Friday, May 6, 2022

Everything You Need to Know About the Benefits of Burdock Root – Parade Magazine has an extensive editorial partnership with Cleveland Clinic, consistently named as one of the nation’s best hospitals in U.S. News & World Report’s annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. Click here to learn more about our health reporting policies.

While more people in the U.S. are adopting a food-as-medicine approach, for many other cultures, this practice has been a deep-rooted belief. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), for example, herbs have been used to help treat sickness for centuries. Even today, many people in China head to their local herbal pharmacy after being given a prescription from their doctor.

One herb that has several different uses in TCM is burdock root, which is known for its benefits. “Burdock root is a vegetable originally grown in Europe and Asia but is now widespread throughout the U.S., says Lauren Hurst, RD, a registered dietitian and certified Chinese herbalist. Zoey Xinyi Gong, RD, a registered dietitian and TCM chef, says that burdock root is native to China and was brought to Japan in 940 AD. (She says that there it was called gobo.)

Hurst says that the plant is a member of the thistle family and the entire plant—the roots, leaves, and seeds—are all used in herbal medicine but it’s the roots that are considered the most medicinal. “In herbal medicine, roots are used to treat and heal at the deepest level; they’re a rich source of minerals and nutrients derived right from the soil,” Hurst says.

What are these benefits exactly? Keep reading to find out and learn how to benefit from burdock root at home.

7 burdock root benefits

Here ate the top benefits of burdock root:

1. It supports the cardiovascular system

“Burdock root serves to target the heart meridian in TCM, which is responsible for regulating blood flow,” Gong says. A scientific study also showed that rats that consumed burdock root regularly had reduced cholesterol and weight loss versus rats who didn’t consume burdock root, further showing the connection between the plant and cardiovascular health.

2. It could help with athletic performance

Since burdock root helps with blood flow, it could also help with athletic performance. One scientific study on mice found that mice who consumed burdock root were less fatigued after physical performance versus the mice who didn’t have burdock root. The plant just may be your secret weapon for pushing through a hard workout!

3. Burdock root can help prevent and fight inflammation

Hurst says that burdock root is high in antioxidants, including three in particular that are especially beneficial for protecting against chronic inflammation, the root of all diseases. This power trio is luteolin, quercetin, and phenolic acid. “Antioxidants help protect our cells from oxidative stressors such as those that come from our diet, environment and lifestyles,” Gong says.

Related: What Is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

4. Burdock root is helpful in treating fevers, sore throats, and colds

If you feel like you’re coming down with something, you may want to brew a cup of burdock root tea. Hurst says that one common way the plant is used in TCM is to treat fevers, sore throats, colds, or certain types of coughs. This is because it has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, a particularly beneficial combo when a seasonal cold strikes.

5. It supports digestive health

As with all plants, burdock root contains fiber and Hurst says this directly benefits the entire body, but especially the gut. “It specifically has inulin and mucilage fibers, which not only help to feed our good gut bacteria but they also help to soothe the gut tissue and move food through quickly and easily,” she says. Additionally, she says that the root contains bitter-tasting compounds which work as a digestive aid and supports the entire digestive system.

Related: 10 Ideas for Improving Your Gut Health Naturally 

6. Burdock root may help get rid of acne

Gong says that another way that burdock root is used in TCM is directly on the skin. This can be done by brewing burdock root as a tea and then soaking a cotton pad in it before placing it on the skin. Not only can this help with skin inflammation in general, but can also be used to help treat acne.

Related: 25 Foods That Are Great for Your Skin

7. It could help protect against certain types of cancer

Scientific studies show that consuming burdock root regularly could help protect against certain types of cancer. This is because it’s high in powerful antioxidants. However, burdock root should not be considered a “cure” for cancer and more studies need to be done to determine more about the role burdock root can play in cancer prevention.

How to consume burdock root

Both experts say that there are many ways to consume burdock root and reap its many benefits. Hurst says it can be consumed as a supplement, in a capsule, powder, or tincture form—a good way to ensure you’re getting a potent amount. “Most herbalists will recommend taking two to four milliliters of a tincture or one to two grams in capsule or powdered form daily,” she says.

Hurst says that burdock root can also be steeped as a tea. She likes to add ginger and honey to hers for a bit of sweetness and for added nutritional benefits.

You can also cook with it, something Gong recommends. (Head to a Japanese or Korean grocer to find it.) “Burdock has a distinct earthy flavor that reminds me of a hybrid of ginseng and parsnip,” she says. Gong explains that when it’s raw or less cooked, burdock root is firm and crunchy. When it’s cooked, it’s similar to a cooked carrot. “The cooking method of burdock is also similar to cooking a carrot. You can leave its skin on and roast it in the oven or peel the skin and julienne it for stir frying, pickling, and salads,” she says.

If you are interested in seeking out burdock root for its skin benefits, Hurst advises working with a local herbalist before trying it out on your own. As with anything you’re applying on your skin for the first time, it’s best to start with a small test spot before applying it to a larger area, or your face.

While burdock root is generally considered safe, Hurst says it is not recommended for people who are pregnant or lactating. “It should also be used with caution by anyone who is prone to dehydration or low blood sugar levels,” she says.

Gong says that while burdock root may look underwhelming, it’s certainly worth seeking out. “It’s brought healing magic to East Asians for thousands of years,” she says. Now, maybe it will bring its magic your way, too.

Next up, here’s what you need to know about functional mushrooms—another Traditional Chinese Medicine staple—and how they can be used to help manage anxiety.


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