Plant Profiler

Burdock (Arctium lappa)

Burdock (Arctium lappa) Image
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Akujitsu, anthraxivore, arctii, arctiin, arctigenin, arctiol, Arctium lappa Linne, Arctium minus, Arctium tomentosa, Arctium tomentosum Mill., Asteraceae (family), bardana, Bardanae Radix, bardane, bardane grande (French), beggar's buttons, burdock root, burr, burr seed, carbohydrate inulin, chin, clot-burr, clotbur, cockle button, cocklebur, cocklebuttons, Compositae (family), cuckold, daiki kishi, daucosterol, edible burdock, fatty oils, fox's clote, fukinanolide, fukinone, grass burdock, great bur, great burdock, great burdocks, gobo (Japan), Grosse klette (German), happy major, hardock, hare burr, hurrburr, Kletterwurzel (German), lampazo (Spanish), lappaol, lappola, lignin, love leaves, neoarctin, niu bang zi, oil of lappa, mataresinol, personata, petastilone, Philanthropium, polysaccharides/mucilages (xyloglucan), sequisterpene lactones, sterols, sulfur-containing polyacetylenes, tannins, thorny burr, turkey burrseed, volatile oils, wild gobo, woo-bang-ja.

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: Burdock (Arctium lappa) contains sterols, tannins, sulfur-containing polyacetylenes (<0.1%)7,15, volatile and fatty oils, and polysaccharides/mucilages (xyloglucan)16. Six compounds have been isolated from the seeds of Arctium lappa, including a lignan ("neoarctin"), daucosterol, arctigenin, arctiin, mataresinol, and lappaol.11 Burdock leaves contain arctiol, fukinone, fukinanolide, and petastilone. The active constituents of burdock are believed to be sequisterpene lactones and carbohydrate inulin (50%).12
  • Antiviral/antibacterial effects: Inhibition of HIV-1 virus infection has been demonstrated in vitro.4 Several lignans are now under investigations as antivirals (particularly anti-HIV).14 The antibacterial activity of burdock has been attributed to the presence of polyacetylonenes.7 Burdock has been reported to exhibit in vitro activity against gram-negative bacteria, including E. coli, Shigella flexneri, and Shigella sonnei.
  • Antineoplastic effects: Burdock exhibits in vitro cytostatic activity against experimental cancer cell lines and has been found to inhibit the tumor-promoting activity of Epstein-Barr virus in Swiss mice (resulting in inhibition, hemorrhagic necrosis, and liquefaction of tumors).9,10 In vitro data have found dismutagenic activity of burdock against 4-NO2-1, 2-DAB, ethidium bromide, and other mutagens1, which has been attributed to the burdock constituent arctigenin11. In vitro studies suggest that fresh burdock juice inhibits DMBA-induced chromosomal abnormalities.12,13
  • Antioxidant/anti-inflammatory effects: In an animal model, subcutaneous administration of Arctium lappa crude extract exhibited free radical scavenging activity and was found to reduce rat paw edema.8 Burdock exhibited hepatoprotective properties in mice injected with acetaminophen or carbon tetrachloride, which was attributed to antioxidant properties.2 Lignans in burdock exhibited antagonism of platelet activating factor (PAF) binding to platelets in rabbits.5
  • Renal effects: Oral burdock use has been associated with diuretic effects in humans3 and with inhibition of kidney stone formation in Wistar rats17.
  • Serum glucose effects: Although streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice given burdock paradoxically experienced hyperglycemia, the mechanism of burdock's effects on serum glucose is not clear6, and the clinical relevance of this conflicting animal report is uncertain6.


