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Arctium lappa

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Subject: Arctium, Hanabiramochi, Bugak, Lappa, Japanese cuisine
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Arctium lappa

Greater Burdock
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Arctium
Species: A. lappa
Binomial name
Arctium lappa
Arctium lappa - MHNT

Arctium lappa, commonly called greater burdock,[1] gobō, edible burdock,[1] lappa,[1] or beggar's buttons,[1] is a Eurasian species of plants in the sunflower family, cultivated in gardens for its root used as a vegetable. It has become an invasive weed of high-nitrogen soils in North America, Australia, and other regions.[2][3][4][5]


  • Description 1
  • Distribution and ecology 2
  • Cultivation 3
  • Culinary use 4
  • Use in traditional medicine 5
  • Chemical constituents 6
  • Size 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10



Greater Burdock is a biennial plant, rather tall, reaching as much as 9 feet (2.7 m).[6] It has large, alternating, cordiform leaves that have a long petiole and are pubescent on the underside.[7]

The flowers are purple and grouped in globular capitula, united in clusters. They appear in mid-summer, from July to September.[8] The capitula are surrounded by an involucre made out of many bracts, each curving to form a hook, allowing them to be carried long distances on the fur of animals. The fruits are achenes; they are long, compressed, with short pappuses. The fleshy tap-root can grow up to 3 feet (0.91 m) deep.[7]

Distribution and ecology

This species is native to the temperate regions of the old world, from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, and from the British Isles through Russia, and the Middle East to China and Japan, including India.

It is naturalized almost everywhere and is usually found in disturbed areas, especially in soil rich in nitrogen. It is commonly cultivated in Japan where it gives its name to a particular construction technique, burdock piling.

The leaves of Greater Burdock provide food for the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera, such as the Thistle Ermine (Myelois circumvoluta).


It prefers a fresh, worked soil, rich in humus, and should be positioned in full sunlight. Burdock is very reactive to nitrogen fertilizer. Propagation is achieved through sowing the seeds midsummer. The harvest occurs three to four months after the seeding until late autumn, when the roots become too fibrous.

Culinary use

A Japanese appetizer, kinpira gobō, consisting of sauteed gobō (Greater burdock root) and ninjin (carrot), with a side of sauteed kiriboshi daikon (boiled dried daikon)
"Gobō salad" Japanese burdock salad
Burdock root, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 302 kJ (72 kcal)
17.34 g
Sugars 2.9
Dietary fiber 3.3 g
0.15 g
1.53 g
Thiamine (B1)
0.01 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.03 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.3 mg
0.321 mg
Vitamin B6
0.24 mg
Folate (B9)
23 μg
Vitamin C
3 mg
Vitamin E
0.38 mg
Vitamin K
1.6 μg
41 mg
0.8 mg
38 mg
0.232 mg
51 mg
308 mg
5 mg
0.33 mg

Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Greater burdock root is known as niúbàng (牛蒡) in Chinese, which was borrowed into Japanese as gobō, and is still eaten in both countries. It was used in Europe during the Middle Ages as a vegetable, but now it is rarely used except in Italy, Brazil and Portugal, where it is known as bardana or "garduna". Plants are cultivated for their slender roots, which can grow about 1 meter long and 2 cm across. The root was traditionally used in Britain as a flavouring in the herbal drink dandelion and burdock, which is still commercially produced.

Immature flower stalks may also be harvested in late spring, before flowers appear. The taste resembles that of artichoke, to which the burdock is related.

In the second half of the 20th century, burdock achieved international recognition for its culinary use due to the increasing popularity of the macrobiotic diet, which advocates its consumption. The root contains a fair amount of dietary fiber (GDF, 6g per 100g), calcium, potassium, amino acids,[9] and is low calorie. It contains polyphenols that causes darkened surface and muddy harshness by formation of tannin-iron complexes. Those polyphenols are caffeoylquinic acid derivatives.[10]

The root is very crisp and has a sweet, mild, and pungent flavor with a little muddy harshness that can be reduced by soaking julienned/shredded roots in water for five to ten minutes. The harshness shows excellent harmonization with pork in miso soup (tonjiru) and takikomi gohan (a Japanese-style pilaf).

