I recently read a statement on a popular health blog, stating the benefits of Articum Lappa, also known as burdock root. As is the case with many natural supplements, claims for the benefits of Arctium Lappa are extensive. Ranging from a combatant for cancer, a healer for skin and an antibacterial/antimicrobial agent, to an anti-inflammatory substance, a natural diuretic and defense against diabetes, Arctium Lappa is touted as a plant with almost magical properties. From this list of claimed values, the question becomes one of reliability and evidence supporting these advantageous assertions. As always, a little digging provides a clearer understanding of the real story.
In a study aimed at determining the beneficial properties of several plants, researchers attempted to evaluate the antimicrobial activity of the combined plant extracts of artichoke, dandelion and Arctium Lappa. A serial dilution method was employed to assess the antimicrobial activity of this blend when introduced to bacterial strains of Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella abony. Researchers concluded that using this trifecta of plant extracts proved to be beneficial against Escherichia coli and Salmonella abony but did not show antimicrobial activity when tested with Staphylococcus aureus. Though this study points to the possible benefit of Arctium Lappa on health, the study has clear limitations for the claims of Arctium Lappa’s sole benefit due to the fact that it was not tested apart from artichoke and dandelion.
In a randomized, double‐blind placebo‐controlled clinical trial, 3 subjects infected with Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) were studied. Nineteen participants ingested a burdock complex (BC) consisting of burdock (Arctium Lappa), angelica, gromwell and sesame oil and 17 subjects ingested a placebo for a total of eight weeks. Multiple markers were tested, including anti-inflammatory properties, to determine the efficacious nature of BC. Subjects were evaluated at fourth, eighth, and tenths weeks, with endoscopic examination taking place at the baseline and tenth weeks. Researchers determined that BC significantly inhibited and alleviated inflammatory markers of H-pylori in subjects during the course of the study period.
A study of a key constituents extracted from the seeds of Arctium Lappa, identified as Lappaol F, was performed in regard to its anticancer effects in humans. During the course of the study, researchers investigated Lappaol F and its effect on colon, breast, lung, cervix, and prostate cancers as well as melanoma, osteosarcoma, and leukemia. Results demonstrated that Lappaol F suppressed cancer cell growth in human cancer cell lines in a variety of tissue types and displayed a time- and dose-dependent relationship. Researchers stated that Lappaol F offers a novel anticancer constituent, and has the capacity to mediate growth suppression by initiating cell-cycle arrest as well as trigger cell death in some tumor cell lines.
A number of limitations exist in regard to the studies cited. Across studies, the method of plant compound extraction greatly varied, ranging from extraction from seeds to extraction from leaves and stems, suggesting possible differences in quality or potency of the constituents. Some studies used a combination of plants rather than looking solely at the medicinal properties of Arctium Lappa, pulling into question which component was of greatest consequence and whether the effect was due to the pooled benefits of all the components or based solely on one plant. Further, differing methods of administration were performed, such as ingestion of tea versus consumption via liquid essence form. Another key difference between studies was the method of investigation, ranging from in vitro studies to those involving human participants. In addition, the studies involving human subjects were limited in size and took place over short periods of time. Another limitation is presented in the fact that some studies focused on the benefits of Arctium Lappa as a whole and others used isolated constituents of the plant to test and determine efficacy. All of these factors point to the importance of further investigation into the effectiveness of specific and consistent variables. In other words, examining studies that focus on similar constituents, extraction protocol, testing methods, administration, and observation might provide a better picture of efficacy than studying the varied approaches listed above. However, the purposes of this paper were to present a foundation of possible efficacy for Arctium Lappa, thus presenting the need for further and more detailed research opportunities.
It appears evident that benefit exists in the use of Arctium Lappa for its healing properties, including its anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. Further, varied methods of extraction, administration and components used point to the efficacious potential for this acclaimed medicinal plant. Clearly, as mentioned above, consistency in extraction, test measures and administration should be employed in future research studies to determine specific efficacy but the initial display of benefits is evident following a brief review of the literature.