The old Polish proverb tells of the greater burdock: ‘It sticks as close to me as a flea on a hound dog!’ – wondering why?
The name of this plant comes from the Greek word arktos, namely ‘hairy’ and lappa, which means ‘to stick’. Greater burdock is a common weed, known for its fruitifications with lance-shaped bristles that attach to clothing or animal hair.
In Poland, greater burdock is commonly found in the vicinity of buildings, in brushwood, on the forest fringe and even in road ditches.
Greater burdock is a biennial plant. Large leaves on long tails grow in the first year, forming a rosette and a big root. In the second year, a tall, multi-branched stem develops, which is covered with smaller leaves. Greater burdock grows up to 2 metres tall and its leaves are large, oval- and heart-shaped, and very hairy on the inside. In July and August, the plant blooms, and we can admire its beautiful purple and pink flowers. They are arranged in clusters, while the hulls of the seed coats are in fact hooks, commonly referred to as ‘clotburs’. They are wrongly called thistles because their leaves are neither barbed nor prickly.
Greater burdock root is the herbal raw material.
Greater burdock root is harvested in autumn or very early in spring from one-year-old plants, i.e. plants that have not yet bloomed. The roots harvested from older plants are fibrous and have no therapeutic properties, so an optimum harvest time is very important. Greater burdock root contains many valuable substances, such as inulin, sugars, mucous, essential oil, tannins, bitter substances, lignans, polyphenols, mineral salts and vitamins (mainly A, C, E and, Bs).
Applications of great burdock root in modern phytotherapy.
Greater burdock root preserves increase the production of gastric juice and bile in the liver, thereby facilitating digestion and the absorption of food. The herb slightly increases urine secretion and has a mild diaphoretic effect, which helps to eliminate metabolic waste products, cleansing the body.
Why is greater burdock so commonly used in cosmetology?
Greater burdock is a plant with properties that are also widely used in cosmetology. The root extracts regulate the functions of sebaceous glands, preventing excessive sebum production. They also reduce oily hair and prevent the development of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
Due to the antiseptic properties of greater burdock root, it is also successfully used for pimples and acne, and in skin irritations.
Greater burdock is also good as a hair conditioning agent. It is especially recommended for dry, dull and fragile hair. It nourishes and conditions hair follicles, thus preventing hair loss.
As a medicinal plant, greater burdock was already known in ancient times and the Middle Ages.
Greater burdock was recommended as a herbal agent by Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician, and the oil from its roots was considered to be a traditional hair growth stimulant. In medieval Europe, the plant was incredibly popular as a vegetable, but it is now rarely used in cooking outside Italy and Portugal. The root core and leaf stem can be prepared as vegetables or used as pot herbs. It is believed that the delicate young Greater burdock stems resemble the taste of asparagus when cooked, and the roasted and ground root can be used with tea and as a substitute for coffee. The root itself is very crispy and has a sweet, lightly spicy taste.
Greater burdock has made a name for itself not only in herbal medicine and cosmetology, but also in the textile industry!
Thanks to George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, greater burdock fruits became famous in 1941 as their structure contributed to the development of the well-known hook-and-loop fasteners used in the textile industry.