Burdock root is a vegetable that’s native to northern Asia and Europe, though it now grows in the United States, too. The deep roots of the burdock plant are very long and either brown or nearly black on the outside.
Burdock root has been used for centuries in holistic medicine to treat a variety of different conditions. Traditionally, it was most commonly used as a diuretic and a digestive aid.
Now, researchers have discovered numerous potential uses and health benefits for burdock root. These benefits may be extensive enough to warrant using burdock root as a complementary treatment for certain conditions.
Burdock root has been a part of traditional medicine, particularly traditional Chinese medicine, for centuries. Researchers are now beginning to design clinical studies to assess its benefits. Some potential health benefits of this plant include:
Improving blood sugar and treating diabetes
A 2014 study found that burdock root could prevent dangerously high blood glucose both in a petri dish and in a live tissue sample. In a 2015 study of burdock root in mice, researchers found no benefits associated with raw burdock root. However, fermented burdock root significantly reduced blood sugar in mice.
Treating and preventing infections
For centuries, traditional healers have recommended the use of burdock root to fight the common cold, sore throats, and other ailments. Scientific research now provides some insight into how burdock may fight infections. Some studies have found that it has antibacterial qualities. It appears to be particularly useful for killing biofilms, which are large, sticky colonies of bacteria. The oral plaque that causes cavities is one example of a biofilm. Biofilms grow throughout the body.
A 2015 study found that burdock root could treat biofilm-related urinary tract infections. Research published in 2017 found that burdock might also kill other types of bacteria.
‘Purifying’ the blood
Although there is little western scientific evidence to support the need for detox, it has long had a role in traditional Chinese medicine. Alternative health providers often talk about detoxifying the body or purifying the blood, and practitioners of traditional medicine say burdock may purify the blood.
This belief in burdock’s purification benefits could be due to its ability to fight some infections and bacteria.
Burdock root may also act as a diuretic. Diuretics help remove water from the body, offering relief for people retaining water.
Antioxidants help fight the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are chemicals in the body that damage the body’s cells and may be responsible for a wide range of ailments, including cancer, aging, and inflammatory disorders. They tend to accumulate with age, so researchers are interested in how antioxidants might slow the process of aging.
Several studies have found that burdock root acts as an antioxidant. A 2014 study of diabetes in mice suggests that because of its antioxidant properties, burdock may improve symptoms of diabetes. Earlier research, including a 1998 study, found that burdock root actively seeks out and destroys free radicals.
Free radical damage, autoimmune disorders, and other medical conditions can cause chronic inflammation. Inflammation is linked to many medical conditions, including osteoarthritis. A 2014 study found that burdock root significantly decreased measures of inflammation in people with knee osteoarthritis.
Treating or preventing cancer
Free radicals and inflammation are both linked to the development of cancer. This means that burdock’s role as an antioxidant anti-inflammatory might help to prevent cancer. Preliminary research also supports the notion that burdock can help slow the growth of cancer. A 2016 study found that burdock might slow the growth of breast cancer tumors.