Synonyms: Other names: lesser burrdock, wild gobo Nomenclature: minus = smaller Nativity / Invasiveness: introduced plant, weed
General: coarse biennial herb, up to 1.5 m tall or rarely taller. Stems stout and branching, the upper branches curved upward to widely spreading.
Leaves: alternate, stalked, the lower stalks mostly hollow. The blade narrowly to very broadly ovate, often cordate, up to about 30 cm long and 25 cm wide, thinly woolly-hairy and often eventually almost hairless beneath, nearly hairless above.
Flowerheads: several scattered in elongated groups, with no or short stalks. Flowers all tubular, the corolla pink or purplish, with long slender lobes. Involucre round, about 15-25 mm thick, hairless or slightly glandular to rarely evidently cobwebby-woolly-hairy, usually a little shorter than the flowers. The bracts in several series, overlapping, with a narrow, pointed, inwardly hooked tip, the inner bracts often more flattened than the others and scarcely hooked.
Fruits: achenes, oblong, slightly compressed, about 3-angled, multinerved, flat at the tip, hairless. Pappus of numerous short, chaffy and thin, separately shed bristles.
A weed of roadsides and waste places, in w. and c. parts of MT. Native of Eurasia, now established throughout most of the U.S. and s. Canada.
The root of common burdock is edible raw or cooked. The best roots are obtained from young plants. They are usually peeled and sliced. The roasted root is a coffee substitute as well. Young leaves and leaf stems are edible raw or cooked, and have been used as a potherb. They are mucilaginous. It is best to remove the rind from the stem. Young flowering stems are edible, peeled and eaten raw or cooked like asparagus. Seed sprouts are reportedly edible too.
Burdock is one of the foremost detoxifying herbs in both Chinese and Western herbal medicine. Arctium lappa is the main species used, though this species has similar properties. The dried root of one year old plants is the official herb, but the leaves and fruits can also be used. It is used to treat conditions caused by an 'overload' of toxins, such as throat and other infections, boils, rashes and other skin problems. The root is thought to be particularly good at helping to eliminate heavy metals from the body. The plant has agents that are antibacterial, antifungal and that expel gas from the intestines. It has soothing, mucilaginous properties and is said to be one of the most certain cures for many types of skin diseases, burns, bruises etc. It is used in the treatment of herpes, eczema, acne, impetigo, ringworm, boils, bites etc. The plant can be taken internally as an infusion, or used externally as a wash. It should be used with caution. One-year old roots contain agents that cause gradual beneficial change in the body, act as a mild laxative, blood purifier, increase the flow of bile and its discharge from the body, eliminate toxins and purify the system, especially the blood. They also induce perspiration and urine production and aid and improve the action of the stomach. The seeds have agents that cause gradual beneficial change in the body, are antibacterial, antifungal, and reduce inflammation, eliminate toxins and purify the system, especially the blood. They also induce perspiration and urine production, and reduce the levels of sugar in the blood. It is used in the treatment of colds with sore throat and cough, measles, pharyngitis, acute tonsillitis and abscesses. The crushed seed is poulticed onto bruises. The seed is harvested in the summer and dried for later use. The seed contains arctiin, this excites the central nervous system, producing convulsions and increase in respiration, and later paralysis if taken in larger quantities. It also lowers the blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels. The leaves are poulticed onto burns, ulcers and sores.
A fiber is obtained from the inner bark and is used to make paper. It is about 0.9 mm long. The stems are harvested in late summer, the leaves are removed and the stems steamed in order to strip off the fiber. The fibers are then cooked for two hours in soda ash before being put in a ball mill for 2 hours. The resulting paper is a light tan/brown color.
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