Arctium lappa L.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Last updated: 29 August 2016

Scientific Name

Arctium lappa L.


Arcion majus Bubani, Arcion tomentosum Bubani, Arctium adhaerens Gilib. [Invalid], Arctium bardana Willd., Arctium chaorum Klokov            , Arctium grandiflorum Desf., Arctium lappa Willd. [Illegitimate] Arctium leiospermum Juz. & Ye.V.Serg.        , Arctium majus (Gaertn.) Bernh. Arctium vulgare (Hill) Evan, Arctium vulgare (Hill) Druce, Bardana arctium Hill, Bardana lappa Hill,             Lappa glabra Lam., Lappa major Gaertn., Lappa nemorosa (Lej.) Körn. ex Griewank, Lappa officinalis All., Lappa vulgaris Hill [1]

Vernacular Name

English Great burdock, edible burdock, beggar's buttons [2]
Indonesia Gobo [2]
Vietnam Ng[uw]u b[af]ng [2]
France Bardane, gouteron, oreille de géant [2].

Geographical Distributions

Arctium lappa is indigenous from Europe to China and Japan, and has been introduced into North America. It is cultivated mainly in Japan, but also in China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hawaii, New Zealand and Europe. [2]

Botanical Description

A. lappa belongs to the Asteraceae family. A biennial, robust and much branched herb, 40—100(—210) cm tall when flowering; taproot up to 1.5 m long in the second year, brownish to weak yellowish-orange. The leaves arranged in a rosette, cauline leaves alternate, simple, heart-shaped, up to 40—50 cm x 15—20 cm, margin irregularly undulate, upper surface glabrous, underneath covered with white hairs; petioles (5—)20—30 cm long; stipules absent. [2]

The inflorescence a head, one or more together in a lax terminal or axillary corymbose cyme; peduncle 2.5—20 cm long, involucre hemispherical, involucral bracts herbaceous, bright green, margin in the lower half membranaceous, with few to many glandular hairs, the upper part slightly recurved, straight or (slightly) hooked, the head thus becoming a burr, heads rounded, 3—4.5 cm x 2—3 cm. The flowers all tubular, more than 40, lobes 5, corolla 9.5—14.5 mm long, mostly purplish; stamens 5; ovary inferior. Fruit an obovoid achene, 6—8 mm x 2.4—3.2 mm, angular, chestnut-brown. The seed with epigeal germination; hypocotyl wrinkled and white, cotyledons large and rounded; epicotyl absent; first leaves alternate. [2]


Most A. lappa is cultivated in Japan for its edible roots. In Taiwan, Vietnam and New Zealand, A. lappa is produced for the Japanese market and for local Japanese people. The annual production of A. lappa roots for consumption in Taiwan rose from 16 t in 1990 to 25—30 t in 1993, while the cultivated area rose from 265 ha to 898 ha. In Japan, production in the early 1990s was estimated at 180 000 t/year from 14 000 ha, of which 140 000 t were purchased for consumption, 10 000 t were used for the chilled cut vegetable trade, 500 t were processed for dehydration, 200 t were frozen, and the remainder was used as stock feed. [2]

Soil Suitability and Climate Requirement

A. lappa is found in ruderal, neglected locations, along roads and in fields as a weed, along streams and ditches, forest edges and marshlands. It tolerates a wide range of climates, and grows from sea-level up to 3200 m altitude. It grows in light to heavy, dry to moist soils, in full sunshine or in the shade. [2]

A. lappa is propagated by seed. Seeds germinate at 10—36°C, the optimum temperature being 21—30°C. Germination rate is around 90%. The optimum sowing depth is 2 cm, deeper than 4 cm reduces germination rate considerably. The seeds germinate 3—4 days after sowing. In New Zealand a plant density of 20 plants/m5 is considered optimal for root production. [2]

