N.A.S.S Dingwall Branch Information Page

Burdock Herb

Woolly Burdock (Arctium tomentosum)

A biennial herb with a spindle-shaped taproot and branched, furrowed stem. The leaves are ovate to cordate, stalked and white woolly below, the large basal ones forming a rosette. The globose purple flowerheads, which are covered by a web' of dense cobweb-like hairs, are clustered in terminal corymbs. The rings of hooked involucral bracts turn the flowerhead into a bur when it is mature. The fruit, an achene, has a pappus of short, rough hairs.

Woolly Burdock grows throughout most of Europe by roadsides and on waste ground. It is not native to the British Isles but it is occasionally found as a casual in woods and scrub. Like Greater Burdock (A. lappa), this species has had many medicinal uses in the past. The young stalks also used to be eaten raw or cooked. The specific name tomentosum means woolly or downy. In the common name the suffix 'dock' refers to the large leaves, which are like those of docks (Rumex).

The roots of one-year or over-wintering plants, collected before flowering, are used medicinally. The pharmacological investigation of burdocks is not yet complete, but the chemical composition of Woolly Burdock seems to be the same as Greater Burdock's both contain a large amount of inulin. The presence of inulin a polysaccharide composed of units of fructose - gives burdocks hypoglycaemic properties. Woolly Burdock is mostly used in herbalism to treat skin diseases and as hair oil. Sometimes the fresh leaves, fresh root or just the juice from the root are used - they promote bile secretion, urine flow and sweating.

Flowering time: July to September