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Arctium minus is a binnial plant. It can grow up to 1.5 meters (1 to 5 feet) tall and form multiple branches. It is large and bushy. Flowers are prickly and pink to lavender in color. Flower heads are about 3/4 inches (2 cm) wide. The plant flowers from July through October. The flowers resemble and can be easily mistaken for thistles, but burdock can be distinguished by its extremely large (up to 50 cm) leaves and its hooked bracts. Leaves are long and ovate. Lower leaves are heart-shaped and have very wavy margins. Leaves are dark green above and woolly below. It grows an extremely deep taproot, up to 30 cm (12 in) into the ground.
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The plant produces purple flowers in its second year of growth, from July to October. Outer bracts end in hooks that are like Velcro. After the flower head dries, the hooked bracts will attach to humans and animals in order to transport the entire seedhead.
The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera, self.The plant is self-fertile. It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Succeeds on most soils, preferably moist. Prefers a sunny position. Prefers partial shade according to another report. A polymorphic species. A good butterfly plant.
Seed – best sown in situ in autumn.
Edible Parts: Leaves; Root; Seed; Stem.
Edible Uses: Coffee.
Root – raw or cooked. The best roots are obtained from young plants. Usually peeled and sliced. The roasted root is a coffee substitute. Young leaves and leaf stems – raw or cooked. Used as a potherb]. Mucilaginous. It is best to remove the rind from the stem. Young flowering stem – peeled and eaten raw or cooked like asparagus. Seed sprouts.
Burdock is one of the foremost detoxifying herbs in both Chinese and Western herbal medicine. Arctium lappa is the main species used, though this species has similar properties. The dried root of one year old plants is the official herb, but the leaves and fruits can also be us. It is used to treat conditions caused by an ‘overload’ of toxins, such as throat and other infections, boils, rashes and other skin problems. The root is thought to be particularly good at helping to eliminate heavy metals from the body. The plant is antibacterial, antifungal and carminative. It has soothing, mucilaginous properties and is said to be one of the most certain cures for many types of skin diseases, burns, bruises etc. It is used in the treatment of herpes, eczema, acne, impetigo, ringworm, boils, bites etc. The plant can be taken internally as an infusion, or used externally as a wash. Use with caution. One-year old roots are alterative, aperient, blood purifier, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and stomachic. The seed is alterative, antibacterial, antifungal, antiphlogistic, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and hypoglycaemic. It is used in the treatment of colds with sore throat and cough, measles, pharyngitis, acute tonsillitis and abscesses. The crushed seed is poulticed onto bruises. The seed is harvested in the summer and dried for later use. The seed contains arctiin, this excites the central nervous system producing convulsions an increase in respiration and later paralysis. It also lowers the blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels. The leaves are poulticed onto burns, ulcers and sores.
Other Uses:..Paper.…..A fibre is obtained from the inner bark and is used to make paper. It is about 0.9mm long. The stems are harvested in late summer, the leaves are removed and the stems steamed in order to strip off the fibre. The fibres are then cooked for two hours in soda ash before being put in a ball mill for 2 hours. The resulting paper is a light tan/ brown colour.
Known Hazards :Although no reports of toxicity have been seen for this plant, some caution is advised due to the following report for the closely related A. lappa[K]. Care should be taken if harvesting the seed in any quantity since tiny hairs from the seeds can be inhaled and these are toxic.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.