Pest and Disease Control

Several important diseases of A. lappa in Japan are caused by Aspergillus ochraceusFusarium oxysporum f. arctii, Erysiphe cichoracearumPythium irregulare, Scepticus uniformisS. griseusSclerotinia sclerotiorum, and Sphaerotheca fuligineaA. lappa is a host for the following viruses: burdock mottle virus (also infecting Chenopodium murale L., C. quinoa L. and Nicotiana rustica L.), burdock mosaic virus, burdock yellow virus (a closterovirus), tobacco ringspot virus (TobRV), burdock stunt disease, and tomato spotted wilt tospovirus. Important insect pests found on A. lappa in Japan are Tebenna issikiiPantomorus cervinus(which feeds on the roots), and thrips. [2]


The roots are dug up the end of the first year's growth, when they are about 60—80 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter, and the root dry weight is 70—80 g/plant. [2]

Postharvest handling

In Taiwan the roots of A. lappa are washed and carefully dried, and then stored for 1—2 months at 0—5°C for the transformation of starch to saccharide. After 2 months of storage the content of saccharide increases from 50% to 75%, while that of starch reduces from 35% to 4%. The roots are then cut into 1.7 mm thick slices, which are dried for 15 minutes at 160°C. The farmers produce A. lappa under a guaranteed price-contract with dealers. [2]

Estimated cost of production

No documentation

Chemical Constituent

A. lappa is reported to contain polysaccharides (e.g. inulin), lignans (e.g. arctigenin, diarctigenin, arctiin), flavones (e.g. luteolin), sesquiterpene lactones (e.g. arctiopicrin), polyynes (e.g. trideca-1), phenolic acids and their derivatives (e.g. caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid), triterpenes (e.g. alpha-amyrin), phytosterols (e.g. campesterol) and tannins. [3][4][5][6]

Plant Part Used

Dried roots, ripe fruits and leaves. [7]

Traditional Use

A. lappa has been well documented in traditional use with the Iroquois tribe. When made in to a poultice, it is applied to the head to relieve headaches and also applied to sweat out rheumatism. [8] A. lappa infusion was used as a diuretic, emetic and for various gastrointestinal complaints. Other uses include kidney, dermatological and orthopedic aids as well as to alleviate boils and canker sores. [7][8][9]

In China, Vietnam, India, and Europe A. lappa is well known as a medicinal plant. It possesses heart stimulant, stomachic, anodyne, anti-scorbutic, antipyretic, laxative, diaphoretic, depurative, anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. It is used for a great variety of diseases including furunculosis, suppurating abscesses, swellings, scrofulous gout, psoriasis, acne and prurigo, throat infections, pneumonia, chronic gastritis, scarlet fever, measles, small pox, rheumatism, vertigo, cancer, syphilis, and baldness. [2]

The whole plant, or only the fruit, is employed as an ointment or liniment for burns, ulcers and other cutaneous diseases. In East Asia, the fruits are used as a cure against bites of poisonous insects and snakes, and against flatulence. They are exported to Indo-China and sold as a depurative, and are found in Chinese pharmacies in Peninsular Malaysia. A decoction of the fruit of A. lappa and Trichosanthes kirilowii Maxim is a cure for subclinical mastitis in calves of mastitis-positive cows. In India the plant is also used to treat scurf or skin diseases of animals and to prevent hair loss in humans and animals. In Japan, A. lappa called '(yama-)gobo', is a popular vegetable. [2]

The tincture from the fresh roots is used to treat pulmonary catarrh, rheumatism and gout. However, cases of contact dermatitis caused by A. lappa root plasters, applied for anti-inflammatory purposes, are known. The slightly fibrous mucilaginous roots have a sweetish taste and are consumed raw or cooked. The peeled tender petioles and young floral stalks are eaten less widely. North American Indians eat the young leaves as well as the fresh or dried roots. In Europe cows eat the leaves readily, but they may give milk a bitter flavour if eaten in large quantities. [2]

