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Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

The cosmetics industry has always relied heavily on nature and naturally sourced products. Almost every other hair care product you find on your shelf contains one or two naturally sourced ingredients, and the same can be said for hair loss and hair growth products. This category has attracted a lot of attention for the potential application of plant-derived active ingredients. Among them are Indian Ayurvedic, traditional Chinese, African, or Latin native plants, like Brahmi, fenugreek seeds, horsetail, and olive oil. One such solution is burdock root, which is gaining in popularity in recent times. The oil infused with its root sections has been reported to have beneficial effects of fighting hair loss and even stimulating new hair growth.

What is burdock root?

Burdock, scientifically known as Arctium lappa L, is native to Asia and Europe, while it has been widely cultivated in North America.1 The plant, when an adult, can get to a size of 1-1.5 meters height and bears fleshy, pulpy fruits, which are commonly consumed as food in Asian countries. Its roots have a wide range of therapeutic and medicinal benefits, such as scurvy, diabetes, syphilis, and leprosy. Chinese have been using it to heal colds, measles, pharyngitis, and tonsillitis. Moreover, it’s also known to detoxify the stomach and blood, act as a diuretic and laxative. 

The plant extract contains mainly polysaccharides, sugar molecules, polyphenols, and flavonoids. Inulin is the main polysaccharide present and responsible for its characteristic features for topical applications. Besides this, the extract also contains mucilages, pectin, and simple sugars. There are also organic acids, acetic, butyric, chlorogenic, and amino acids.4 The oil components are mainly saturated and unsaturated long-chain fatty acids, e.g., linoleic, linolenic, myristic, and oleic acids. Among minerals, the aqueous extract comprises mainly calcium, potassium, and iron metal ions. Moreover, root essential oil contains a large number of organic compounds. The polyphenol molecules have been studied for anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. 

Burdock root for skin & scalp care

In skincare, its root extract or oil demonstrates anti-inflammatory action. The plant has been used for common skin orders such as acne, seborrhoeic dermatitis, and eczema. Besides this, its strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties make it an excellent choice for scalp treatments. Burdock claims to combat oily skin, which is prone to develop acne and seborrhea. Likewise, it has been added into shampoos and lotions for skin affected by excessive production of sebum.2 This highlights its efficacy to combat dandruff. The high content of polyphenolic compounds and caffeine molecules protects skin tissues from the negative impact of ultraviolet radiation, e.g., UV-A. This describes its anti-oxidant efficacy.3 These molecules also inhibit the enzymatic activity of hyaluronidase, minimizing acne and seborrhoeic-induced skin damage.

Burdock root and hair growth

As mentioned earlier, Burdock root has been known to treat oily skin having high secretions of sebum which is a key player in inducing acne and seborrhoeic dermatitis. The skin inflammation may lead to multiple skin disorders. The seborrhoeic build is a well-known fact where debris and dead cells scale up at the scalp surface, forming a hard layer. This inhibits the penetration of actives, water molecules (moisture) and hinders a normal cellular activity at the scalp surface. The dead layer promotes the growth of bacteria and fungi, further complicating the scalp. Burdock root oil works by controlling the sebum secretion, which minimizes the chances of seborrhoeic inflammation. Moreover, the polyphenols present in its chemical composition, flavonoids, and caffeine derivatives bring anti-bacterial and anti-fungal tools to combat microbial growth. 

This leads to a healthy environment at the scalp surface, improving the blood circulation to the affected area and boosting a healthy follicular activity. This can inhibit hair loss, hair thinning and stimulate the regrowth of new hairs.

Making Burdock Root Oil at Home

You can easily prepare infused Burdock Root Oil at home. The root section sliced into small pieces can be purchased at a local herbal store or online at Amazon. The base oil can be any plant-sourced oil of your own choice, e.g., sunflower oil or olive oil. A typical recipe is given below for your guidance. 

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Measure out the Oil in an air-tight glass jar and add your sliced root cuts. Mix them well and close the jar with its lid.
  2. Leave the jar in a dark, dry cupboard for 6 to 8 weeks to get infused.
  3. Check on it every week; you can open it to remove any air bubbles formed. 

Apply a small quantity of this oil on bald sections of the scalp area and massage it gently. For good results, leave it on the scalp for 1-2 hours or overnight (if possible), followed by shampooing with a gentle, mild non-sulfate shampoo.

DIY Healthy Scalp Mask

This is one of my favorite scalp care recipes for your easy usage at home. It is simple, cost-effective, and yet effective. Give it a try.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons Burdock root infused oil (prepared above)
  • 2-5 drops freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey

Directions

  1. Mix the ingredients well with a tablespoon and apply the uniform mixture to the bald area of the scalp.
  2. Massage it gently and leave it on for 30 minutes.
  3. Rinse it off and wash your scalp with a mild shampoo. 

Yogurt is a rich source of healthy bacteria, milk protein, an alpha-hydroxy acid (lactic acid). Lactic acid exfoliates your scalp while burdock root oil works out microbial growth. The blend can efficiently cleanse the upper surface, while honey can ensure good moisture levels for skin cells.

References & further reading

  1. Khan, I. A.; Abourashed, E. A., Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients: Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. Wiley: 2011.
  2. Miazga-Karska, M.; Michalak, K.; Ginalska, G., Anti-Acne Action of Peptides Isolated from Burdock Root—Preliminary Studies and Pilot Testing. Molecules 2020, 25 (9), 2027.
  3. Jiang, X.-W.; Bai, J.-P.; Zhang, Q.; Hu, X.-L.; Tian, X.; Zhu, J.; Liu, J.; Meng, W.-H.; Zhao, Q.-C., Caffeoylquinic acid derivatives from the roots of Arctium lappa L.(burdock) and their structure-activity relationships (SARs) of free radical scavenging activities. Phytochemistry Letters 2016, 15, 159-163.
  4. Burlando, B.; Verotta, L.; Cornara, L.; Bottini-Massa, E., Herbal Principles in Cosmetics: Properties and Mechanisms of Action. CRC Press: 2010.