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Essiac tea contains burdock root (Arctium lappa). The Burdock (the plant of burdock root) is a member of the thistle family. The plant contains burrs (the type that stick to your clothing). Burdock is a common weed that grows throughout North America.
The roots, young stems, and seeds of the Burdock plant are edible. Parts of burdock can be cooked and consumed, or eaten raw in salads. Parts of the Burdock plant are eaten throughout many cultures worldwide in addition to it's presence as part of the essiac tea formula.
During its first year, the Burdock plant produces only green leafy growth. During the second year it produces the long sturdy stems with the burrs. The root of the Burdock plant is harvested only from the first-year plants. The roots are about an inch wide, and can be up to three feet long. The roots should be harvested in the fall because that is when the plant energy is concentrated in the roots.
For centuries Burdock has been used throughout the world to promote health. The polyacetylenes found in burdock have antibacterial and antifungal effects. Burdock is a powerful blood purifier. It clears congestion in the respiratory, lymphatic, urinary, and circulatory systems. As a mild diuretic, it promotes the flow of bile, and eliminates excess fluid in the body. It may increase the production of both urine and sweat, potentially making it useful in treating swelling and fever. Burdock might play a role in preventing liver damage caused by alcohol, chemicals, or medications. The exact reason for this protective effect is not known, but it is thought to involve opposition of a chemical process called oxidation, which occurs in the body. One result of oxidation is the release of oxygen free radicals, natural chemicals that may suppress immune function. Antioxidants such as burdock may protect body cells from damage caused by oxidation.
Burdock root also improves digestion. It facilitates the removal of toxins and infection from various body systems. By improving the function of many organs of elimination (i.e. liver, kidneys, bowels), many health conditions may be improved. It can also destroy parasites and help protect against the following ailments: arthritis, rheumatism, and sciatica.
Burdock is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. It contains vitamins A, B complex, C, E, and P. It contains relatively high amounts of chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, and zinc. It also contains smaller amounts of calcium, copper, manganese, selenium, and sulphur. Data also indicates that the root is a good source of the carbohydrate inulin, which can account for 45% of the plant mass. This substance is a large contributor of the purgative effect of burdock root. Burdock root is critical to the performance of essiac tea.