In the United Kingdom, the only time you’ll hear burdock is when it follows dandelion. It’s a root that was popularised as a flavouring for dandelion and burdock, a drink that began life centuries ago as a fermented alcoholic beverage and is now a popular flavour of pop. This drink is as polarising as Marmite and Manchester United—you either love it or hate it. But in most cases, there is actually very little dandelion or burdock in your carbonated beverage, which is a shame, because both of these plants could be very beneficial for your health.
We’ve already discussed the benefits of dandelion at length, but now it’s time for dandelion’s long-time friend to take the spotlight as we look at the health benefits of burdock root. We don’t sell this root ourselves, but we do sell dandelion, which you can buy through the link above.
The Health Benefits of Burdock Root
Burdock root is packed with antioxidants, and these compounds are responsible for many of the health benefits discussed below. However, contrary to what you might have read elsewhere, it doesn’t contain a high concentration of vitamins and minerals. There are certainly many nutrients in there, but not in any worthwhile concentration.
It’s often claimed that burdock root is high in a host of B vitamins, but you’d need to consume 100g of the root just to get 5% to 20% of your RDA of most B vitamins, and the average burdock root tea is made with 10g to 15g of fresh root. As for minerals, manganese is one of the most abundant, but you’ll only get 1% to 2% of your RDA with the average cup of burdock root tea.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s focus on the good stuff.
1. It Reduces Inflammation
A 2014 study found burdock root to be effective at reducing inflammation in cases of osteoarthritis. (1) This study looked at inflammation of the knee in particular, gathering results from 36 patients between the ages of 50 and 70.
The patients were split into two groups, one of which was given 3 cups of burdock root tea a day while the other received a placebo. At the end of the study, inflammatory markers were measured and researchers were able to conclude that burdock root was effective at improving inflammatory status and oxidative stress.
There have been similar studies conducted on nettle tea, dandelion tea, and more. Generally speaking, the antioxidant compounds in many roots and plants are very effective at reducing inflammation, and this is one of their key selling points.
2. It is a Natural Diuretic
Just like its close friend dandelion, burdock root is a natural diuretic, which means it can be used to increase urination and draw excess water out of the body. This is great if you’re suffering from water retention. Substances like this are also used in the fitness and bodybuilding industry to increase muscle definition. However, contrary to some of the claims made by less-than-reputable supplement companies, this does not make it an effective weight-loss agent, as it has no impact on fat loss or long-term weight loss.
Diuretics like this also need to be used sparingly, as it’s possible to dehydrate yourself if not consumed in moderation and with a certain degree of care.
3. It Has Some Anti-Cancer Potential
Another benefit to antioxidant-rich plants is their ability to reduce cancer risk. Antioxidants help to eliminate free radicals in the body, which can lead to oxidative stress and are a known factor in many chronic diseases. Burdock root has also been studied as a possible natural cure with relatively positive results. (2) However, this doesn’t mean that burdock root is a cure, nor does it mean that regular consumption can fight off this disease.
If anything, it’s just another reason to consume a balanced diet rich in whole foods and antioxidant-rich herbs and spices.
4. It Can Improve Circulation and Regulate Blood Sugar
One of the most common claims made about burdock root is that it can “detoxify the blood”. As we have discussed before in our own Detox Tea Gift Set, the word detox is used liberally and often incorrectly throughout the health and fitness industry, but there may be some truth to these particular claims.
As far as “detoxifying the blood” goes, that’s the job of your kidneys, and you definitely don’t need burdock root tea to help you in that regard. But there has been some very promising research suggesting that it can improve circulation, and that it can even regulate blood sugar levels. This potentially makes it a useful weapon in the fight against diabetes.
5. It Can Improve Skin and Hair Health
A lot of beauty companies are adding burdock root extracts to skincare and haircare products and claiming that it’s the best thing since sliced bread (or, in the case of the beauty industry, the best thing since argan oil, olive oil, acai berry, and the countless other “revolutionary” substances that appear every month). A lot of their claims have to be taken with pinch of salt, but where burdock root is concerned, there might be something to them, and research suggests it could reduce wrinkles and alleviate irritating skin conditions like psoriasis and acne.
A lot more research needs to be done, however, before these claims can be verified.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that while burdock root does grow wild throughout Europe, it’s not a good idea to harvest it yourself. You should also be careful where you purchase it from and only deal with reputable sellers. This root is in the same family of plants as some of the most toxic plants in the wild, and it’s not uncommon for them to grow together. If you (or the person you’re buying from) don’t know what you’re doing, then it could lead to some serious side effects.
You should stay clear of this tea and the root in general if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and caution is also advised if you are on medication or you suffer from a preexisting health condition. You should also avoid it if you are allergic to plants in the same family.
Burdock root is generally safe and well tolerated, but it can cause complications in extreme situations.
How to Make Burdock Root Tea
There are many preparations of dried burdock root sold in health-food shops, but these are often ground into a fine dust and added to teabags, which means you’re getting a small amount of a low-quality product and won’t reap many of the benefits we discussed above. A good burdock root tea will be loose leaf, lightly processed, and ready for a long steep.
If you have the fresh root, then it will need to be dried before it is prepared*. This can be done by chopping the root into thin strips, leaving it in the sun for a few hours, and then dry-frying or roasting for 5 to 15 minutes until they are golden brown.
Once you have the root prepared, then you can chop it up and use 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup of boiling water to make your own burdock root tea. Just leave the tea to steep for a few minutes and then drink, preferably with a little honey or sugar, but without milk.
*We’ve said this before but it’s worth saying again: it’s not a good idea to harvest this root yourself from the wild.