Native to Europe and Northern Asia, burdock (Arctium lappa) is easily recognizable by its hooked burs, which get caught in clothing and animal fur so helping the plant to spread its seeds. Growing up to a metre high, burdock has purple flowers that bloom between June and October. These develop into the familiar seed-heads or burrs with hooked spines, which inspired the inventors of the Velcro fastening system.

Burdock has wavy, heart shaped leaves that are green on the top and whitish on the bottom. The deep roots, which are used medicinally, are brownish green, or nearly black on the outside These are also eaten as a food and are sometimes referred to as lappa, edible burdock, wild gobo or happy major. They have a crispy texture with a flavour similar to that of Jerusalem artichokes or parsnips.


Burdock was traditionally combined with dandelion to make a stimulating drink to help ease constipation and other similar digestive disorders.  It was also used in traditional medicine to cleanse the blood and to treat skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis. Leaf poultices were applied to painful rheumatic joints. In Traditional Chinese medicine, burdock has long been used with other herbs for sore throats and colds.


Since April 2014, all herbal medicines for sale in the UK and Europe must be approved by the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) having been rigorously checked for safety and quality. They must also display the Traditional Herbal Registration ‘THR’ logo on their pack.


Registered herbal medicines containing burdock are used today to relieve symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold based on traditional use only.