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Burdock Tea(牛蒡茶)

What's Burdock

Burdock, a root native to Europe and Asia, is the main source for a variety of herbal preparations. Burdock root tastes sweet and its texture is sticky. Burdock has been used as remedy for both fevers and colds, urinary tract infections, and rheumatism, although clinical evidence of its effectiveness for treating these conditions is lacking. Burdock has also been employed as a diuretic and more recently has been used as a tea in the treatment of cancer and a number of other maladies.

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Historical Uses of Burdock Root

burdock root  
Burdock Root  

Burdock root has been described as alternative and a blood purifier. The burdock root was believed to clear toxins from the bloodstream. It may be applied externally as well as internally to relieve eczema and psoriasis. Additionally, it may ease painful joints or act as a diuretic. Ancient Chinese medicine combined burdock root with other herbs to treat colds, measles, sore throats, and tonsillitis. And the Japanese consume burdock root as a vegetable.

The primary active constituents in burdock include arctigen, calcium, chlorogenic acid, essential oil, flavonoids, iron, inulin, lactone, mucilage, polyacetylenes, potassium, resin, tannin, and taraxosterol. Fatty acids are contained in the seeds. Burdock seed oil may work as a diaphoretic, creating sweat, neutralizing and eliminating the body's toxins. The high amounts of inulin and mucilage in this herb likely explain why burdock exhibits soothing effects on the gastrointestinal tract.

Burdock may provide a good source for minerals such as iron, the carbohydrate inulin, and essential oils. Additionally, burdock may serve as a mild laxative and assist in the elimination of uric acid. The herb contains polyacetylenes that have antibacterial and antifungal properties. By improving the function of many organs of elimination (i.e. liver, kidneys, bowels), many health conditions may be moderately corrected.

Burdock is usually available in combination with other herbs as a tea, in tinctures, and in capsule form. Burdock is an effective diuretic, and is considered a very safe herb and food product as long as the root is pure. Reported cases involving toxic effects were first thought to be caused by the consumption of burdock tea, but were later determined to be caused by contamination of the burdock root with belladonna root, which contains atropine. Therefore, consider the source and quality prior to purchasing burdock root.

  burdock leaf
  Burdock Leaf

Health Benefits of Burdock Root Tea

Burdock can be taken in several different forms--powdered, liquid and even served as a vegetable--but tea is one of the easiest preparations. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, you can get maximum burdock benefits by drinking burdock tea three times a day. You can make burdock root tea by steeping 2 to 6 grams (g) of chopped burdock root in 2 cups of hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. The starchy root has a pronounced flavor that some people prefer with a little honey, sugar or lemon added to it.

Increases Urine Flow

Because burdock is a natural diuretic, it helps increase the flow of urine from your body, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Diuretics are commonly used to treat hypertension and may reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease. Because it's a diuretic, burdock might cause dehydration if you're not careful.

Lowers Blood Sugar

burdock flowers  
Burdock Flowers  

Burdock root tea may play a role in lowering blood sugar levels in the body, which could be useful for people with diabetes or people who are at increased risk for diabetes. MedLine Plus points out that these results cannot be considered conclusive because the studies that report them are small and were not well designed.

Eases PMS Symptoms

Drinking burdock root tea might help relieve some of the irritation that accompanies premenstrual syndrome (PMS) for many women, according to James Duke, Ph.D., an herb expert, cited by writer Amy Mayfield in an article on burdock root for May/June 2005 issue of "The Herb Companion" magazine.

Improves Quality of Life

Burdock root is an ingredient in a few different cancer treatments, including Essiac--which contains rhubarb, sorrel and slippery elm, as well as burdock root. According to MedLine Plus, though a few early studies support burdock as a treatment to improve the quality of life for people with cancer, more research is needed to state conclusively whether burdock is an authentically effective treatment.

Soothes Eczema

Burdock tea may help treat skin irritation, including eczema, but not if you drink it. Soaking a clean cloth in burdock tea--omit any sweeteners or other flavorings--and applying the cloth like a compress directly to the affected skin may soothe skin irritation, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

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How to make Burdock Tea

  • Scrub the fresh burdock root vigorously under cold running water to remove any dirt. Do not peel. If you are using dried burdock root, you may skip this step.
  • Cut the fresh burdock root on the bias into slices. If you are using dried burdock root, it may already be in pieces. Make sure pieces are no larger than 1 inch in length.
  • Submerge the burdock root pieces (either the entire single fresh burdock root or 1/4 cup dried) in two to three cups of water in your saucepan.
  • Boil burdock root in water on the stove. When the water has come to a rolling boil, set timer for 30 minutes, and put the lid on the saucepan. Reduce heat slightly, so that it does not boil over.
  • Pour the tea into your mug and enjoy, being careful to avoid the root pieces. Adjust the sweetness to your liking with honey or sugar.
dried sliced burdock root dried julienned burdock root dried grained burdock root burdock root tea infusion
Dried Sliced Burdock Root Dried julienned Burdock Root Dried Grained Burdock Root Infusion of Burdock Root Tea

Side Effects of Burdock

Burdock does have some side effects. It is a very strong detoxifier and can at first aggravate some skin conditions before beginning to heal them. To avoid any adverse effects, it is better to begin taking small amounts and then gradually increase the dosage.

It is not recommended for those just beginning to use herbal remedies to gather burdock from the wild. This is due to its resemblance to several poisonous plants, and any confusion could lead to serious illness or worse. Mild side effects from contamination with these other plants may include a slowed heart beat or a dry mouth.

Those taking medication for regulating blood sugar or for diabetes should consult a medical professional before using burdock root, as it may interfere with some prescription drugs.

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Last Update: 2014.7
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