The Edible Burdock Plant

Burdock plants have dark green leaves that can grow up to 28” long; they can remind you of elephant ears.  They are generally large, coarse and shaped like a pointed oval, with the lower ones being heart-shaped.  They are woolly underneath. The leafstalks are generally hollow.  They normally flower from July through  October.

The prickly heads of these plants burrs are noted for easily catching on to fur and clothing.  Burrs can cause local irritation.  The plants are distributed over most of the United States and Southern Canada.

The taproot of young burdock plants can be harvested and eaten as a root vegetable.  While generally out of favor in the west, it remains popular in Asia.  Burdock root is very crisp and has a sweet, mild, and pungent flavor with a little muddy harshness that can be reduced by soaking julienned or shredded roots in water for five to ten minutes.

Burdock roots

Take the first year roots, peel and slice them, then simmer in water for twenty minutes with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda (if you have it).They will be tasty and nutritious.

Immature flower stalks may also be harvested in late spring, before flowers appear; their taste resembles that of an artichoke, to which the burdock is related.  The stalks are thoroughly peeled, and either eaten raw, or boiled in salt water. Leaves are also eaten in spring in Japan when a plant is young and leaves are soft. A popular Japanese dish is kinpira gobō shredded burdock root and carrot, braised with soy sauce, sugar,  sake, and sesame oil.

Burdock is believed to increase lactation in nursing mothers, but it is sometimes recommended that it be avoided during pregnancy based on animal studies that show components of burdock to cause uterus stimulation.

Herbalists considered dried burdock to be a diuretic, diaphoretic, and a blood-purifying agent.  Young roots of first year burdock dug up in the early spring are used to make a salve for burns, wounds and other skin irritations.

Burdock flowers

Burdock may cause an allergic reaction in people sensitive to certain flowers and herbs. When applied to the skin, it can cause a rash.

When discussing the use of Burdock as a medication, WEB M. D states that the following interactions can take place when burdock is ingested.  Quote “Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with BURDOCK

  • Burdock might slow blood clotting. Taking burdock along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.”

The University of Maryland Medical Center has some recommendation on the uses of burdock and their dosages at the following site.

Burdock leaves

As with all plants be sure of your identification before you eat them.  The best way is to find a plant expert in your area that is familiar with burdock.  If you choose to use them for medical purposes, please read the medical citations shown above and remember that I am not giving medical advice and have had no special medical training.


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