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What Is Burdock Root?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Burdock root is the root of the burdock plant, in the genus Arctium. Generally, burdock root is harvested from Greater Burdock, Arctium lappa, although other species of burdock may be used as well. In addition to the young roots, the leaves of some burdock species are also edible, and they may be used in salads and other dishes. Burdock has also traditionally been used medicinally, especially as a purifying agent.

The burdock plant is in the thistle family, and produces flowers and burrs which strongly resemble thistles as they mature. The plant has green leaves which hug the ground before shooting up tall stalks of leaves and small purple flowers. The flowers develop into burrs which are notorious for sticking to clothing and fur with immense tenacity. This trait has led to the wide distribution of burdock all around the world.

Although burdock can be found growing in the wild in many nations, it is native to Asia, where burdock is very popular in the cuisine of many nations. Outside of Asia, burdock is a less popular food, although it can be found cropping up in recipes now and again. The flavor of young burdock is reminiscent of artichokes, leading to their inclusion in quiche, sautes, and similar dishes. Older burdock roots can be very bitter, and their consumption should be avoided.

When selecting burdock root in the store, consumers should look for specimens which are around one inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter, as these will be most tender and flavorful, as well as less bitter. The roots have a brownish-red outer layer and gray to white flesh, and they do not need to be peeled before eating although they should be washed and gently scoured. Most people slice burdock into thin circular pieces, although it can also be julienne cut. A long, slow simmering is one of the best ways to cook burdock, as it brings out the flavor while keeping the roots soft and tender.

Several forms of burdock root are available commercially. An oil extracted from the root is intended for use on the hair, and can be quite beneficial when regularly applied.. Ground burdock root is also dried and packaged as a dietary supplement, and the fresh roots can be purchased for eating. The root vegetable can be stored under refrigeration for up to one week until used, or it can be dried and kept much longer.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon320645 — On Feb 18, 2013

@galen84basc: You can find fresh burdock root at Sunflower Natural Market in Woodstock.

By anon145241 — On Jan 22, 2011

Dear Galen84basc: I know it's a bit of a trip but

Blooming Hill Grove Farm has it (Blooming Grove, NY in Orange County). Organic of course.

They are only open Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the winter months and Sat and Sundays 10 to 3 or 4. Check their web site for more info.

By galen84basc — On Oct 25, 2010

I had heard of burdock herbs, but I never knew that you could eat them for food. After reading this though, it actually sounds really good.

I wonder where I could find burdock root in my area? Do you all know of anybody selling burdock in the Kingston area? I would love to try making a quiche of this, it sounds great -- and with all those medicinal benefits, I bet its really healthy for you too.

Any tips?

By naturesgurl3 — On Oct 25, 2010

@pleats -- There are tons of uses for burdock extract! It's a classic blood purifier, and is also really good for use as a diuretic and diaphoretic (something that makes you sweat).

One of burdock's many uses is in tea form, like you mentioned.

People have been drinking dandelion root or burdock tea for centuries, especially for internal cleansing. A compress of burdock leaves is also very soothing on burns, and can help the burn heal more quickly.

Another common burdock product is burdock oil. As the article said, burdock oil, also called bur oil, is used on the hair and skin, where it works with the sebaceous glands of the scalp to make hair stronger and shinier.

Burdock oil also reduces dandruff and calms an itchy scalp.

These are just a few of the uses of burdock -- if you're really interested, there's tons more information on the internet, and any TCM practitioner or naturopath can give you more information too.


By pleats — On Oct 25, 2010

Can you tell me some more about burdock's medicinal uses?

I am a big fan of herbal teas, and would love to learn more about burdock tea and burdock extract, and how they are used.

Thank you.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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