Reprinted with the kind permission of Dr. Mercola.
By Dr. Mercola
Promoting healthy hair and scalp is best done without the use of toxic commercial shampoos and hair treatment products. One way to achieve optimal hair health is to rely on what nature has to offer, which is high-quality burdock oil.
Learn about the origins, uses and benefits, composition and proper application of this oil to achieve shiny locks and other therapeutic effects.
What Is Burdock Oil?
Burdock oil — also known as Bur oil and burdock root oil extract — is extracted from the leaves and roots of the burdock plant (Arctium), a hardy perennial that is native to Europe and has been naturalized in North America.1
The plant has large leaves, purple flowers, seeds in the form of small spherical burrs (hence the name "burdock") and roots that are used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes.
Burdock is said to have been used for centuries by various cultures, which explains its many names. It has been used in food and drinks, as well as in traditional medicine.
Native Americans made candy by boiling its stem in maple syrup. In folk herbalism, dried burdock is considered a diuretic, diaphoretic and a blood-purifying agent. Burdock oil is currently used in Europe and America for hair growth and as a scalp treatment.
Here is some interesting trivia: Burdock is the inspiration behind Velcro fasteners.2 In the early 1940s, after taking his dog for a walk, Swiss inventor George de Mestral studied the seeds of the burdock plant that had attached themselves to his clothes and to his dog's fur.
Under a microscope, the inventor looked closely at the hook system that the seeds use to hitchhike on passing animals and people for seed dispersal. He realized that the same principle could be used for joining other things together, and thus came up with Velcro.
Note, however, that burdock is more than just a sticky substance — its roots and oil can also serve as herbal remedies and have a wide range of uses.
Uses of Burdock Oil
All of the parts of the burdock plant are used for practical and medicinal purposes. The root sometimes serves as food, while the seeds can be used to make a decoction to lower fevers. Herbalists blend tincture of the plant root with other herbs to treat joint problems.
Poultices of roots or leaves are applied to minor cuts or bruises, while a wash of the root can be a handy acne treatment.
Hair growth and scalp maintenance are often highlighted as the primary uses of burdock oil. This oil offers nutritional support to your scalp and deeply nourishes your follicles.3
Burdock oil has also been marketed for hair loss, with products readily available in cosmetic stores and can be massaged onto your hair three times a week for maximum results. It helps restore the function of your hair follicles and sebaceous glands, further protecting against scalp dryness.
This oil is also particularly popular in Japan not just for hair wellness but also for skin care — it is added both to shampoos and facial packs.
Composition of Burdock Oil
The plant has numerous chemical constituents.4 Its roots and leaves — the main sources of the oil — contain glycosides, flavonoids, tannins, volatile oil (including sesquiterpene lactones), polyacetylenes (which fight disease-causing bacteria and fungi), resin, mucilage, inulin (up to 45 percent), alkaloids, essential oil, phytosterols and caffeic acid derivatives.
Burdock seeds, on the other hand, boast essential fatty acids, along with vitamins A and B2.
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Benefits of Burdock Oil
Given its vitamin A and essential fatty acids (which include rare long-chain EFAs), burdock oil5 can help strengthen your hair by nourishing your scalp. These nutrients are required in maintaining a healthy scalp and promoting natural hair growth.
There is a combined support from their relieving effect and support of normal functions of sebaceous glands and hair follicles.
Burdock oil may also help in the treatment of scalp infections and irritation caused by dandruff. It assists in reducing scalp itching, redness and other symptoms, as well as promotes hair growth. Regular use of it is promoted for helping restore and enriching the health and appearance of your scalp and hair.
How to Make Burdock Oil
eHow6 provides a simple, quick recipe for creating your own burdock root oil. Remember that this is best done using fresh root rather than dried.
Things You'll Need:
•Mortar and pestle
•Airtight glass jar
2.Leave the smashed root to dry out for a day. This will help it lose some moisture and concentrate the nutrients within the root.
3.Put the root into a clean glass jar. Cover with good-quality vegetable oil, such as extra virgin olive oil. Seal and leave in a dark room for six weeks to infuse. You may need to open the jar every week or so to release any gas buildup.
How Does Burdock Oil Work?
The burdock plant contains a number of beneficial constituent components, such as mucilage, tannins, inulin, vitamin A and essential fatty acids, all of which can provide beneficial action.
These can help nourish your hair, as well as treat skin conditions like acne and dryness, especially when these concerns are linked to poor diet, constipation or liver burden.7 Typically, burdock oil is applied topically for its hair and skin benefits.
Is Burdock Oil Safe?
Safety issues with burdock oil and the plant itself are considered rare, except for individuals specifically at risk. For instance, it may cause an allergic reaction in individuals who are sensitive to certain flowers and herbs such as ragweed, daisies, marigolds and others.8
Burdock root, the source of the oil, is used for treating internal and external health concerns. Burdock is even safely used as a food in Asia. Before ingesting the oil, however, it is best to consult a trusted healthcare provider or herbalist first.
I recommend pregnant and breastfeeding women, along with people who are sensitive to ragweed and related plants, to avoid using this oil. Since burdock oil might also increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery, I believe it’s better to stop taking it at least two weeks before your scheduled operation.
Side Effects of Burdock Oil
Burdock oil may reduce or increase your blood sugar, so diabetics should watch their levels and generally avoid using the oil. It may also cause electrolyte imbalance and skin allergy. This is why I advise you to consult a natural holistic practitioner before using burdock oil, especially when doing so for therapeutic benefits.
Anticoagulants or medications that slow blood clotting interact with burdock, so taking them might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Some drugs of this kind are aspirin, clopidogrel, diclofenac, ibuprofen and warfarin.
Sources and References
1 Livestrong January 12, 2014
2 The Big Idea: How Business Innovators Get Great Ideas to Market
3 Just Grow Already July 21, 2011
4 Herbal Legacy
5 All 4 Natural Health
7 How Stuff Works
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