The Botanical Secret: Burdock root

April 21, 2017

With 2017 set to be the year of botanicals it's an exciting time for Botanic Lab as many of the ingredients that we champion come into the spotlight. Botanical complexity is at the heart of everything we do (the clue is in our name).  We have relished the challenge of incorporating these powerful and interesting ingredients into drinks that will excite your taste buds. That's not always the easiest of tasks.  In meaningful quantities, many potent botanicals have a challenging flavour and are avoided by mainstream food producers. 

In this series of posts, we'd like to share with you some of our favourite botanical ingredients - the history, origin and traditional uses and give you an insight into the very special plants that we put at the centre of our drink creations.

Burdock root (lesser known as Arctium) is from the Asteraceae family of biennial plant native to Africa, Europe and Asia.

Burdock is easily recognised by its prickly seed heads (a 'burr'), which have a somewhat pesky tendency to cling to our clothing but its persistence for attachment is what brought burdock from the Old World to the New World of America and Canada.  It inspired the design of Velcro after the hook-and-loop design of the seeds caught the attention of Swiss inventor George de Mestral in the early 1940’s.


In herbal medicine, burdock has a long history of use in the elimination of toxins, most notably as a blood purifier, diaphoretic (increases sweating), and a diuretic. The root of the plant is attributed with the ability to stimulate bile production and to help regenerate cells of the liver and is also reputed to reduce excessive levels of uric acid in the blood and to deter the formation of monosodium urate crystals. The herb is also said to be an aphrodisiac.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the seeds are known as niupangzi (also Niu Bang Zi) and are used to expel wind-heat that accompanies cough, fever, sore throat, arthritis, rheumatism, anorexia nervosa, and various gastrointestinal disorders.

Burdock root's wide reaching uses are due to the presence of more than a dozen different polyacetylene compounds, several of which have been proven to possess antibacterial and antifungal properties. The herb also contains inulin, which helps to regulate inflammatory responses initiated by the immune system. 

 


The root contains many vital vitamins, including folic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, vitamin-E, and vitamin-C and minerals including iron, manganese, magnesium; and small amounts of zinc, calcium, selenium, and phosphorus. Burdock root contains good amounts of the electrolyte potassium (308 mg or 6.5% of daily required levels per 100g root ). Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure.  

Burdock is edible in its cooked or raw state. The Native American Iroquois harvested and dried the roots to serve as a source of food in Winter and in Japan, young burdock taproots are as common as potatoes are in the West. The classic Japanese dish known as Kinpira gobo features braised burdock taproots combined with carrots, although the roots are also added to miso soups, rice dishes, and stir-fries. The young leaves and flowers can be steamed as a vegetable or added raw to salads. While the root imparts a sweet and pungent flavor, the leaves and flowers taste very similar to one of its botanical cousins—the artichoke.  

Not content with earning applause in medical journals, burdock has found a place in literature as well.

The Russian novelist Tolstoy made an entry in his personal diary that described an encounter with a burdock plant that stood alone in a plowed field, but perhaps the best portrayal of the nature of burdock was by William Shakespeare in the comedy, Measure for Measure.  Upon vowing to defend Friar Lodowick from the bawdy speech of the peasantry, Lucio declares his devotion with the simple statement: "I am a kind of burr; I shall stick." 

Botanic 3 which forms part of the Botanic Lab Cleanse Program, contains 2000mg of burdock root equivalent to just under half of the RDA.