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Burdock

Burdock refers
Burdock Herb
to any of a group of biennial thistles in the genus Arctium, family Asteraceae. Common Burdock (A. minus) grows wild throughout most of North America, Europe and Asia.

Plants of the genus Arctium have dark green leaves that can grow up to 18" (45 cm) long. They are generally large, coarse and ovate, with the lower ones being heart-shaped. They are woolly underneath. The leafstalks are generally hollow. Arctium species generally flower from July through October.

The prickly heads of these Old World weeds are noted for easily catching onto fur and clothing, thus providing an excellent mechanism for seed dispersal. Burrs cause local irritation and can possibly cause intestinal hairballs in pets. However, most animals avoid ingesting these plants.

A large number of species have been placed in genus Arctium at one time or another, but most of them are now classified in the related genus Cousinia. The precise limits between Arctium and Cousinia are hard to define; there is an exact correlation between their molecular phylogeny. The burdocks are sometimes confused with the cockleburs (genus Xanthium) and rhubarb (genus Rheum).

The roots of burdock, among other plants, are eaten by the larva of the Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli). The plant is used as a food plant by other Lepidoptera including Brown-tail, Coleophora paripennella, Coleophora peribenanderi, The Gothic, Lime-speck Pug and Scalloped Hazel.

The green, above-ground portions may cause contact dermatitis in humans due to the lactones the plant produces.

Uses
The taproot of young burdock plants can be harvested and eaten as a root vegetable. While generally out of favor in modern European cuisine, it remains popular in Asia, particularly in Japan where A. lappa is called gobo (牛蒡 or ごぼう). Plants are cultivated for their slender roots, which can grow up to 1 meter long and 2 cm across. Burdock root is very crisp and has a sweet, mild, and pungent flavor. Immature flower stalks may also be harvested in late spring, before flowers appear; the taste resembles that of artichoke, to which the burdock is related. A popular Japanese dish is kinpira gobo, julienned or shredded burdock root and carrot, braised with soy sauce, sugar, mirin and/or sake, and sesame oil; another is burdock makizushi (sushi filled with pickled burdock root rather than fish; the burdock root is often artificially colored orange to resemble a carrot). In the second half of the 20th century, burdock achieved international recognition for its culinary use due to the increasing popularity of the macrobiotic diet, which advocates its consumption.

"Dandelion and Burdock" is a soft drink that has long been popular in the United Kingdom, and authentic recipes are sold by health food shops, but it is not clear whether the cheaper supermarket versions actually contain either plant. Burdock is believed to be a galactagogue.

Folk herbalists consider dried burdock to be a diuretic, diaphoretic, and a blood purifying agent. The seeds of A. lappa are used in traditional Chinese medicine, under the name niupangzi (Chinese: 牛蒡子; Hanyu Pinyin: niúpángzi; Some dictionaries list the Chinese as just 牛蒡 niúbàng.)

Burdock has been a favorite medicinal herb for centuries and is used for many ailments. Burdock root oil extract, also called Bur oil, is popular in Europe as a scalp treatment applied to improve hair strength, shine and body, help reverse scalp conditions, combat hair
Burdock Herb
loss. It is used as a natural hair oil to help get rid of scalp itching and dandruff, promote healing of skin and scalp conditions. Modern studies indicate that Burdock root oil extract is rich in phytosterols and essential fatty acids (including rare long chain EFAs), the nutrients required to maintain healthy scalp and promote natural hair growth. Regular use of Burdock oil helps restore and maintain healthy scalp and hair. The oil helps combat scalp itching, redness and dandruff, promotes recovery of scalp irritation. It combines immediate relieving effect with nutritional support of normal functions of sebaceous glands and hair follicles.

Burdock oil is obtained by for centuries to produce Burdock herbal medicines. High quality Burdock oil has mild attractive aroma which comes from the volatile root ingredients. Unique Burdock aroma may be used to identify genuine Burdock oil and avoid adulterated products.

Burdock and Velcro
After taking his dog for a walk one day in the early 1940s, George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor, became curious about the seeds of the burdock plant that had attached themselves to his clothes and to the dog's fur. Under a microscope, he looked closely at the hook-and-loop system that the seeds have evolved to hitchhike on passing animals and aid pollination, and he realised that the same approach could be used to join other things together. The result was Velcro.

Tolstoy
The great Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, wrote in his journal, 1896, about a tiny shoot of burdock he saw in a ploughed field, “black from dust but still alive and red in the center … It makes me want to write. It asserts life to the end, and alone in the midst of the whole field, somehow or other had asserted it.”

Species
Arctium lappa : Greater Burdock, Gobo
Arctium minus : Lesser Burdock, Burweed, Louse-bur, Button-bur
Arctium minus nemorosum (=Arctium vulgare) : Woodland Burdock, Wood Burdock
Arctium pubens : Common Burdock
Arctium tomentosum : Downy Burdock, Woolly Burdock
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Other useful herb information: Pennyroyal | Skullcap | Mistletoe | Horny Goat Weed | Shiitake | Gotu Kola | Watercress

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