Common Burdock – Arctium Minus: An Edible & Medicinal Wild Plant That’ll Stick With You

Table of Contents

In Chippewa, wiisagibag meaning bitter leaf, also wiisagijiibik meaning bitter taproot and gi’ masan meaning big stickers. Common burdock is an edible and medicinal wild plant that will stick with you. It’s a favorite of mine!

Burdock’s folk names are predominately along the lines of burr-this or that-burr, like burrseed for instance. Which is questionable – it’s the part of the plant used the least. And if you’ve been playing along, you know I like folk names that describe uses.

Black Bear in Burdock
Black Bear in Burdock Asks, “You know you can eat this root?”

Edible Uses of Common Burdock

In Japan, they call the root “gobo” and if you’re in Japan reading this, I’d like to know if gobo is a really big deal, or not, arigato. The first-year roots are the most tender for eating or processing in general. I’ve been told they are the most “powerful” as well – all the energy of the plant is stored in the root the first year. If not used fresh, the peeled roots can be dried and stored, soaked and boiled before use.

I prefer to take my first coffee of the morning with burdock root tincture, a 1/4 tsp of turmeric, and whichever cream and sweetener I feel like at the moment. A burdock latte. If I haven’t made my own tincture recently, I sometimes get Nature’s Answer Burdock Root with Organic Alcohol, 2-Fluid Ounces off Amazon. Burdock root is another obviously not coffee coffee-substitute, like the dandelion root. I’d rather hide either in my actual coffee or just admit I’m really drinking tea.

The first year basal leaf stocks and young flower stalks of the second year are also highly edible. These are tasty when simmered in maple syrup and can be eaten raw or boiled. Alone they have an artichoke-like taste.

The edible young leaves as per the usual bitter potherbs should be double-boiled.

Rich in Minerals, Fiber, Calcium, Potassium, and Amino Acids

Medicinal Uses of Common Burdock

Burdock is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Integumentary
  • Lymphatic
  • Respiratory
  • Urinary

Medicinal tags include Alterative, Antimicrobial, Antipyretic, Astringent, Cholagogue, Choleretic, Circulatory, Cool and Dry, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Expectorant, Laxative, and Lymphatic. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes as an ingredient of Essiac tea. And I personally use it as one of my main bitter herbs to support my liver.

Alternative Uses of “Burrseed”

The burrs are just as, if not more terrible than gum in the hair if you want to be a horrible person.

Growing Arctium Minus

Burdock is easy to grow, but it will overtake the garden if not kept in check. This is one of my main herb allies – I use the roots for medicine. However, it is nonnative and ever since the “hummingbird incident” and learning more about the importance of native plants, I cut the stalks.

Here is the hummingbird I had to rescue from burdock:

I’d heard warnings about it beforehand, but I wasn’t sure how serious to take them until it happened right in front of me. If I hadn’t seen her panicking, I might have been pulling a dead hummingbird off that burdock flower the next day, or I may have not even seen her dangling little body. Sometimes nonnative plants can be dangerous to wildlife who simply didn’t evolve or adapt alongside them. The bright flowers are alluring to hummingbirds, and in one wrong wingbeat they can turn into a lethal trap.


It’s a diuretic.

Wild rhubarb could be mistaken for burdock and its leaves are highly poisonous.

It can cause a rash on sensitive skin.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Every book I reference that is available on Amazon is linked to with an associates link.



How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine

The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies: Simple Salves, Teas, Tinctures, and More

Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Iroquois Foods and Food Preparation (1916)

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

Stalking The Wild Asparagus (Field Guide Edition).

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn’s Sourcebook Series) (Cunningham’s Encyclopedia Series)

Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants (Out of Print)

Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants

The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants

Forest Plants of Central Ontario

Please Like, Comment, Share! We'd love to hear your stories and knowledge! Thank you!