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Burdock Root Side Effects

By Sophie Johnson ; Updated September 21, 2017

Burdock is a weed cultivated as a vegetable in some parts of the world, with burs, heart-shaped leaves, purple flowers and deep, brownish-green or almost black roots. The roots are used medicinally as a detoxifier, a prebiotic and to help skin complaints like acne and eczema. It can be bought as a powder, extract, decoction or tincture. It is also used in compresses, poultices or plasters.

Skin Reactions

Skin reactions can occur from touching burdock root or when the root is used as a topical treatment in people with sensitive skin or with an allergy to the plant.

Diuretic Effect

Burdock root has a diuretic effect when taken orally. The diuretic effect might cause an electrolyte imbalance. (Diuretics cause people to urinate more frequently.)

Blood Sugar Impact

Burdock root might impact blood sugars, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, which advises that individuals with diabetes should talk to their doctor before ingesting burdock.

Iron Absorption

Burdock might interfere with iron absorption.

Eye Inflammation

Handling burdock risks eye imflammation since tiny bristles can get embedded in the eyeball. The situation is relatively frequent, yet under-diagnosed, assert Drs. Frederic Breed and Toichiro Kuwabara in their paper "Burdock Ophthalmia."

Effect on Pregnancy

Burdock can cause uterine stimulation—contractions—so pregnant women should not use the root. Burdock can also hurt the fetus, cautions the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Related Allergies

An allergy to ragweed, marigolds, daisies, chrysanthemum or other members of the Asteraceae (Compositae) plant family could mean an allergy to burdock. Reaction to burdock root in those allergic to it can be severe.

Effect on Drugs

With its different chemical properties, burdock might change the impact of or interact with various medications, cautions the University of Maryland Medical Center and Aetna InteliHealth. Since burdock root might affect blood sugar levels, medications for diabetes could be effected. With its diuretic effect, burdock might enhance the potency of water pills, causing dehydration. Also, burdock may interact with anti-inflammatory drugs, drugs affecting hormone levels, anticoagulants, antiplatelet drugs and over-the counter pain relievers.


People with sensitivity to or an allergy to pectin should know that burdock contains the substance.

Confusion with Belladonna

After taking burdock, some have suffered dry mouth and a slowed heartbeat. However, these effects might not be from burdock, but from belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade, which has a long history as a poison. The roots of burdock and belladonna look similar and the plants grow in similar environments.

Potential Problems

Burdock root contains tannins and tannins in high concentrations can damage kidneys or the liver. Tannin intake over the long term may increase chances of getting neck and head cancers, while in the short term, tannins can cause an upset stomach.


Burdock may increase the effects and side effects of estrogen, according to evidence compiled by Natural Standard and reviewed by Harvard Medical School.


About the Author


Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.