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 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.
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.
Burdock might interfere with iron absorption.
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.
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.
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.