Arctium lappa

Arctium lappa is a species of plants in the Eurasian continent belonging to the sunflower family Asteraceae. It is now widespread throughout the northern hemisphere and regarded as a weed in certain parts of the world. The plant’s root finds its use as a vegetable, and hence it is usually found along the roadsides and empty grounds. In countries like North America, Australia, and others, it has become an invasive weed crop with high nitrogen soils. It is a biennial, hermaphrodite species and is self- fertile. Familiar with the name Burdock, it is famous for its application on the skin as it has impressive healing effects and properties to cure acne, abscesses, boil, psoriasis, eczema, and other skin problems.

Other common names

  • Greater burdock
  • Gobo (Japan)
  • Edible burdock
  • Beggar’s button
  • Thorny burr
  • Happy major
  • Bardana
  • Niu bang zi
  • Snake’s rhubarb
  • Bat weed
  • Cuckold
  • Ueong (Korea)

Physical appearance

The greater burdock is a tall, biennial plant that can reach up to a height of about 10 ft. It has several features as under:

Leaves

It has large, alternating leaves attached to the stem by a long petiole and bears small soft hairs on the underside.

Flowers

They bear purple flowers usually clustered together blooming between July to September. The capitulum is surrounded by the whorl or rosette of bracts, curved forming a hook which enables them to travel long distances after getting stuck in animal fur.

Fruits

Its fruits are achenes, round, and compressed with short hairs. The pappus hairs of fruits can cause severe irritation in the skin of human, horses, and dogs. It can even cause respiratory problems.

Habitat & Distribution

Arctium lappa is a plant native to the temperate climatic zones. Its extent is from Scandinavia to Mediterranean, British Isles, Russia, China, Japan, and the Middle East to India. It usually starts growing in the uncultivated area where the soil is rich in nitrogen.

Cultivation

The soil suitable to grow this plant should be rich in humus. The plant needs full sunlight for its growth. It propagates through sowing seeds in the mid of summer. The harvest can take place after three to four months after the root becomes too fibrous.

Nutrient Content

Nutrient Amount
Energy 72 Kcal
Carbohydrates 17.34 g
Protein 1.53 g
Total Fat 0.15 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Dietary Fiber 3.3 g
Folates 23 µg
Niacin 0.300 mg
Pyridoxine 0.240 mg
Pantothenic acid 0.321 mg
Riboflavin 0.30 mg
Thiamin 0.010 mg
Vitamin A 0 IU
Vitamin C 3 mg
Vitamin E 0.38 mg
Vitamin K 1.6 µg
Sodium 5 mg
Potassium 308 mg
Calcium 41 mg
Magnesium 38 mg
Manganese 0.232 mg
Selenium 0.7 mg
Phosphorus 51 mg
Iron 0.80 mg
Zinc 0.33 mg
Carotene-α 0 µg
Carotene-ß 0 µg
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 µg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 0 µg

Health benefits

The roots, shoots, and leaves of Burdock have many nutritious and healthy compounds that help to maintain our well being. Some health benefits are as under:

  • The plant contains essential minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, and phosphorus which are necessary to keep the body fit. The magnesium content of Burdock helps in absorbing calcium enabling faster healing of bones. Cramps in the leg, fatigue, etc. are the general symptoms of magnesium deficiency in the body.
  • The root is low in calories and is a good source of non-starch polysaccharides like inulin, glucoside-Lappin, mucilage, etc. Inulin is effective in controlling body weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol inside the body. It reduces the gut inflammation and removes other harmful bacteria which are responsible for gastrointestinal problems. The inulin fiber protects the body from the severity of diabetes and its symptoms.
  • A chemical that gives burdock a characteristic bitter taste increases the production of bile and digestive juices. It helps the liver in processing the toxins and releasing them out from the body.

Cancer Prevention

The herb root contains small quantities of vital vitamins including folic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, vitamins C and E which helps in warding off infections, cancer, and neurologic conditions and boosting immunity of the body. The antioxidants lower the risk of cancer, supports proper growth and repairs the body cells and tissues.

