Burdock Root Studies: The Immune System & Body
Ever heard of burdock? People who are already a big fan of herbal remedies may have heard of it—or even those who have been exposed to certain Asian cuisines.
WHAT IS BURDOCK?
Burdock (Arctium lappa) is a big-leaved plant related to sunflowers, dandelions, lettuce, and many, many others.
It may be the most recognizable for its enormous Velcro-like seeds called “burs,” giving the plant its name. These are those pesky pricklies found stuck to clothes at the end of long hikes time and time again.
And yet it’s the bitter root of this prickly plant that may be its biggest claim to fame around the world—though studies have shown that burdock’s burs AND leaves may both have health potential in and of themselves.
Over the centuries, however, it’s the root of this wild plant that has become its most utilized and appreciated part. In fact, burdock root can be found in culinary dishes from Japan, Korea, and China all the way to even Italy and Brazil.
Not only that: burdock was once a commonplace ancient remedy in traditional medicine practices around the world. People also used the root as a liver cleanser, detoxifier, nutritive tonic, and all-around health promoter.
Not all that surprisingly to some (especially lovers of natural home remedies and herbalism), there is tons of research today on this plant that is both a nutritious vegetable and medicinal herb.
And according to both tradition and research, it would seem that burdock does indeed have a way of strengthening the body: by way of the immune system.
A PLANT WITH PLENTY OF POTENTIAL
Today, research points very specifically to burdock’s potential as an immune-booster.
In truth, however, this powerful root may very well be capable of so much more beyond that—and a lot of it may tie right back into its ability to bolster immunity.
Part of burdock’s immune qualities has to do with its ability to protect against inflammation. After all, inflammation is an immune response in the body—including both chronic inflammation or temporary inflammation from allergies, for instance.
In fact, a 2011 study found that burdock was anti-inflammatory enough to help with allergy inflammation, even from skin reactions.
An important aspect of immunity, the herbal root’s abilities to mitigate inflammation are a vital part of how its immune-boosting benefits work.
Stemming from its anti-inflammatory uses, burdock is also a potent antioxidant. This means that it contains compounds that aid the body in preventing free radical damage and destruction to DNA, which each, in turn, can give rise to certain diseases and issues.
A 2014 study extracted polysaccharides from burdock root and put them to the test. The results indeed revealed antioxidant activity, enough to help the plant live up to its name as a liver cleanser: apparently it helped prevent aging of the liver in mice.
Antioxidant activity is yet another part of burdock’s immune protection. The prevention of free radical damage, in turn, prevents inflammation and in turn reduces the chances of cancer, thus helping the immune system.
Weakened immune systems are one way that cancer can take hold and grow, as well as through damage DNA via unhealthy cellular oxidation.
However, it would seem that burdock has another unique route by which it combats cancer. Research in 2014 found that burdock contains an exclusive compound that protects, suppresses, and can even directly kill tumors.
By way of both its immune support and other properties, burdock may be an excellent food and phytotherapy to help combat cancer—helping the immune system fight one of the most deadly diseases in the world.
Beyond its ability to combat cancer and inflammation, the root of this herb has also been known to do the same against bacteria, fungi, and other foreign invaders. This also makes the plant a big helper for the body’s immune system.
A 2013 test on its constituents did indeed yield that the plant’s root had mild properties that could prevent both harmful fungi and bacteria.
In addition to its fibrous content and bitter digestive properties, some antimicrobial action can help with immunity especially where the gut microbiome is concerned.
BENEFICIAL FOR THE BLOOD
One of the most common of all these is type 2 diabetes, which is also one of the most common chronic diseases in the developing world. Taking that one step further, another chronic ailment (heart disease) often has its beginnings in the blood: namely via high blood pressure.
Consumption of this healing root apparently has positive effects on the cardiovascular system in these different ways. A very recent 2017 study on burdock found that it could help reduce blood sugars, insulin, cholesterol, and also protect the liver in mice with diabetes.
