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Greater burdock roots

Chinese: 牛蒡根

Pinyin: Niú Bàng Gēn

Parts used: Dried roots

TCM category: Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Organ affinity: Heart Lung

Scientific name: Arctium lappa

Other names: Gobō, Lappa, Beggar's buttons, Thorny burr, Happy major

Use of greater burdock roots (Niu Bang Gen) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, clean, cut and dry

Dosage: 6 to 15 g

Main actions according to TCM*: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Heat. Reduces swelling and clears pathogenic Heat.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which greater burdock roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Headache Coughing Swellings Sore throat Painful gums Rheumatic athralgia Lumps Carbuncles Conjunctivitis Hemorrhoids Rectal prolapse Common cold

Key TCM concepts behind greater burdock roots (Niu Bang Gen)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), greater burdock roots are plants that belong to the 'Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior' category. Herbs that release the Exterior aim to to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin. TCM believes that External diseases such as colds or allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our Wei Qi (the TCM version of the immune system). In order to counteract this invasion Cool/Acrid herbs aim to induce sweating by dilating our capillary pores so that they release more sweat. The belief is that this will expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.

As suggested by its category greater burdock roots are plants that are Cool in nature. This means that greater burdock roots tend to help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition greater burdock roots can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Greater burdock roots also taste Bitter and Sweet. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like greater burdock roots tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such greater burdock roots are thought to target the Heart and the Lung. In addition to regulating Blood flow, in TCM the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Use of greater burdock roots (Niu Bang Gen) as food

Greater burdock roots are also eaten as food.