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This plant has a miracle-cure reputation for a range of health issues, from pimples to digestive woes.
There’s lots of buzz about the potential health and wellness benefits of burdock root, whether that’s in form of a tea you steep yourself at home or supplements you grab at a health food store. When you dig into this topic online, you’ll find that burdock root has been credited with helping a wide — and somewhat incredible — range of physical problems, from pimples to cancer. Not all of these claims are backed up by credible studies, however. So we looked into the research to answer the top questions about the health benefits of burdock root.
The burdock plant first grew in Europe and Asia, but is now also commonly found in the United States. A tall plant with sticky fruit covered in burrs, it has thick roots that have been used to treat various ailments by traditional wellness practitioners, including those who practice Chinese medicine (TCM). And in case you’re not familiar with TCM: According to the National Institutes of Health, TCM has been used for thousands of years and is based on the belief that the body’s vital energy flows along meridians in the body, keeping everything – the physical, emotional, and spiritual – in balance. Burdock root is just one of many herbal and plant remedies utilized by TCM practitioners.
Experts say that burdock can bring on allergic reactions like dermatitis in people who have a sensitivity to ragweed, daisies and chrysanthemums; it can cause other side effects as well, including those in people who are taking certain medications, such as blood thinners. If you’re interested in taking it in supplement form, know that overall, the supplement industry isn’t well-regulated and quality control may be questionable, depending on the company. According to Mt. Sinai Health System, a particular concern with burdock is that the plant’s roots look a lot like those of belladonna (or deadly nightshade), which means that if the company making the supplement — or any product containing burdock — isn’t reputable, there’s a chance there could be contamination with these dangerous plants. When taking any supplement, it’s a smart idea to do some digging to make sure the company has a good record of quality control, and talk to a medical professional.
Consider the potential risks above when thinking about whether to treat a condition with burdock. For instance, since it’s a natural diuretic, it’s best to skip it if you’re taking other diuretics to avoid becoming dehydrated, or if you’re otherwise at risk for dehydration. According to Mt. Sinai, people who have diabetes should be cautious because the root can lower one’s blood sugar. And importantly, if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, definitely avoid taking any form of burdock, including tea and supplements. Also, burdock might slow blood clotting, so any use of it should be stopped at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Since there isn’t established information about the best dosage for burdock root, Mt. Sinai suggests talking to a reputable healthcare practitioner about how often and how much to use it.
There are many different recipes online for making burdock root tea. Some of them start with fresh burdock root, which often can be purchased at Asian or health food markets. Others use dried root, and there are also various pre-made spice mixes available. With these, the same warning as the one above for supplements applies: Since the industry isn’t regulated, there’s no telling how much burdock root these contain, and no established dosage or efficacy information.