By Dr. Mercola
Unless you come from parts of Asia where it’s been extensively used, it’s highly likely that you’re unfamiliar with burdock root. Popularly used as an ingredient in Japanese cuisine,1,2 burdock root is usually added to stir-fries, consumed raw, used as a soup broth3 or pickled in apple cider vinegar to prolong shelf life.4
However, an easy way to use burdock root and possibly obtain benefits is by steeping the roots in boiling water to make burdock root tea. Learn more about this tea’s uses, how you can make this beverage at home and what you must watch out for when drinking it.
What Is Burdock Root Tea?
Burdock root tea is concocted by steeping roots of the burdock (Arctium lappa) plant. For centuries now, burdock roots, leaves, flowers and stems are well-respected for their medicinal and nutritional abilities.5,6 The burdock plant stands between 1 to 2 meters (3.2 to 6.5 feet) when fully grown, and produces purple flowers that extend away from the plant’s bracts, typically between June and October. The plant can be easily identified by its large leaves, which grow 50 centimeters (19.6 inches) in size and have a whitish underside.7
Burdock Root Tea’s Health Benefits
Burdock root tea can be helpful in addressing certain conditions, such as:
High blood pressure
Acid reflux disease
Promote antioxidant capabilities: The root contains antioxidants such as phenolic acids, quercetin and luteolin (all of which may be transferred to the tea) that can shield the body against cell-damaging free radicals.
In a 2011 article in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers suggested that burdock root tea’s antioxidant content may aid in slowing down tumor cell growth.11
Promote diuretic effects: Traditionally, burdock root tea was used to induce sweating and urination, and assist in purifying the blood and detoxifying the body.
This may allow the body to eliminate excess toxins, salts and water, and help reduce strain on the liver, kidneys and lymphatic system.
Act as an expectorant and decongestant: Burdock root tea may help cut through phlegm and mucus and improve coughs, colds or flu-like symptoms. The tea’s antibacterial nature may fight the infection and speed up healing too.12
Help people with liver-related issues: Burdock root tea may assist in speeding up the regrowth process of liver cells after a diagnosis of either cirrhosis or hepatitis.16
This can be important for people with blood-borne diseases or who have a liver that’s been damaged heavily by alcohol consumption.
Enhance the immune system: Burdock root tea’s vitamin C content may improve your immune system and boost white blood cell production. This tea’s immune-stimulating effects may trigger an increase in collagen production and promote quicker healing and recovery after illness too.17
Promote better heart health: Burdock root tea’s potassium levels may help lower blood pressure levels and decrease strain on the cardiovascular system.
Potassium can be good for maintaining fluid balance in the body, and serving as a vasodilator that can help curb atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.
Help lower risk for cancer: Quercetin and luteolin, which are phenolic acids found in burdock root tea, possess antimutagenic properties that can locate free radicals, and possibly help avoid cellular mutation and reduce a person’s cancer risk.
What Nutrients Can You Find in Burdock Root Tea?
Burdock root tea is home to antioxidants such as phenolic acids, luteolin and quercetin. It also contains the minerals potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, calcium and iron, as well as vitamin B6 and fiber.18
People who are sensitive to caffeine may drink this tea without any issues. As “The Tea Book” highlights, roasted and dried roots like burdock root may work as caffeine-free tea alternatives.19
How to Make Burdock Root Tea
Making your own burdock root tea at home is possible. Try following this recipe:20
Burdock Root Tea Recipe
• 1 burdock root
• 2 liters of water (a little over 2 quarts)
1. Cut burdock root into thirds. Using a scouring pad, scrape off the dirt on its surface under running water. Do not peel the skin since most of its nutrients are in it. Cut the root into thin slices.
2. Spread all the burdock on a bamboo sieve, cover with a nylon food cover and place under clear sun for one to two days until dry, pliable or almost crisp. If you are not comfortable drying your food in the sun or the weather is not cooperating, use a dehydrator.
3. Place dried burdock in a pan with no oil or liquid. Stir constantly over low heat for 10 minutes until golden brown, crispy and fragrant.
4. Let the burdock cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Store immediately in an airtight glass container. Seal it to prevent moisture.
5. Burdock tea can be cooked or brewed. Boil the water. Add 10 grams of burdock tea leaves and simmer for 10 minutes.
6. If you want to make a single cup of burdock root tea, pour 185- to 212-degree Fahrenheit water onto five to eight pieces of burdock tea leaves in a cup and brew for four to five minutes. Raw honey, chrysanthemum, red dates, wolf berries or mint leaves may be added to taste.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
A single-serving of this recipe makes 100 or more grams (about 3 1/2 ounces) of tea.
