Arctium is a genus of biennial plants commonly known as burdock, family Asteraceae. Native to the Old World, several species have been widely introduced worldwide.
Plants of the genus Arctium have dark green leaves that can grow up to 28" long. They are generally large, coarse and ovate, with the lower ones being heart-shaped. They are woolly underneath. The leafstalks are generally hollow. Arctium species generally flower from July through to October.
The prickly heads of these plants are noted for easily catching on to fur and clothing, thus providing an excellent mechanism for seed dispersal. Burrs cause local irritation and can possibly cause intestinal hairballs in pets. However, most animals avoid ingesting these plants.
Birds are especially prone to becoming entangled with their feathers in the burrs leading to a slow death, as they are unable to free themselves.
A large number of species have been placed in genus Arctium at one time or another, but most of them are now classified in the related genus Cousinia. The precise limits between Arctium and Cousinia are hard to define; there is an exact correlation between their molecular phylogeny. The burdocks are sometimes confused with the cockleburs and rhubarb.
The roots of burdock, among other plants, are eaten by the larva of the Ghost Moth. The plant is used as a food plant by other Lepidoptera including Brown-tail, Coleophora paripennella, Coleophora peribenanderi, the Gothic, Lime-speck Pug and Scalloped Hazel.The green, above-ground portions may cause contact dermatitis in humans due to the lactones the plant produces.
Of the four species of Arctium, only greater burdock (A. lappa) and lesser burdock (A. minus) are cultivated for their herbal parts. In general, the roots are unearthed in the fall, slow dried and stored for use in winter. The burdock root has the flavor that resembles the sweet taste of jerusalem artichokes or parsnips, has a crispy texture with gummy consistency.
Almost all the parts of the plant are being used either for culinary purpose or as a curative remedy for certain medical conditions.
Just like its fellow Asterceae family member dandelion, almost all the parts of burdock herb too found a place in various traditional as well modern medicines.
Burdock has been used in many folk remedies as one of the best blood purifiers. It contains certain diuretic principles, which help expel toxic products from the blood through urine.
The herb is employed in the treatment of skin problems such as eczema (dermatitis), psoriasis, skin dryness...etc. The plant parts have been used as an herbal remedy for liver and gall bladder complaints.
Effusion of burdock seeds has been used for throat and chest ailments.
Burdock leaves and stems, in addition to their use as a vegetable, have appetite stimulant and are a good remedy for dyspeptic complaints.
Burdock roots, young shoots, peeled stalks, and dried seeds contain numerous compounds that are known to have been anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
The root is very low in calories; provide about 72 calories per 100 g. Burdock is a good source of non-starch polysaccharides such as inulin, glucoside-lappin, mucilage, etc., that help act as a laxative. Additionally, inulin acts as prebiotic and helps reduce blood-sugar level, weight and cholesterol levels in the blood.
Burdock root is especially containing good amounts of electrolyte potassium (308 mg or 6.5% of daily-required levels per 100 g root) and low in sodium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure.
This herb root contains small quantities of many vital vitamins, including folic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, vitamin-E, and vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health. Both vitamin C and E are powerful natural antioxidants help the human body stave off infections, cancer and neurologic conditions.
Furthermore, it also contains some valuable minerals such as iron, manganese, magnesium; and small amounts of zinc, calcium, selenium, and phosphorus.
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