Herb: Lesser Burdock

Latin name: Arctium minus

Family: Compositae

Medicinal use of Lesser Burdock:

Burdock is one of the foremost detoxifying herbs in both Chinese and Western herbal medicine. Arctium lappa is the main species used, though this species has similar properties. The dried root of one year old plants is the official herb, but the leaves and fruits can also be used. It is used to treat conditions caused by an "overload" of toxins, such as throat and other infections, boils, rashes and other skin problems. The root is thought to be particularly good at helping to eliminate heavy metals from the body. The plant is antibacterial, antifungal and carminative. It has soothing, mucilaginous properties and is said to be one of the most certain cures for many types of skin diseases, burns, bruises etc. It is used in the treatment of herpes, eczema, acne, impetigo, ringworm, boils, bites etc. The plant can be taken internally as an infusion, or used externally as a wash. Use with caution. One-year old roots are alterative, aperient, blood purifier, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and stomachic. The seed is alterative, antibacterial, antifungal, antiphlogistic, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and hypoglycaemic. It is used in the treatment of colds with sore throat and cough, measles, pharyngitis, acute tonsillitis and abscesses. The crushed seed is poulticed onto bruises. The seed is harvested in the summer and dried for later use. The seed contains arctiin, this excites the central nervous system producing convulsions an increase in respiration and later paralysis. It also lowers the blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels. The leaves are poulticed onto burns, ulcers and sores.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Waste ground, edges of woods, roadsides etc.

Edible parts of Lesser Burdock:

Root - raw or cooked. The best roots are obtained from young plants. Usually peeled and sliced. The roasted root is a coffee substitute. Young leaves and leaf stems - raw or cooked. Used as a potherb. Mucilaginous. It is best to remove the rind from the stem. Young flowering stem - peeled and eaten raw or cooked like asparagus. Seed sprouts. No further details.

Other uses of the herb:

A fibre is obtained from the inner bark and is used to make paper. It is about 0.9mm long. The stems are harvested in late summer, the leaves are removed and the stems steamed in order to strip off the fibre. The fibres are then cooked for two hours in soda ash before being put in a ball mill for 2 hours. The resulting paper is a light tan/ brown colour.

Propagation of Lesser Burdock:

Seed - best sown in situ in autumn.

Cultivation of the herb:

Waste ground, edges of woods, roadsides etc.

Known hazards of Arctium minus:

Although no reports of toxicity have been seen for this plant, some caution is advised due to the following report for the closely related A. lappa. Care should be taken if harvesting the seed in any quantity since tiny hairs from the seeds can be inhaled and these are toxic.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.