The Healing Properties of Burdock Root, From High Fiber to Anti-Inflammation

What is burdock root and what's so good about it? Our dieticians help break it down.

Ever perused the root vegetable section at the grocery store and come across interesting root herbs like ginger, galangal, and turmeric? Chances are, you've also stumbled upon their cousin herb, burdock root. While more commonly used as a holistic healing tool for various health conditions, this root vegetable has culinary uses, too.

What Is Burdock Root and What Does It Taste Like?

According to Catherine Ko, RDN, a Los Angeles–based dietitian, burdock root is used in East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) cuisines as an appetizer, and in soup and tea. Now grown in the U.S., but native to Europe and northern Asia, its long, deep roots are beige or brown in color, sometimes almost black.

Burdock Root Benefits

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It's full of prebiotic fiber.

According to Ko, the main nutritional benefit of burdock is its fiber content—specifically inulin, a type of fiber that serves as a prebiotic. "Inulin has been shown to increase the growth of good bacteria, which is associated with improved calcium absorption, decreased allergy risk, improved immune system defense, and other positive effects on metabolism," she says.

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It has anti-inflammatory properties.

"Burdock root is often used as an herbal supplement and has some anti-inflammatory properties to treat skin conditions like acne and eczema, as well as antioxidant properties, which may help to alleviate chronic inflammation in the body," says Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, founder of BZ Nutrition in New York City. One study found that burdock root decreased inflammation in people suffering from knee osteoarthritis.

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It's a natural diuretic.

Burdock root is also a holistic medicinal solution used as a diuretic and to ease digestive issues. (Diuretics aid in removing water from the body by helping you pee).

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It has potential cancer-fighting properties.

Early research points to burdock root's anti-tumor activity and its potential ability to help fend off, or at least decrease, certain cancers. According to one study from 2016, "burdock has been utilized in treatment of breast tumor, ovary, bladder, malignant melanoma, lymphoma and pancreatic cells."

The root also contains an important chemical found in some plants, tannin, which is under study for its cancer preventive properties (like stimulating white blood cells that fight infection and limiting cancer propagation).

In addition, burdock seeds contain an active ingredient, arctigenin, which can remove tumor cells with low nutrients.

How to Prepare Burdock Root

Because of its dense texture, the most common way to prepare burdock root is to shred it, as most of the fiber and antioxidants are near the skin, Ko says. But start with a thorough scrub and rinse.

"In order to harvest its full benefit (and flavor), it is recommended to cook burdock roots without peeling," she says. "Pickled burdock root alone can be served as an appetizer, or it's commonly used in sushi. It can also be sauteed with other vegetables or meat."

Similar to ginger and galangal root, burdock root tends to be very hard in its raw form. When cooked properly, it contributes wonderful flavors, according to Gabrielle Tafur, RD, a dietitian based in Orlando, Florida. It's also used as a detoxifying agent, so it's key to start with a little bit and work up your tolerance to prevent dehydration and malabsorption. You can also pickle and ferment burdock root, similar to kimchi, to gain the benefits that fermented foods offer.

"Burdock root can also be dried in the oven at a low temperature for a long time, and then boiled and consumed in the form of tea," Tafur says. "It can be delicious when combined with fresh lemon and local honey to really boost energy and immune levels." She adds that you can also find it in liquid form as a tincture, "in which case you can add it to your tea, latte, smoothie, or oatmeal."

Zeitlin warns that wild burdock root is unsafe to ingest, as it may be contaminated. She suggests the safest form for consumption is as a tea or supplement. When used safely, burdock root can provide unique flavors to certain foods.

Talk to Your Doctor First

Despite burdock root's medicinal use for centuries, clinical research is still limited, and more is needed to confirm some of its purported properties. Zeitlin recommends checking with your physician before adding it to your routine.

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