Monday, 24 March 2014

Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa, 牛蒡)

Greater Burdock is one of my favourite plants. In Finnish it is called "isotakiainen", in Latin "Arctium lappa" and in Chinese 牛蒡 (Niúbàng). The word arctium is derived from Greek word arktos, meaning "bear" and lappa means "to seize". If you ever touch it you understand why. In the nature it looks like this:


Burdock is biannual plant that belong to a big family of Asteraceae plants (others are for example daisy, dandelion, sunflower). Burdoc is related to artichoke. In Europe it is usually growing wild, but in East Asia it is also commonly cultivated for its edible root.

Purple flowers are grouped in a flower head, called "capitula". The capitula are surrounded with small needle like leaves, curved to form a hook. These hooks attach onto the fur of animals and are carreid long distances. This is how burdock spreads.


Greater burdock was used during the Middle Ages as a vegetable, but now it is rarely used, with the exception of Japan where it is called gobō (牛蒡 or ゴボウ), Taiwan (牛蒡), Korea where it is called ueong (우엉), Italy, Brazil and Portugal, where it is known as bardana or "garduna". Plants are cultivated for their slender roots, which can grow about 1 meter long and 2 cm across.


The use of Greater burdock is increasing popularity because it is promoted in macrobiotic diet. Burdoc root is full of dietary fibre, rich in potassium, calcium and amino acids and is low in calorie. It is crisp, slightly sweet and mild in taste.

In the Taiwanese vegetable market greater burdoc roots look like this:


In Western medicine it has been used for its diuretic and blood purifying properites and American indians used it for treatment of cancer.

It is also used as a component of natural cosmetics, shampoos and hair care products. Other plant parts are used to prevent baldness and to treat rheumatoid arthritis, skin infections, acne, boils, bites, eczema, herpes, impetigo, rashes, ringworm, sore throat, sciatica, poison ivy/oak, as a tonic and mild laxative, among other uses.

In Taiwan Arctium lappa is common side dish in small restaurants:


The seeds of greater burdock are employed in traditional Chinese medicine particularly for skin conditions and in cold/flu formulas, under the name niubangzi[8] (Chinese: 牛蒡子; pinyin: niúpángzi; some dictionaries list the Chinese as just 牛蒡 niúbàng.

An example of Arctium lappa as food supplement. It is easy to find in any supermarket.


This one is used orally, 3 times 30 drops in water. It makes your skin shine. Do you believe that?


Recently I bought Taiwanese dumplings in a Chinese supermarket here in Luxembourg. They are absolutely delicious, spicy and pleasant.

Frozen Burdock buns

Steamed burdock buns
Burdock buns

There is some scientific evidence of the antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties of the seeds of Arctium lappa.

Burdock bun inside, isotakiaispiirakka


More information here.


  1. Sinustahan on tullu kasvitieteilijä! En tiennytkään, että oot kasveista noin kiinnostunut, Ihan tulee omat yliopistoajat mieleen kun opeteltiin latinalaisia nimiä ja tunnistamista.

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