Greater Burdock

Synonyms: Lappa, Fox's Clote, Thorny Burr, Beggar's Buttons, Cockle Buttons, Love Leaves, Philanthropium, Personata, Happy Major, Clot-Bur
Scientific Name: Arctium lappa L.
Family: Asteraceae (Compositae)


Greater Burdock is found throughout Europe, Africa, northern Asia and North America. It was introduced to the American continent by chance.


Inulin, mucilage, polyacetylenes, essential oil, tannin, bitter substances, sitosterol, antibiotic substances, fungicidal substances, possibly also antineoplastic substances.


To cling like a burr. Anyone who brushes against a burdock plant while out for a walk will soon understand where this not very flattering expression comes from. The tips of the involucral bracts, which seem to make up the greater part of the flowerheads, are adorned with stiff barbs which attach themselves firmly to clothing or to the coats of animals. The biennial herb can reach a height of three meters. Its often reddish tinged, branched and furrowed, pithy stem is correspondingly strong. The leaf stalks are covered with woolly hairs and carry heart- to egg-shaped leaves which are green and downy on the top and grey and felt-like on the underside. The leaves are very large at the bottom of the plant but get smaller towards the top. In July and August the plant is crowned with loose clusters of inflorescences. From the center of the spherical prickly heads which measure about 3 cm the bluish red flowers peer out over the rim of barbs. As with all Compositae the flowerhead is made up of many single florets. You have to look very closely to see that you are looking not at one but at many individual, tubular flowers. What you don't see is the strong fleshy root which reaches to a depth of 60 cm and keeps the burdock firmly anchored in the ground.

Burdock is very often found in areas which are spurned by more demanding plants: by waysides, fences, walls and dykes, on waste ground and on the banks of streams.


Thevalued part of the Greater Burdock plant is the strong root which is harvested in the autumn of the first year of its growth. The burdock root oil obtained by extraction is used chiefly for scalp preparations.

The use of the Greater Burdock root goes back to antiquity. It was already recommended by the Greek physician Dioscorides. Burdock root oil has always been regarded as a traditional foritifier for hair.

Interesting Facts

Greater Burdock gets its scientific name from the shaggy appearance of the heads produced by the numerous hooked barbs. 'Arctium' is derived from the Greek word arctos = bear, lappa means rough. The suffix 'dock' in the common name refers to the large leaves which resemble those of dock plants (Rumex).

Greater Burdock can also be eaten. The young shoots make a tasty salad. And the roots can be eaten as a vegetable like salsify. During the war it was roasted and used as coffee substitute.

In Franconia, cows which were taken to the bull had consecrated garlands of Burdock attached to their tails to prevent witches from doing the animals any harm.

Incidentally, you can have fun with children making little dolls out of the flowerheads.

The Plant at Dr. Hauschka Skin Care

Greater burdock is found in Dr. Hauschka Skin Care Birch Rheumatism Oil* and Rheumatism Bath Oil*, for instance.

In Dr. Hauschka Birch Arnica Energizing Body Oil it supplements the effects of arnica and nettles in preventing sore muscles and provides support during fasting and cleansing diets. In Dr. Hauschka Revitalizing Hair & Scalp Tonic it supports the metabolism of the scalp and helps to restore its normal functioning.