way-back ancestors came from oral cultures, not written. In order to connect with them, to understand their wisdom about the plants and ancient healing culture and how they share it, we must connect with the land, with the earth, with earth’s gifts, and with all the visual clues that give meaning to spoken words. When we modern, literate folks hear words, we see writing. Our ancestors saw stars and moon and bird, mountain, tree and flower – theirs is a completely, utterly different world view…a sensual language, deeply imbedded in the natural world. The depths they inhabit are dark, black, moist, mysterious. They present us with the rarified nourishment that cannot be found on the surface. May we know how to dig down deep for the support and nourishment we need. May we each have the courage and the grace to sink into our depths as we are called and to rise again having been nourished by what is deep and dark, real and timeless and then share it. May Great Mother hold us all in her loving and protective embrace. May we be blessed and be a blessing. Amen  


© 2022, Gail Faith Edwards


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