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Burdock (Arctium lappa ([Latin]), also known as burr, is a common weed known for the distinctive prickly burrs it produces, which seem to get caught in just about everything. It is found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

It is the root of the burdock plant that is most often used in herbal supplements. Fresh burdock roots contain polyacetylenes, which are phytochemicals that kill some types of bacteria and fungióburdock has been used to treat both bacterial and fungal infections, including ringworm, urinary tract infections, and acne. Itís antibacterial effects may also promote wound healing and help treat ulcers.

Burdock works as both a decongestant and diuretic in the body, and may cause sweating. Traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine uses burdock to treat congestion and fever caused by colds, flu, and pneumonia. Todayís herbalists recommend burdock to help eliminate toxins from all parts of the body, including the blood, liver, lymphatic system, kidneys and gallbladder.

Burdock is being studied for its potential as a treatment for cancer. It has a long history of usage for treating this disease-- Hildegard of Bingen, a well known medieval herbalist, often used burdock for treatment of cancerous tumors. Recent studies have shown that arctigenin, a chemical in burdock, does in fact slow tumor growth. Burdock is an active ingredient in the popular natural remedies for cancer, including Essiac and Hoxsey. Of course, cancer is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease, for which you absolutely must be under a doctorís care. However, you may want to speak to your doctor about augmenting your cancer therapy with an herbal treatment.

Burdock may help treat diabetes by reducing blood sugaróin one study burdock root reduced blood sugar levels and improved carbohydrate tolerance in lab rats. In another laboratory study, burdock protected animals that consumed the root from the toxic effects of several poisonous chemicals. Burdock stalks taste a little like celery, but the leaves are rather bitter like dandelion greens. The plantís roots are considered vegetables in Japan, and are commonly found in stores and markets that offer Asian produce. Burdock is abundant in the wild; you can gather your own and cook and eat the roots and leaves. However, if youíre gathering your own burdock, be carefulóit looks a bit like belladonna, a plant that can be fatally toxic if ingested. Safe and effective burdock capsules or liquid root extract (Bur oil), are also available at most pharmacies and health food stores. The burdock extract has long been used in Europe to treat dandruff and encourage healthy hair growth. It you want to use burdock to improve the condition of your hair, simply massage burdock root oil into your scalp.

Burdock is generally safe, but some people should be cautious when taking this herb, especially those with abnormal blood sugar levels. Pregnant women also should not use this burdock, as it is said to cause uterine contractions.

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