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Burdock - Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

2015 Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences

Burdock grows throughout the United States except for the southern border and some areas of the Great Lakes states. The weed first arrived in North America with the early European immigrants, who used it as a medicine.

The writings of Galen, a second century Greek physician, describe the many curative properties of this plant, especially its effectiveness in soothing coughs and asthma. The North American Plains Indians used the root to treat pleurisy.

The United States imports the dried root of great burdock, called "lappa," for the manufacture of blood medicines, eczema treatments, diuretics, and laxatives.

Oriental and European cultures use burdock as a vegetable. The fleshy taproot contains large amounts of inulin, the same sugar that is abundant in Jerusalem artichokes. The roots, which are actually quite nutritious, may be prepared by peeling and boiling in two changes of water. The stalk may also be eaten, after the rind is stripped off and the inner part cooked. However, its laxative properties limit its use as a main dish. The stalk may also be candied by slowly simmering in sugar water.

Burdock is a slow growing plant, but it can effectively compete in waste areas because its large flat "elephant ear" leaves shade surrounding plants. Burdock likes fertile but undisturbed ground; it is not a serious crop weed because even minimal tillage prevents growth.

The genus name Arctium comes from the Greek word arktos, meaning bear, and refers to the round, brown burs. The species name minus is Latin for "smaller." Other names for common burdock are smaller burdock, clotbur, cuckoo-button, cockle-button, hardock, and bardane.

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