Arctium Lappa. Burdock.

Botanical name: 

Description: Natural Order, Compositae. This is the burdock plant so annoying to the farmer; with its great coarse leaves, purplish flowers in numerous thistle-like heads, and long, tapering roots. The roots are succulent, difficult to dry, and of an unpleasant sweetish taste. It is best when gathered in early spring, and sliced into thin pieces. Unless very quickly and thoroughly dried, it will mildew. It yields its property readily to water and diluted alcohol. The chocolate- colored seeds have a slightly bitter taste.

Properties and Uses: The root is mainly relaxant and demulcent, with a limited amount of tonic property. It acts slowly and mildly upon several of the secreting organs, as the kidneys, skin, and bowels. This secures from it a gentle alterant action, of use in cutaneous, scrofulous, and scorbutic affections, particularly where there is an irritable condition of the system. It enters into a sort of family beer along with such agents as yellow dock, spikenard, elder flowers, and ginger; which may be used with benefit in the spring. In syphilis, and the degenerate class of skin affections, it is of little account, unless combined with the more positive stimulating alteratives. Its action on the kidneys and bladder is available in irritable conditions of these organs; and it may be employed there oftener than is usually done. To the bowels, it merely favors a soft and natural openness. preparations of it require to be pretty strong, and given freely; though half a pint of a decoction three times a day, as some writers advise, would be ridiculous. The agent requires to be used several weeks, to secure its full benefits.

The seeds possess somewhat the same properties as the root; but are more prompt and temporary in their impressions. They increase the flow of urine; and are very serviceable in irritation and aching of the bladder, scalding urine, and urine charged with mucous and grayish sediments. Their action on the skin is very good, and affects the sebaceous as well as sudoriferous glands; and thus they restore the natural oiliness of the surface in scarlet fever, tetter, etc. I frequently use them in typhoid cases, in any diaphoretic infusion, as often preferable to the queen-of-meadow. They seem also to abate the nausea of lobelia. The form of warm infusion is best, in the same manner as asclepias, though they may be substituted for the roots in alterative sirups. They need crushing before they will yield their strength.

The leaves, or their inspissated juice, is said to make a good ointment in scrofulous ulcers. I have been told that a tablespoonful of this juice, three times a day, will act on the liver and bowels gently, and purify the blood speedily in boils. It is in some places a popular practice to apply the bruised leaves directly to boils, as a "drawing" and cleansing fomentation.

Preparations: I. Decoction. Two ounces of the roots boiled in a quart of water till a. pint remains. Strain, and give from two to four fluid ounces three times a day.

II. In Sirup, it is an ingredient of compounds with sarsaparilla, celastrus, and rumex. A Compound Sirup of Burdock may be prepared as follows: Arctium, one pound; menispermum and celastrus, each, half a pound; euonymous and xanthoxylum, each, four ounces. Crush the articles; macerate in diluted alcohol twenty-four hours; transfer to a percolator, and treat with diluted alcohol till two quarts pass. Set this aside; continue the percolation with water till four quarts pass; add five pounds of sugar, and evaporate on a water bath till four quarts remain; when cold, add the first product. This is an excellent alterative and tonic preparation for most scrofulous and hepatic affections. If additional tonic action is required, four ounces of gentiana ochroleuca may be incorporated.

III. Extract. The solid extract is furnished in considerable quantities, but has no practical advantages.

The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at