Burdock Root Tea Benefits and Side Effects

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Burdock tea

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Burdock root tea—also called burdock tea—is an herbal tea made from the root of the burdock plant. Long used in Chinese medicine, some herbal medicine specialists believe that the drink can improve your immune system, lower blood pressure, heal a damaged liver, and even prevent or treat cancer. It is also used to reverse the signs of aging and improve hair health.

What Is Burdock Root Tea?

If you're a hiker, you've probably encountered burdock on an adventure in the deep forest. The burdock plant is known for its bur—a round ball of seed material covered in hooks or teeth that gets stuck to your clothes and shoes as you pass by. In fact, the idea for Velcro is said to be inspired by the bur of this plant.

Burdock (Articum lappa) plants are are a member of the Asteraceae family, along with sunflowers and daisies. Commonly found growing wild in Europe, Asia, and the United States, burdock is also cultivated for its believed medicinal properties.

Burdock root can be consumed as a raw vegetable or cooked in stews, soups, and other recipes. In addition to tea, it comes in an oil and extract form and as a powder.

Burdock root tea has an earthy, sweet flavor and can be enjoyed either hot or cold. It is one of the ingredients in Essiac tea, a proprietary herbal blend that is purported to have health benefits.

Burdock Root Tea Health Benefits

The burdock plant has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and is a staple in Western herbal medicine practices as well. Its roots, flowers, and other plant parts are believed to have a variety of benefits.

Burdock root contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are shown to improve health. Traditional medicinal uses include:

  • Prevention and treatment of cancer: Burdock root contains the antioxidants quercetin and luteolin, which have properties that may prevent cancer cells from growing and mutating. A 2011 study found free radicals in burdock root may stop certain cancers from spreading in a laboratory, however, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center warns there is insufficient evidence to support burdock's use in treating or preventing cancer.
  • Soothing a cough and cold: Burdock root tea has traditionally been used as a decongestant and expectorant for colds and cough. While the science is limited on this, burdock does contain vitamin C, which is shown to boost the immune system; some research has also shown that it has antibacterial properties.
  • Improving liver health: Burdock root has been used to detoxify the liver and body for centuries. A 2002 study of rats found the herb can help reverse liver damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption, though a direct correlation to results in humans cannot necessarily be made.
  • Easing aches and pains: The burdock plant is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. A 2014 study found drinking the tea lowers certain inflammatory markers in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
  • Reducing blood pressure: Burdock root tea contains potassium, which may help to lower blood pressure and open blood vessels to improve blood flow.

Burdock root can also be found in some beauty and diet products. Purported cosmetic uses include:

  • Reducing wrinkles: Burdock root contains antioxidants quercetin, luteolin, and phenolic acids, which fight free radicals and combat the signs of aging. One study found that cream containing burdock root extract helped reduce the appearance of skin wrinkles.
  • Improving hair: Phytosterols in burdock root are believed to boost scalp and hair health, relieve dandruff, and improve hair follicles to prevent hair loss and improve thickness.
  • Eliminating excess water weight: Burdock root is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a diuretic to promote urination and sweating. There is limited scientific evidence to support this claim, however.

Does Burdock Root Tea Contain Caffeine?

Burdock tea is not a tea in the traditional sense, as it is not made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, like black tea or green tea. It is brewed using parts of the burdock plant, which does not contain any caffeine. As such, burdock root tea is caffeine-free.

Burdock Root Tea Side Effects

Burdock root is generally regarded as safe, however, some people should not use burdock tea. Pregnant woman should avoid burdock tea as it may stimulate the uterus and cause premature labor. People with diabetes who take blood-sugar lowering medicines should not use burdock root as it may cause hypoglycemia. The most common side effect reported is a rash (contact dermatitis).

How to Make Burdock Root Tea

You can buy burdock root tea in bags or as loose dried roots, and it is available in many grocery stores, health markets, and online.

To make a cup from loose herbs, place about 1 tsp. dried burdock root in a teacup, pour approximately 7 ounces of hot or boiling spring or filtered water over the herbs, and let it steep for at least 1 minute and a maximum of 20 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea. Strain the loose pieces and enjoy.

To make iced burdock tea at home, add two teaspoons of dried root to cold water. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes or for as long as desired.

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