Greater Burdock As Medicine – Ben Cao Medical Book


Greater burdock (scientific name: arctium lappa), also known as edible burdock, lappa, beggar’s buttons, thorny burr, happy major, Niu Bang (牛蒡, 恶实), is a Eurasian species of plants in the sunflower family. It is widely cultivated in gardens for its root used as a vegetable. The roots and seeds of greater burdock are important herbs used as discutient (reducing swelling), diuretic and analgesic in traditional Chinese medicine (CTM).

Odour & Nature:

Seeds: Pungent, neutral, non-toxic,

Roots: Bitter, cold-natured, non-toxic,


Greater burdock functions by influencing the lung and stomach.

Indications & Formulas:

A decoction of greater burdock roots is taken orally to treat a sore throat.

Powdered scrophularia ningpoensis and greater burdock can be taken to heal throat impediment.

Powdered greater burdock is taken with warm water to treat edema.

Powdered greater burdock seeds and gypsum is taken orally with tea to relieve glossalgia (a painful tongue).

Using greater burdock seeds (fried) as a mouth wash can help to cope with toothache.

Powdered greater burdock seeds and musk can be taken with warm wine to treat acute mastitis.

Greater burdock seeds, fermented soybean (fried) and notopterygium root are pounded into powder for internal taking to treat swollen joints.

Greater burdock roots juice is taken to relieve fever symptoms.

A decoction of greater burdock roots, ephedra, the root of bidentate achyranthes, arisaema erubescens and wine is taken to treat typhoid fever with cramp.

Rice cake with greater burdock roots is taken to prevent and treat elderly stroke.

Smashed greater burdock leaves is used externally to treat dandruff.

Ointment made with greater burdock roots and salt is used externally to treat swollen gums.

Medicated wine with greater burdock roots is taken before meal to treat irregular menstruation with pain.

The Ben Cao Medical Book (also known as Compendium of Materia Medica or Ben Cao Gang Mu; Chinese: 本草纲目) is the most famous and comprehensive medical book ever written in the history of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Compiled and written by Li Shi-zhen (1518~1593), a medical expert of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) over 27 years.

The Ben Cao Medical Book records and describes all the plants, animals, minerals, and other objects that were believed to have medicinal properties in TCM. The book reflects the pharmaceutical achievements and developments of East Asia before the 16th century. On the basis of his predecessors’ achievements in the pharmacological studies, Li contributed further by supplementing and rectifying many past mistakes and misconception in relate to nature of many medicinal substances and causes of various illnesses. Charles Darwin, originator of the biological theory of evolution, regards the book as the “ancient Chinese encyclopedia”.

Disclaimer: The Ben Cao Medical Book is translated by The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of CTM knowledge and information from the research and experience from the author Li Shi-zhen. Kindly be alert that the CTM knowledge and ancient formulas given above are likely NOT medically proven and may contain misconceptions.

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