Preclinical Data


Anti-inflammatory activity

A. lappa has long been used in the treatment of inflammatory conditions and pain associated with inflammation.  Scientific studies support the anti-inflammatory activity of A. lappa in vivo as carrageenan-induced paw edema is attenuated following subcutaneous administration of A. lappa extract in rats. [10] As a result, several scientific studies have attempted to elucidate the mechanisms by which A. lappa exerts anti-inflammatory activity.  Available information indicates that A. lappa is comprised, in part, of the lignan arctigenin and its analogues (e.g. diarctigenin (dimeric structure of arctigenin) and arctiin (glucoside of arctigenin)); arctigenin and its associated lignans have been shown to be inhibitors of nitric oxide production through inhibited inducible nitric oxide synthase expression and enzymatic activity. [3][11][12][13]

Through inhibition of nitric oxide production, the ensuing nitric oxide-induced, pro-inflammatory actions such as increased vascular permeability and vasodilatation are abolished. [11][14] Furthermore, arctigenin and its associated lignans have been shown to inhibit other mediators of inflammation, such as prostaglandin E2 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. [13][15] The inhibition of inflammatory mediators is pertinent as overproduction of these factors is characteristic of inflammatory diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis). [11]

Anti-aging activity

The fruits of the A. lappa plant have been cultivated to produce fruit pulp and fruit-based extracts.  Traditional medicinal practices have employed the use of A. lappa in the treatment of various skin conditions.  As a result, a scientific study assessed the in vivo and in vitro effects of a formulation that contained A. lappa fruit extract for its anti-aging properties.  Human participants topically applied the A. lappa fruit extract formulation for 12 weeks and were examined for synthesis of procollagen and hyaluronan.  When compared to areas treated topically with vehicle, the areas treated with the fruit extract formulation showed stimulated procollagen synthesis and increased hyaluronan levels.  A related study examined the effect of topical application of the A. lappa fruit extract formulation on wrinkle volume within the outer corner of the eye (area where wrinkles referred to as “crow’s feet” are typically located) for a 4 weeks period.  When compared to treatment with vehicle, wrinkle volume was reduced in the areas treated with topical application of the fruit extract formulation. [16]

Antidiabetic activity

Research regarding the role of A. lappa in the treatment of diabetes is conflicting.  In one study, treatment with A. lappa was assessed in the streptozocin-induced diabetic mouse model.  A. lappa was administered for twenty-eight days and measurements of plasma glucose, plasma insulin, glucose tolerance, etc. indicated no alteration attributable to A. lappa administration.  Administration of streptozocin to induce diabetes in selected mice showed that A. lappa exacerbated the streptozocin-induced diabetic condition. [17] 

In a more recent study, the administration of total lignan from A. lappa fruit was assessed for hypoglycemic activity.  Blood glucose levels were taken on the first day of the experiment and after 10 days of treatment with total lignan from A. lappa fruit in both normal and alloxan-induced diabetic mice and rats.  Glibenclamide was administered as a positive control in the same manner as the total lignan was administered (oral gavage).  The blood glucose level of alloxan-induced diabetic mice and rats confirmed induction of diabetes.  Administration of the positive control and the low, middle and high doses of total lignan reduced blood glucose in the diabetic rats in a dose-dependent manner; the same effect was observed in mice, although the lower dose of total lignan did not reach statistical significance but displayed the same dose-dependent pattern with moderate and high doses reaching significance.  This study provides support for the use of lignan constituents of A. lappa in the treatment of diabetes but additional research is needed in this area. [18]

Anti-oxidant activity

Additional health benefits described in the literature pertain to the antioxidant activity of A. lappa and the effects of A. lappa within the gastrointestinal system. The antioxidant activity of A. lappa has been demonstrated through in vitro assays assessing the free radical scavenging ability of A. lappa extract and its fractions to scavenge 2,2-diphenyl, 1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH); the resultant antioxidant activity displayed a dose-dependent profile. [19]

