Arctium

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"Burdock" redirects here. For other uses, see Burdock (disambiguation).
Arctium
Villtakjas 2008.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cynareae[1]
Genus: Arctium
L.
Species

Arctium is a genus of biennial plants commonly known as burdock, family Asteraceae. Native to the Old World, several species have been widely introduced worldwide.[2]

Description[edit]

Arctium lappa (greater burdock)

Plants of the genus Arctium have dark green leaves that can grow up to 28" (71 cm) long. They are generally large, coarse and ovate, with the lower ones being heart-shaped. They are woolly underneath. The leafstalks are generally hollow. Arctium species generally flower from July through to October.

The prickly heads of these plants (burrs) are noted for easily catching on to fur and clothing (being the inspiration for Velcro[3]), thus providing an excellent mechanism for seed dispersal.[2] Burrs cause local irritation and can possibly cause intestinal hairballs in pets. However, most animals avoid ingesting these plants.

Birds are especially prone to becoming entangled with their feathers in the burrs leading to a slow death, as they are unable to free themselves.[4]

A large number of species have been placed in genus Arctium at one time or another, but most of them are now classified in the related genus Cousinia. The precise limits between Arctium and Cousinia are hard to define; there is an exact correlation between their molecular phylogeny. The burdocks are sometimes confused with the cockleburs (genus Xanthium) and rhubarb (genus Rheum).

The roots of burdock, among other plants, are eaten by the larva of the Ghost Moth (Hepialus humuli). The plant is used as a food plant by other Lepidoptera including Brown-tail, Coleophora paripennella, Coleophora peribenanderi, the Gothic, Lime-speck Pug and Scalloped Hazel.

The green, above-ground portions may cause contact dermatitis in humans due to the lactones the plant produces.

Uses[edit]

Food and drink[edit]

A dish containing a Japanese appetizer, kinpira gobō, consisting of sauteed gobō (greater burdock root) and ninjin (carrot), with a side of kiriboshi daikon (sauteed boiled dried daikon)

The taproot of young burdock plants can be harvested and eaten as a root vegetable. While generally out of favour in modern European cuisine, it remains popular in Asia. Arctium lappa is called (牛蒡), pronounced "gobō" (ごぼう) in Japanese or "niúbàng" in Chinese, in Korea burdock root is called "u-eong" (우엉) and sold as "tong u-eong" (통우엉), or "whole burdock". Plants are cultivated for their slender roots, which can grow about one metre long and two centimetres across. Burdock root is very crisp and has a sweet, mild, and pungent flavour with a little muddy harshness that can be reduced by soaking julienned or shredded roots in water for five to ten minutes.

Immature flower stalks may also be harvested in late spring, before flowers appear; their taste resembles that of artichoke, to which the burdock is related. The stalks are thoroughly peeled, and either eaten raw, or boiled in salt water.[5] Leaves are also eaten in spring in Japan when a plant is young and leaves are soft. Some A. lappa cultivars are specialized for this purpose. A popular Japanese dish is kinpira gobō (金平牛蒡), julienned or shredded burdock root and carrot, braised with soy sauce, sugar, mirin and/or sake, and sesame oil. Another is burdock makizushi (sushi filled with pickled burdock root; the burdock root is often artificially coloured orange to resemble a carrot).

In the second half of the 20th century, burdock achieved international recognition for its culinary use due to the increasing popularity of the macrobiotic diet, which advocates its consumption. It contains a fair amount of dietary fiber (GDF, 6g per 100g), calcium, potassium, amino acids,[6] and is low in calories. It contains a polyphenol oxidase,[7] which causes its darkened surface and muddy harshness by forming tannin-iron complexes. Burdock root's harshness harmonizes well with pork in miso soup (tonjiru) and with Japanese-style pilaf (takikomi gohan).

Dandelion and burdock is today a soft drink that has long been popular in the United Kingdom, which has its origins in hedgerow mead commonly drunk in the mediæval period.[8] Burdock is believed to be a galactagogue, a substance that increases lactation, but it is sometimes recommended to be avoided during pregnancy based on animal studies that show components of burdock to cause uterus stimulation.[9]

In Europe, burdock root was used as a bittering agent in beer before the widespread adoption of hops for this purpose.

The American composer Christian Wolff composed a work for variable performers entitled "Burdocks" in 1970-71.

Traditional medicine[edit]

Folk herbalists considered dried burdock to be a diuretic, diaphoretic, and a blood purifying agent. The seeds of A. lappa are used in traditional Chinese medicine, under the name niubangzi (Chinese: 牛蒡子; pinyin: niúbángzi; Some dictionaries list the Chinese as just 牛蒡 niúbàng.)

Burdock is a traditional medicinal herb that is used for many ailments. Burdock root oil extract, also called Bur oil, is currently used in Europe in the belief that it is a useful scalp treatment.[citation needed] Modern studies indicate that burdock root oil extract is rich in phytosterols and essential fatty acids (including rare long-chain EFAs).[10]

Burdock and Velcro[edit]

After taking his dog for a walk one day in the early 1940s, George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor, became curious about the seeds of the burdock plant that had attached themselves to his clothes and to the dog's fur. Under a microscope, he looked closely at the hook system that the seeds use to hitchhike on passing animals aiding seed dispersal, and he realised that the same approach could be used to join other things together. The result of his studies was Velcro.[3]

"black from dust but still alive and red in the center... It makes me want to write. It asserts life to the end, and alone in the midst of the whole field, somehow or other had asserted it."[citation needed]

Russian author Leo Tolstoy, in his journal (1896) describing a tiny shoot of burdock he saw in a ploughed field

The Serbo-Croatian language uses the same word, čičak, for burdock and velcro.[11]

Size[edit]

Size of greater burdock leaves.
The man holding the burdock leaf is 180 cm tall. 
This is a burdock leaf. Note the steps in the background for scale. 

Species[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "tribe Cynareae". Flora of North America. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  2. ^ a b "Arctium". Flora of North America. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  3. ^ a b Strauss, Steven D. (December 2001). The Big Idea: How Business Innovators Get Great Ideas to Market. Kaplan Business. pp. 15–pp.18. ISBN 0-7931-4837-5. Retrieved 2008-05-09. 
  4. ^ "Chapter Begins Burdock Removal Project". Greater Bozeman, MT: Sacajawea Audubon Society. August 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  5. ^ Szczawinski, A.F.; Turner, N.J. (1978). Edible Garden Weeds of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences. 
  6. ^ nikkeibp.co.jp
  7. ^ Extraction, Partial Characterization, and Inhibition Patterns of Polyphenol Oxidase from Burdock (Arctium lappa). Mie S. Lee-Kim, Eun S. Hwang and Kyung H. Kim, Enzymatic Browning and Its Prevention, Chapter 21, pp 267–276, doi:10.1021/bk-1995-0600.ch021
  8. ^ "Mead Recipes: Dandelion and Burdock Beer". Dyfed Lloyd Evans. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  9. ^ "Burdock (Arctium lappa): MedlinePlus Supplements". Nlm.nih.gov. 2010-07-20. Retrieved 2010-09-12. [dead link]
  10. ^ Burdock Root For Acne. Livestrong.Com. Retrieved on 2013-08-22.
  11. ^ "čičak (Hrvatski jezični portal)" (in Croatian). Novi Liber. Retrieved 17 September 2013. 

External links[edit]