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Burdock (Arctium minus)

Burdock is another transplant to North America from Europe and Asia. It likes to grow in moist soil and usually grows on the edge of roadsides and pastures.

Identifying The Plant

Burdock is a biannual plant that blooms in the mid to late summer. It has large heart-shaped leaves that can grow up to twelve inches long. A plant in it's second year of growth may be up to eight feet tall and it will branch out at that point as well. The whole plant is covered with tiny hairs that make it feel scruffy. The plant also produces a very sticky burr with reverse hooked spines. The burrs themselves contain multiple little black seeds that will grow more burdock.  The taproot is carrot-like and may weigh as much as three pounds and extend two feet below a mature two year old plant.

Look Alikes

Look Alike easily be confused with a plant named the cocklebur. It looks very similar to burdock but the main distinguishing feature is the cocklebur will only have two flat little seeds in the burr that are pointed.

Eating Burdock

For a forager burdock is a great find. It has lots of vitamins and iron. Pick the youngest plants to get the best flavor. This whole plant is edible. The leaves can be boiled or prepared like spinach. The roots can be peeled and sliced for soups and stir-fry's. The stems should also be peeled to remove the tiny hairs and they can be steamed for a side dish.


Asians have been using burdock as a "blood purifier" for thousands of years. The root, leaves and seeds all have medicinal uses today. A decoction* made from the root is useful for skin disorders, especially boils, sores and dry scaly eczema. A tincture* can be used in combination with other digestive herbs like yellow dock for system detox and digestive stimulation. It can also be used for urinary stones. A poultice* of the roots can be used on skin sores and a wash from the roots can be used for acne and fungal skin infections such as athletes foot and ring worm.

The leaves should be harvested before the plant starts flowering or while the flowers are very young. They can be infused* and used for indigestion. The suggested dose is one half cup before meals. It works as a mild digestive stimulant to aid digestion.

The seeds should be harvested late in the summer. They can be made into a decoction* and used for treating feverish colds accompanied by a sore throat and cough.

*Decoction - Aggressive extraction of a plant's medicinal ingredients by boiling the plant in water for up to an hour; used for roots, barks, twigs and hard berries. Should be made fresh for each dose. *Tincture - Process of steeping the dried or fresh herbs in a 25% mixture of alcohol and water. Can be stored for up to two years. *Poultice - The whole plant is steeped and then applied in a compress to the affected area of skin. Should be prepared fresh with each application. *Infusion - Preparation similar to making traditional tea where the leaves or flowers are put to steep in boiled water. Should be made fresh for each dose.

Attention Use At Your Own Risk

I am not medically trained in anyway. I am simply a student. I read and experiment with ancient herbal techniques. I am simply passing on the knowledge I have gained from studding many texts on the subject and I am in no way responsible for anything you do with this information. For a listing on the books that I have compiled knowledge from visit:!saras-survival-stuff/c1mzf

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