Gastro-hepatoprotective activity

The gastroprotective properties associated with A. lappa use may be attributable to its high content of inulin; inulin extracted from A. lappa has recently been shown to possess prebiotic properties.[4] Oral pretreatment with A. lappa root extract has been shown to reduce ethanol- and acetic-acid induced gastric lesions in animal models. [19] Thus, A. lappa may possess gastroprotective properties as well.  In addition to gastroprotective activity, A. lappa extract may confer hepatoprotective properties onto its users as well. In order to investigate the potential for hepatoprotective properties, ethanol- or ethanol concomitant with a single dose of carbon tetrachloride was administered to rats in a manner established to induce liver damage for a period of 28 days. Oral administration of A. lappa three times daily on days 21-28 attenuated the ethanol and carbon tetrachloride combination-induced reductions in Cytochrome P450 and NADPH-cytochrome C reductase activity, elevations in serum transaminase concentrations, etc. that are indicative of hepatic damage; the hepatoprotective effects of A. lappa may be attributable to its antioxidant activity. [20]


No documentation

Clinical Data

No documentation


A few case studies have documented toxicity following use of A. lappa teas where patients presented with symptoms consistent with atropine-like poisoning (e.g. dry mouth, mydriasis, tachycardia, and mental confusion). [21][22] This may be attributable to adulteration of A. lappa root/supplements with Atropa belladonna. [22][23]

Side effects

Patients possessing allergies to members of the Asteraceae family (e.g. sunflower, safflower, ragweed, chamomile and mugwort) should not use A. lappa due to cross-reactivity between members within this family. Allergic patients present with symptoms that range in severity from localized symptoms (rhinitis and/or urticaria) to generalized, life-threatening anaphylaxis. [24]  Allergic reactions may also occur following use of A. lappa in patients allergic to pectin. Allergic dermatitis following contact with A. lappa has also been documented in the literature. [25]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Patients planning to become pregnant, who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use A. lappa supplements due to the potential for uterine stimulation, abortifacient effects and the lack of information concerning the use of supplements during lactation. [26]

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

A. lappa should be used with caution in diabetic and hypoglycemic patients as conflicting studies have shown it to both increase and decrease blood glucose levels when assessed in laboratory experiments. [17][18]

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


1 teaspoon of A. lappa root in 2 cups cool water, up to 2 cups day. [7]

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


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  10. Lin CC, Lu JM, Yang JJ, Chuang SC, Ujiie T. Anti-inflammatory and radical scavenge effects of Arctium lappa. Am J Chin Med. 1996;24(2):127-137.
  11. Zhao F, Wang L, Liu K. In vitro anti-inflammatory effects of arctigenin, a lignan from Arctium lappa L., through inhibition on iNOS pathway. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;122(3):457-462.
  12. Park SY, Hong SS, Han XH, et al. Lignans from Arctium lappa and their inhibition of LPS-induced nitric oxide production. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2007;55(1):150-152.
  13. Kim BH, Hong SS, Kwon SW, et al. Diarctigenin, a lignan constituent from Arctium lappa, down-regulated zymosan-induced transcription of inflammatory genes through suppression of DNA binding ability of nuclear factor-kappaB in macrophages. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2008;327(2):393-401.
  14. Rang HP, Dale MM, Ritter. Local hormones, inflammation and allergy: Pharmacology. 4th Edition. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1999;p. 199-225.
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  16. Knott A. Natural Arctium lappa fruit extract improves the clinical signs of aging skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2008;7(4):281-289.
  17. Swanston-Flatt SK, Day C, Flatt PR, Gould BJ, Bailey CJ. Glycaemic effects of traditional European plant treatments for diabetes. Studies in normal and streptozotocin diabetic mice. Diabetes Res. 1989;10(2):69-73.
  18. Xu Z. The antidiabetic activity of total lignan from Fructus Arctii against alloxan-induced diabetes in mice and rats. Phytother Res. 2008;22(1):97-101.
  19. Dos Santos AC, Baggio CH, Freitas CS, et al. Gastroprotective activity of the chloroform extract of the roots from Arctium lappa L. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2008;60(6):795-801.
  20. Lin SC, Lin CH, Lin CC. Hepatoprotective effects of Arctium lappa Linne on liver injuries induced by chronic ethanol consumption and potentiated by carbon tetrachloride. J Biomed Sci. 2002;9(5):401-409.
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