You can look for burdock root in Oriental markets, natural food stores, and Japanese and Taiwanese grocery stores. Pick roots that are medium-sized, firm, unbroken and have taut skin. Do not purchase burdock roots that are overly dry or sunken, since these may not have a pleasant flavor.
When cleaned properly and kept in a cool, well-ventilated place, the root can stay fresh for many months. You can also preserve burdock roots by wrapping them in a paper towel, sealing them inside a plastic bag and placing them inside your refrigerator’s vegetable compartment, where they can be kept for months. Should the burdock root turn limp and/or dry, soak it in water until it’s firm again.21
However, if you purchased processed burdock root parts and slices, store these in the refrigerator and use as early as possible.22 If you aren’t able to purchase fresh burdock root, there are burdock root tea bags available online. Just make sure you’re purchasing from a highly reputable source that provides high-quality tea.
Burdock Root Tea’s Side Effects
Burdock root tea may trigger allergic reactions, including dermatitis, among people who are sensitive to daisies, chrysanthemums or ragweed. Should swelling, inflammation or a skin rash develop, stop drinking burdock root tea immediately.
Pregnant women should avoid this tea, since some studies have revealed that it can prompt uterine contractions that can be unsafe, especially those who are in their first two trimesters. Breastfeeding women must avoid drinking burdock root tea as well because some of its compounds can be passed on to the infant and trigger side effects similar to those that adults can have.
People with hypotension or who are already under medication for hypertension should not use burdock root or burdock root tea, since it may cause dizziness, lightheadedness or cognitive confusion.
Some reports have also indicated that burdock root can lead to toxicity symptoms like hallucinations, dizziness, nausea, fever, headache and slurred speech. In the wild, burdock root can be contaminated with atropine-containing plants like belladonna or deadly nightshade. This situation is even more confusing as burdock roots look like the roots of these poisonous plants. Should symptoms develop, do not drink burdock root tea and discard other burdock root strips. To be safe, avoid gathering burdock in the wild.23
- Diuretics (water pills): Dehydrated people should stay away from burdock since it has strong diuretic effects that may worsen dehydration. Burdock can increase the effects of water pills too, and cause further dehydration.
- Diabetes medications: Burdock can decrease blood sugar levels and cause hypoglycemia.
- Blood-thinning medicines: The herb itself can slow down blood clotting, and increase risk of bruising and bleeding.
Before taking burdock root tea, talk to your physician and verify if this herbal tea is good for you. By doing so, you can get an idea of the dosage that may be needed to address your condition and be guided on what you can do to avoid side effects.
Caution Is Needed if You Want to Try Burdock Root Tea
For many years now, burdock root has been widely valued in Asia for its potential effects toward the brain, heart and immune system. Drinking burdock root tea may allow you to reap the nutrients found in the plant and help boost your well-being.
However, before drinking burdock root tea, remember that there are contraindications linked to this beverage, especially among women who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding and people taking certain medicines. If you're interested in trying burdock root tea, consult a doctor first, so you are aware of the ideal amount that would be both suitable for your condition and won't put you at risk for adverse health effects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Burdock Root Tea
Q: What are the health benefits of burdock root tea?
A: Burdock root tea may promote the following benefits:
Deliver antioxidant, expectorant, decongestant, anti-inflammatory and diuretic effects
Assist with relieving fevers, headaches, flu, gout, constipation and edema, to name a few
Help address hair issues
Boost health in people with liver conditions
Improve the immune system
Help improve heart health
Detoxify the blood
Q: Where can you buy burdock root tea?
A: Fresh burdock root can be purchased from Oriental markets, natural food stores, and Japanese and Taiwanese grocery stores. While burdock root tea bags can be purchased online, do thorough research first. Only buy burdock root tea bags from a trustworthy source that sells high-quality tea made from real burdock root.
Q: Can drinking burdock root tea lead to side effects?
A: Yes. Some side effects that burdock root tea may trigger include:
• Allergic reactions (including dermatitis, swelling, inflammation or skin rash) in people who are sensitive to daisies, chrysanthemums or ragweed
• Uterine contractions, which can be unsafe for pregnant women
• Dizziness, lightheadedness or cognitive confusion in people with hypotension or who are taking medicines for hypertension
• Toxicity symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fever, hallucinations, headache and slurred speech, when burdock roots contaminated with atropine-containing plants are used