Digestion

Burdock is rich in fiber which helps in performing the digestive functions making food move quickly through the bowels, avoid cramps in abdominal muscles, reduce the chances of constipation and avoid bloating or ulcers.

Heart Health

Burdock contains an adequate amount of electrolyte potassium and is low in sodium. Potassium helps to maintain fluids in the body and also regulates heart rate and blood pressure. It is also an excellent vasodilator which aids in releasing tension within the cardiovascular system by soothing blood vessels and arteries. It further helps in preventing atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.

Skin Problems

Lappa is a blessing for skin related problems as it is very efficient in curing pimples, acne, rashes, inflammation, and discoloration due to toxicity in the blood. It detoxifies the blood and purifies it giving it a clear and healthy skin.

Brain Health

Copper component of this plant is beneficial for brain health because it helps in developing various neural pathways and encourages differential thinking. It is necessary to add it in the diet as it is helpful in nerve development.

Asthma Prevention

It prevents and helps in treating asthma with its Vitamin B6 content. The component reduces wheezing and therefore counters asthma attacks.

Hormonal Balance

Burdock helps in maintaining the hormonal level and its activity inside the body. It eases to absorb certain hormones by body organs like the liver. Excessive secretion of hormones inside the body can also result in malfunctioning of the body.

Medicinal Uses

All parts of burdock find a place in various traditional and modern medicines.

  • Due to its diuretic properties, it is used in folk remedies as a blood purifier. It helps in expelling the toxic products from the body through urine.
  • The extract from burdock seeds is helpful for throat and chest ailments.
  • In Japan people believe that Burdock soup is helpful in preventing cancer, lower blood pressure, and curtail hangover.
  • Burdock leaves and stems are used as a vegetable to enhance the appetite and acts as a remedy for gas and indigestion.

Effects on Pregnancy

The nutrient-rich burdock helps in meeting the various needs of the body.  Vitamin B9 is a resource for the prevention of congenital disabilities and complications during delivery. The mothers with a deficiency of this Vitamin may develop complications in the later stages of their pregnancy. It can also affect the fetal growth and health of the forming baby.

Its iron content protects the mother and baby both from developing anemia by fulfilling the required amount. The fiber contained in burdock reduces the problem of constipation which the pregnant women usually face.

However, as some women may be allergic to it and due to some other causes, it is advisable to consult a physician before going for it.

Culinary Uses

Burdock is either eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes. Its petioles, leaves, and sprouts are also edible.

  • Has crunchy roots which have a sweet, mild and pungent flavor and thus can be added to any broth to enhance its taste.
  • In Japan, people make chips from gobo, and it is a favorite snack there.
  • Young sprouts are edible like a bean or gram sprouts.
  • Combines with pork in preparation of miso soup which is Japanese cuisine.
  • Stalks are peeled and either eaten raw cooked or boiled in salted water.
  • Roots are also useful to prepare an herbal drink in combination with dandelion to add a flavoring to it.

Other Uses

  • Burdock root extract oil is beneficial as a scalp treatment in Europe.
  • Combination of burdock with wine is used to treat leprosy.
  • Crushed seeds and leaves of burdock are used to make a poultice.
  • Supposed to have a potential for biogas production.
  • Chinese used it in treating sterility.

Side Effects

  • If you are on medication for blood sugar level, it is not advisable to take burdock as it alters with levels of blood sugar.
  • Burdock increases bleeding when taken with drugs like aspirin or an anticoagulant.
  • People who are sensitive to ragweed and daisies may experience an allergic reaction to burdock including dermatitis.
  • It is diuretic, so people suffering from dehydration are not supposed to take it.
  • The tannin content if taken in a large amount may cause gastrointestinal stress.

Some interesting facts

  • The leaves of burdock make food for caterpillars of Lepidoptera species such as thistle ermine.
  • It is an oily macerate and thus added as a component of some cosmetics, shampoos and hair care products.

References

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