This makes burdock a promising botanical therapy against diabetes, which could ultimately be called a chronic immune dysfunction disorder—making the plant cover yet another base in immune support. This is why it is a majore ingredient in our Optimal immune.
Hailing to its ancient use as a cleansing and detoxifying tonic, burdock shows solid evidence for helping clear up skin issues. Observational evidence supports that it can reduce acne (in a 2014 homeopathic study) and psoriasis (in 2016).
Further, a 2011 review of the herb notes that the herb has been used for thousands of years to treat immune-related skin conditions successfully, most specifically eczema.
Though it’s unclear how compounds in the root do this (some suppose that it works through antioxidative liver protection), burdock could be a great way to cleanse the body and clear up the skin. This includes immune-related skin disorders that are hard to treat, such as eczema.
Perhaps better known as an edible vegetable, after all, one of the biggest ways burdock supports the body’s immune system may very well be through its nutrition.
It is known to contain vitamin C and many B vitamins, all of which have the antioxidant potential to benefit the immune system. Iron, magnesium, and manganese—all minerals the root contains—also help modulate immunity. In fact, the body depends on these nutrients to do so.
Last but not least: burdock is one of many incredibly fiber-rich foods. Fiber is amazing for immunity in that it helps modulate the digestive tract by providing a healthier environment for gut bacteria to grow—and gut bacteria are pivotal for healthy immunity according to research.
Plus, fiber is also known to help reduce inflammation and encourage beneficial immunity, all starting in the gut. Burdock’s simple consumption as a food can be a huge boost to immunity, and simply owing to the nutrients it contains.
USE BURDOCK FOR A MULTI-FACETED IMMUNE SYSTEM APPROACH
If immunity seems to be floundering lately, burdock could be the perfect herb to have on one’s side, whether as a supplement or a delicious vegetable.
This is mostly because research shows that it can cover many health bases when it comes to the immune system—and not just one, as some plant remedies are limited to doing.
Experiencing low immunity? Here are common signs immunity may be low:
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic sickness
- Frequent coughs, colds, flus, viral illnesses
- Low energy
- Worsened allergies
- More frequent allergies
Many herbs that claim immune-boosting benefits can be said to improve these symptoms and improve wellness. But often times, the way they do this gets narrowed down to specific body systems: such as cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive health, liver, thyroid, and more.
Burdock, on the other hand, may be able to strengthen immunity from many angles, and in one fell swoop. Research shows that it can help improve immunity in a variety of ways and through many different anatomical systems.
THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and even Crohn’s disease—an immune-based digestive disease with uncertain causes—were also mentioned as being targets of therapeutic research via burdock in the same study.
Benefits to the gastrointestinal tract also include burdock’s effects on the liver and pancreas in above-mentioned diabetes and other related studies.
THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
It’s clear in many recent studies as well that burdock has some power over the glands and hormones of the body. This could make the root a remedy for issues dealing with reproductive health, the thyroid, and much more.
Burdock’s ability to regulate blood sugars and help prevent diabetes in and of itself attests to its endocrine-balancing powers. Not to mention, a 2015 study showed that burdock could also, through its anti-diabetic effects, restore male fertility by its action on hormones.
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
Think that burdock’s benefits to immunity and the entire body end right there? Think again! Taking things another step further, this bitter root remedy is apparently showing preliminary promise as a potential neuroprotective agent.
In a 2014 study, burdock’s antioxidant action was so powerful that it visibly protected neurons from potent oxidative stress. So in addition to boosting the body’s capability for fighting illnesses, cancer, and general breakdown, burdock may also be a great preventer of nervous-related diseases: including Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, and more.
At Primal Herb, we happen to think of burdock as one of our all-time favorite immunity herbs. That’s why we just had to include it on our herbal supplement powder blend that focuses on immunity above all things: Optimal Immune.
Immunity is much more far-reaching and impactful on our health than we may realize. Teaming up with burdock, try these herbs in our blend to have all immune concerns covered: including digestive immunity, nervous system immunity, reproductive health immunity, and so much more.
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