Burdock, a perennial plant native to Europe and Northern Asia, is now found worldwide. The root has been consumed as food in Asia for many centuries. The fruit is valued in traditional Chinese medicine as a blood purifier, as a cure for sore throat and colds, and as a topical remedy for skin disorders including acne, eczema and psoriasis. It is also used to treat anorexia, gout, cancer and HIV, although no published clinical studies have evaluated these claims.
Preclinical data indicate that burdock has anti-inflammatory(1), antibacterial (11), antiulcerogenic (12), hepatoprotective (6), antidiabetic (13) and anticancer (14) effects.
A clinical study found that topical application of a formulation containing burdock extract significantly improved dermal extracellular matrix metabolism and visibly reduced wrinkles (4). A mixture of burdock fruit and astragalus root reduced urinary protein and albumin, and improved lipid metabolism and post-prandial blood glucose in patients with diabetic nephropathy (5).
A preparation of burdock tea was found contaminated with atropine, an alkaloid(7). Patients should be aware that poor quality control is a major concern with commercial herbal products.