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Arctium lappa, commonly called greater burdock, gobō,edible burdock, lappa, or beggar's buttons, is a biennial plant of the Arctium (burdock) genus in the Asteraceae family, cultivated in gardens for its root used as a vegetable. It is an invasive weed of high-nitrogen soils.
The flowers are purple and grouped in globular capitula, united in clusters. They appear in mid-summer, from July to September. The capitula are surrounded by an involucre made out of many bracts, each curving to form a hook, allowing them to be carried long distances on the fur of animals. The fruits are achenes; they are long, compressed, with short pappuses.
The fleshy tap-root can grow up to 1m long.
Distribution and ecology 
This species is native to the temperate regions of the old world, from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, and from the British Isles through Russia, and the Middle East to China and Japan, including India.
It is naturalized almost everywhere and is usually found in disturbed areas, especially in soil rich in nitrogen. It is commonly cultivated in Japan where it gives its name to a particular construction technique, burdock piling.
It prefers a fresh, worked soil, rich in humus, and should be positioned in full sunlight. Burdock is very reactive to nitrogen fertilizer. Propagation is achieved through sowing the seeds midsummer. The harvest occurs three to four months after the seeding until late autumn, when the roots become too fibrous.
Culinary use 
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||302 kJ (72 kcal)|
|- Dietary fiber||3.3 g|
|Thiamine (vit. B1)||0.01 mg (1%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||0.03 mg (3%)|
|Niacin (vit. B3)||0.3 mg (2%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.321 mg (6%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.24 mg (18%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||23 μg (6%)|
|Vitamin C||3 mg (4%)|
|Vitamin E||0.38 mg (3%)|
|Vitamin K||1.6 μg (2%)|
|Calcium||41 mg (4%)|
|Iron||0.8 mg (6%)|
|Magnesium||38 mg (11%)|
|Manganese||0.232 mg (11%)|
|Phosphorus||51 mg (7%)|
|Potassium||308 mg (7%)|
|Sodium||5 mg (0%)|
|Zinc||0.33 mg (3%)|
|Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Greater burdock was used during the Middle Ages as a vegetable, but now it is rarely used, with the exception of Japan where it is called gobō (牛蒡 or ゴボウ), Taiwan (牛蒡), Korea where it is called ueong (우엉), Italy, Brazil and Portugal, where it is known as bardana or "garduna". Plants are cultivated for their slender roots, which can grow about 1 meter long and 2 cm across.
Immature flower stalks may also be harvested in late spring, before flowers appear. The taste resembles that of artichoke, to which the burdock is related.
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. The root contains a fair amount of gobō dietary fiber (GDF, 6g per 100g), calcium, potassium, amino acids, and is low calorie. It contains polyphenols that causes darkened surface and muddy harshness by formation of tannin-iron complexes. Those polyphenols are caffeoylquinic acid derivatives.
The root is very crisp and has a sweet, mild, and pungent flavor with a little muddy harshness that can be reduced by soaking julienned/shredded roots in water for five to ten minutes. The harshness shows excellent harmonization with pork in miso soup (tonjiru) and takikomi gohan (a Japanese-style pilaf).
A popular Japanese dish is kinpira gobō, julienned or shredded burdock root and carrot, braised with soy sauce, sugar, mirin and/or sake, and sesame oil. Another is burdock makizushi (rolled sushi filled with pickled burdock root; the burdock root is often artificially colored orange to resemble a carrot). In Kyoto, gobō can also be found as a snack food similar to potato chips. The root is eaten cooked and the young sprout can be eaten just like asparagus. Gobo is also used in tempura.
Use in traditional medicine 
Folk herbalists consider dried burdock to be a diuretic, diaphoretic, and a blood purifying agent. Various parts are used to prevent baldness and to treat rheumatoid arthritis, skin infections, acne, boils, bites, eczema, herpes, impetigo, rashes, ringworm, sore throat, sciatica, poison ivy and poison oak, as a tonic, diuretic and mild laxative, to stimulate bile production and to induce sweating. The seeds of greater burdock are used in traditional Chinese medicine, under the name niubangzi (Chinese: 牛蒡子; pinyin: niúpángzi; some dictionaries list the Chinese as just 牛蒡 niúbàng.)
Seeds contain arctigenin which may help memory. Arctiin and its aglucone, arctigenin has shown potent in vitro antiviral activities against influenza A virus in mice. Arctiin is transformed into a number of estrogenic metabolites by human intestinal bacteria. Arctigenin has demonstrated antiinflamatory activity (in vitro)
See also 
- "USDA GRIN taxonomy".
- Rose, Francis (1981). The Wild Flower Key. Frederick Warne & Co. pp. 386–387. ISBN 0-7232-2419-6.
- （井関 清経＝健康サイト編集）. "ゴボウの皮はむかないのが"新常識" (06/01/19) - ニュース - nikkei BPnet". Nikkeibp.co.jp. Retrieved 2012-02-02.
- Antioxidative caffeoylquinic acid derivatives in the roots of burdock (Arctium lappa L.). Yoshihiko Maruta, Jun Kawabata and Ryoya Niki, J. Agric. Food Chem., 1995, 43 (10), pp 2592–2595, doi:10.1021/jf00058a007
- Chan Y.-S., Cheng L.-N., Wu J.-H., Chan E., Kwan Y.-W., Lee S.M.-Y., Leung G.P.-H., Yu P.H.-F., Chan S.-W.,"A review of the pharmacological effects of Arctium lappa (burdock)" [Article in Press] Inflammopharmacology 2010
- School of Chinese Medicine database
- Lee IA, Joh EH, Kim DH, "Arctigenin Isolated from the Seeds of Arctium lappa Ameliorates Memory Deficits in Mice." Planta Med. 2011 Feb 9; Lee IA, Joh EH, Kim DH
- "Therapeutic effect of arctiin and arctigenin in immunocompetent and immunocompromised mice infected with influenza" Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 2010 33:7 (1199-1205)
- Xie L.-H., Ahn E.-M., Akao T., Abdel-Hafez A.A.-M., Nakamura N., Hattori M."Transformation of arctiin to estrogenic and antiestrogenic substances by human intestinal bacteria" Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 2003 51:4 (378-384)
- Zhao F., Wang L., Liu K. "In vitro anti-inflammatory effects of arctigenin, a lignan from Arctium lappa L., through inhibition on iNOS pathway" Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2009 122:3 (457-462)
- Zick S.M., Sen A., Feng Y., Green J., Olatunde S., Boon H."Trial of essiac to ascertain its effect in women with breast cancer (TEA-BC)" Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2006 12:10 (971-980)
- Matsumoto T., Hosono-Nishiyama K., Yamada H. , "Antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of butyrolactone lignans from Arctium lappa on leukemic cells" Planta Medica 2006 72:3 (276-278)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Arctium lappa|
|Wikiversity has bloom time data for Arctium lappa on the Bloom Clock|