A popular Japanese dish is kinpira gobō, julienned or shredded burdock root and carrot, braised with soy sauce, sugar, mirin and/or sake, and sesame oil. Another is burdock makizushi (rolled sushi filled with pickled burdock root; the burdock root is often artificially colored orange to resemble a carrot). Gobō can also be found as a fried snack food similar in taste and texture to potato chips and is occasionally used as an ingredient in tempura type dishes.

Use in traditional medicine

Dried burdock roots (Bardanae radix) are used in folk medicine as a diuretic, diaphoretic, and a blood purifying agent.[11] Anecdotal reports from the 19th century suggest that this medicinal plant has also been used by the Ojibwa tribe, and today, in form of an ingredient in Essiac tea for the alternative treatment of some cancers.[12] As an oily macerate, it is a component of some cosmetics, shampoos and hair care products. The seeds of greater burdock are employed in traditional Chinese medicine particularly for skin conditions and in cold/flu formulas, under the name niubangzi[13] (Chinese: 牛蒡子; pinyin: niúpángzi; some dictionaries list the Chinese as just 牛蒡 niúbàng.)[14]

Chemical constituents

Burdock roots contain mucilage, sulfurous acetylene compounds, polyacetylenes and bitter guaianolide-type constituents. Seeds contain arctigenin, arctiin, and butyrolactone lignans.[15][16][17]


Size of greater burdock leaves.
The man holding the burdock leaf is 180 cm tall. 
This is a burdock leaf. Note the steps in the background for scale. 

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "USDA GRIN taxonomy". 
  2. ^ Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 816. 1753.Arctium lappaFlora of North America Vol. 19, 20 and 21 Page 169 Great burdock, grande bardane,
  3. ^ Atlas of Living Australia, Arctium lappa L.
  4. ^ Biota of North America Program 2014 county distribution map
  5. ^ L.Arctium lappaAltervista Flora Italiana, Bardana maggiore many photos
  6. ^ "COMMON BURDOCK, Arctium minus," Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide, Ohio State University,
  7. ^ a b Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 816. 1753.Arctium lappa niu bang 牛蒡Flora of China Vol. 20-21 Page 153
  8. ^  
  9. ^ (井関 清経=健康サイト編集). "ゴボウの皮はむかないのが"新常識" (06/01/19) - ニュース - nikkei BPnet". Retrieved 2012-02-02. 
  10. ^ Antioxidative caffeoylquinic acid derivatives in the roots of burdock (Arctium lappa L.). Yoshihiko Maruta, Jun Kawabata and Ryoya Niki, J. Agric. Food Chem., 1995, 43 (10), pp 2592–2595, doi:10.1021/jf00058a007
  11. ^ Chan Y.-S., Cheng L.-N., Wu J.-H., Chan E., Kwan Y.-W., Lee S.M.-Y., Leung G.P.-H., Yu P.H.-F., Chan S.-W.,"A review of the pharmacological effects of Arctium lappa (burdock)" [Article in Press] Inflammopharmacology 2010
  12. ^ Zick S.M., Sen A., Feng Y., Green J., Olatunde S., Boon H."Trial of essiac to ascertain its effect in women with breast cancer (TEA-BC)" Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2006 12:10 (971-980)
  13. ^ School of Chinese Medicine database
  14. ^ Niu Bang Zi (Great Burdock Fruit, Arctium) - Chinese Herbal Medicine Yin Yang house TCM Herbs (2013)
  15. ^ "Therapeutic effect of arctiin and arctigenin in immunocompetent and immunocompromised mice infected with influenza" Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 2010 33:7 (1199-1205)
  16. ^ Xie L.-H., Ahn E.-M., Akao T., Abdel-Hafez A.A.-M., Nakamura N., Hattori M."Transformation of arctiin to estrogenic and antiestrogenic substances by human intestinal bacteria" Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 2003 51:4 (378-384)
  17. ^ Matsumoto T., Hosono-Nishiyama K., Yamada H. , "Antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of from Arctium lappa on leukemic cells" Planta Medica 2006 72:3 (276-278)

External links

  • A modern herbal, burdock
  • Plants for a future
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