Arctium lappa L. (Burdock) is a plant used to treat a variety of ailments. It consists primarily of carbohydrates, volatile oils, plant sterols, tannins, and fatty oils and is traditionally used to clear the bloodstream of toxins, as a diuretic, and is applied to the skin for problems such as dry skin, eczema, acne, and psoriasis . In China, burdock is also used as an aphrodisiac in order to increase sex drive and treat impotence and sterility. Despite its long use, there are very few scientific studies that have examined burdock’s effects.
Metabolic Profile of the Bioactive Compounds of Arctium lappa L. :
Bioactive compounds of burdock seeds caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid and cynarin. Arctiin, luteolin and quercetin rhamnoside are active constituents of burdock roots. Reported bioactive compounds of burdock leaves are phenolic acids, quercetin, quercitrin and luteolin.
Can Arctium lappa L. increase Testosterone?
Arctium lappa L. has recently appeared in some testosterone boosting supplements, however, besides one animal study  no other evidence exists that it actually increases testosterone levels. Jian Feng and assistants  orally fed rats with 300, 600 and 1200 mg/kg body weight of an aqueous extract of Arctium lappa L. roots while other two groups received placebo and Viagra (as a positive reference drug). Aphrodisiac effect of plant extract was confirmed as all doses studied managed to dose-dependently enhanced male sexual ability compared to control group, though Viagra was more effective than the extract. In similar fashion, serum testosterone concentrations were significantly increased by the end of the experiment in the 600 and 1,200 mg/kg groups. Viagra also managed to increase testosterone but it failed to reach statistical significance.
To date and to our best knowledge this is the only evidence to confirm testosterone increase in vivo. Other claims about its aphrodisiac effect are largely based on subjective opinions rather than scientific observations.
Other Notable Burdock Benefits
Burdock extract has been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory response via blockade of cysteinyl leukotrienes in vitro [4,5]. Burdock may also be a promising natural component for use in anti-allergic treatment as it was able to inhibit acute skin response in mice in vivo . Methanolic extracts of burdock have been reported to attenuate excessive NO production at inflammatory sites via inhibition of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) . It has been suggested that the root or/and fruit are possible parts with hypoglycemic effect . In folk medicine, burdock is also used as a diuretic.
Precautions and Interactions
The most commonly reported side effect of burdock is the induction of contact dermatitis . Development of anaphylaxis due to burdock consumption was also reported . Even though burdock is eaten as food is considered safe, it is best to avoid taking large amounts of burdock as studies on the herb’s safety are lacking . Some evidence suggesting that burdock may lower blood sugar, therefore people with diabetes who are already taking medications to lower blood sugar should not take it. Burdock may also impair blood clotting so caution is advised.
(Other common names: Arctium, Arctium minus, Arctium tomentosum, Edible Burdock, Fox’s Clote, Gobo, Glouteron, Bardana, Beggar’s Buttons, Burdock Root Extract, Burr Seed, Clotbur, Cocklebur, Cockle Buttons)
- University of Maryland Medical Center. “Arctium lappa L.”. Retrieved from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/burdock at 7. Nov 2014
Ferracane, Rosalia, et al. “Metabolic profile of the bioactive compounds of Arctium lappa seeds, roots and leaves.” Journal of pharmaceutical and biomedical analysis 51.2 (2010): 399-404.
Jian Feng, Cao, et al. “Effect of aqueous extract of Arctium lappa L. roots on the sexual behavior of male rats.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 12.1 (2012): 8.
Chan, Yuk-Shing, et al. “A review of the pharmacological effects of Arctium lappa.” Inflammopharmacology 19.5 (2011): 245-254.
Knipping, Karen, et al. “In vitro and in vivo anti-allergic effects of Arctium lappa L.” Experimental biology and medicine 233.11 (2008): 1469-1477.
Wang, Bor-Sen, et al. “Protective effects of Arctium lappa Linne on oxidation of low-density lipoprotein and oxidative stress in RAW 264.7 macrophages.” Food Chemistry 101.2 (2007): 729-738.