  • The burdock constituent arctiin remains stable in gastric juice, and is rapidly transformed into arctigenin metabolite 1 in rat intestinal flora, followed by conversion into its metabolite 2 through C-3 methylation.18
  • Following an oral dose of 200mg/kg in rats, the arctiin metabolite 1 reaches its peak serum level after four hours.18


  1. Morita, K., Kada, T., and Namiki, M. A desmutagenic factor isolated from burdock (Arctium lappa Linne). Mutat Res 1984;129(1):25-31. 6387466
  2. Lin, S. C., Chung, T. C., Lin, C. C., Ueng, T. H., Lin, Y. H., Lin, S. Y., and Wang, L. Y. Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa on carbon tetrachloride- and acetaminophen-induced liver damage. Am J Chin Med 2000;28(2):163-173. 10999435
  3. Kassler, W. J., Blanc, P., and Greenblatt, R. The use of medicinal herbs by human immunodeficiency virus-infected patients. Arch Intern Med 1991;151(11):2281-2288. 1953234
  4. Yao, X. J., Wainberg, M. A., and Parniak, M. A. Mechanism of inhibition of HIV-1 infection in vitro by purified extract of Prunella vulgaris. Virology 1992;187(1):56-62. 1371029
  5. Iwakami, S., Wu, J. B., Ebizuka, Y., and Sankawa, U. Platelet activating factor (PAF) antagonists contained in medicinal plants: lignans and sesquiterpenes. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 1992;40(5):1196-1198. 1394633
  6. Swanston-Flatt, S. K., Day, C., Flatt, P. R., Gould, B. J., and Bailey, C. J. Glycaemic effects of traditional European plant treatments for diabetes. Studies in normal and streptozotocin diabetic mice. Diabetes Res 1989;10(2):69-73. 2743711
  7. Schulte, K. E., Rucker, G., and Boehme, R. [Polyacetylenes as components of the roots of bur]. Arzneimittelforschung 1967;17(7):829-833. 5632839
  8. Lin, C. C., Lu, J. M., Yang, J. J., Chuang, S. C., and Ujiie, T. Anti-inflammatory and radical scavenge effects of Arctium lappa. Am J Chin Med 1996;24(2):127-137. 8874669
  9. Dombradi, C. A. and Foldeak, S. Screening report on the antitumor activity of purified Arctium Lappa extracts. Tumori 1966;52(3):173-175. 5962247
  10. Sato, A. [Studies on anti-tumor activity of crude drugs. I. The effects of aqueous extracts of some crude drugs in shortterm screening test. (1)]. Yakugaku Zasshi 1989;109(6):407-423. 2810060
  11. Wang, H. Y. and Yang, J. S. [Studies on the chemical constituents of Arctium lappa L]. Yao Xue Xue Bao [Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica] 1993;28(12):911-917. 8030415
  12. Ichihara A. New sesquilignans from Arctium lappa L. The structure of lappaol C, D and E. Agric Biol Chem 1977;41:1813-1814.
  13. Morita K. Chemical nature of a desmutagenic factor isolated from burdock (Arctium lappa Linne). Agric Biol Chem 1985;49:925-932.
  14. Yang L, Lin S, Yang T, and et al. Synthesis of anti-HIV activity of dibenzylbutyrolactone lignans. Bioorganic Medicinal Chem Lett 1996;6:941-944.
  15. Washino T. New sulfur-containing acetylenic compounds from Arctium lappa. Agric Biol Chem 1986;50(263):269.
  16. Kato, Y. and Watanabe, T. Isolation and characterization of a xyloglucan from gobo (Arctium lappa L.). Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 1993;57(9):1591-1592. 7764226
  17. Grases, F., Melero, G., Costa-Bauza, A., Prieto, R., and March, J. G. Urolithiasis and phytotherapy. Int Urol Nephrol 1994;26(5):507-511. 7860196
  18. Nose, M., Fujimoto, T., Nishibe, S., and Ogihara, Y. Structural transformation of lignan compounds in rat gastrointestinal tract; II. Serum concentration of lignans and their metabolites. Planta Med 1993;59(2):131-134. 8387675

Licensed by Natural Standard Copyright © 2010 by Natural Standard Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

back to Plant Profiler
back to top