The beauty world is always looking for the next best thing, and in the category of hair, you may have heard the recent buzz around burdock root. Some people are quick to claim it as a miracle ingredient for hair health and growth. So naturally, we had to investigate.
Burdock, native to Europe and Northern Asia, has been long used as a treatment for ailments—skin and beyond. Burdock's makeup consists primarily of carbohydrates, volatile oils, plant sterols, tannins, and fatty oils, and its extracts are often found in a variety of homeopathic remedies. While more research is to be done, studies show early signs of burdock having anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial effects, sparking the curiosity of many looking for a one-stop fix-it-all treatment.
But according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian and certified trichologist Gretchen Friese, you shouldn't necessarily shell out for burdock root-containing products just yet.
Meet the Expert
- Gretchen Friese is a BosleyMD-certified trichologist.
- Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group is a board-certified dermatologist.
Ready to find out everything you need to know about using burdock root for hair? Discover the benefits, uses, and more, ahead.
Burdock Root for Hair
Type of ingredient: Hydrator, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial.
Main benefits: According to Friese, benefits include potential hair growth, soothing scalp irritation, building keratin in hair, and helping to smooth and strengthen hair.
Who should use it: Burdock extract can be beneficial for all hair types, notes Friese. Dr. Nazarian adds that it's potentially best for people with oxidative-stress-induced conditions, due to its antioxidants.
How often can you use it: "The time of day doesn’t matter at all," says Dr. Nazarian. "But limit to once daily, and ideally no less than three times weekly."
Works well with: Mix honey or agave in a burdock root tea rinse, according to Friese.
Don’t use with: At this time, there are no known ingredients that burdock root can't be mixed with.
Benefits of Burdock Root for Hair
Burdock has been used therapeutically in Europe, North America, and Asia for hundreds of years. The many benefits of burdock root are still being explored to this day. "The benefits most likely stem from an ingredient in the burdock root called arctiin, which helps protect hair against oxidative stress and damage," says Dr. Nazarian.
Most commonly used for hair loss, the anti-inflammatory abilities of burdock root are also thought to help with dandruff and dry scalp-related issues.
- Promotes Hair Growth: "The combination of fiber, essential fatty acids, and vitamins (particularly vitamin A) in the burdock roots increases the amount of hair in the anagen phase," says Friese, "which helps promote hair growth."
- Soothes Scalp Irritation: Burdock root oil can help with scalp irritation issues, both experts note, including dandruff and an itchy scalp.
- Builds Hair Proteins: "The amino acids in burdock root are great for building the protein (keratin) that creates hair," Friese says.
- Nourishing: The vitamin A found in burdock root can help nourish the scalp and strengthen the hair, notes Friese.
- Smoothes Hair: Friese also shares that burdock root can help make the hair smoother and shinier, and may even prevent split ends.
- Helps Combat Folliculitis: "Scalp issues like inflammation of the hair follicles known as folliculitis can lead to permanent hair loss," says Friese. "[Burdock root] has antibacterial benefits and essential fatty acids that help combat folliculitis by moisturizing the scalp and nourishing hair follicles."
Hair Type Considerations
"Burdock extract can be beneficial for all hair types," Friese notes from the jump. Given its wide array of benefits, different hair types may see different reasons to incorporate this ingredient into their routines. "It has been shown to promote healthy hair growth, soothe inflammation and scalp conditions, and typically leaves the hair soft, smooth, and shiny," Friese continues. "It may also prevent hair dryness and ease detangling as well as strengthen and condition the hair. It is also a great solution for people with flatter strands or those in search of a volume boost."
Burdock's ingredients are particularly beneficial to the scalp, and studies show that active ingredients have been found to promote blood circulation to the skin surface, improving skin quality and texture. "Its anti-inflammatory abilities may also help with dandruff or itchy scalp," Dr. Nazarian reiterates. Dr. Nazarian also notes that burdock root is potentially best for people with oxidative-stress-induced conditions.
While burdock root is usable for most, Friese importantly notes that a doctor should be consulted before using burdock root on children. She also notes that pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant should not use it, and those with allergies in the Asteraceae family. (This includes daisies, aster, chamomile, chrysanthemums, dandelions, dahlias, and lettuce.)
How to Use Burdock Root for Hair
Burdock root for hair should be used topically, typically two-to-three times a week, according to Friese. "There are various products out there that have burdock root extract in them," she says. "Most are shampoos and conditioners, but there are elixirs and oils on the market as well."
"Burdock root oil is also available in multiple hair products, often combined with horsetail, and can be applied to the scalp and left on for 20 minutes (then rinsed off)," Nazarian adds. "Ideally, any product you’re using should be applied to the scalp, not to the hair strands, to encourage enhanced circulation to the scalp (which is where all the hair stem cells live)."
For a DIY home mask, Friese recommends the following:
- Take a heaping teaspoon of burdock root and place it in a glass container.
- Boil 500ml of water.
- Carefully add the hot water to the burdock root in the container. Wear protective gloves to protect yourself from burns.
- Let it brew for at least five to ten minutes.
- Strain the burdock with a strainer so that only the nourishing infused liquid left remains in the container.
- Add a drop of honey or agave to the infusion and allow it to cool to room temperature (at least one hour). Then use this mix as a final rinse on freshly washed hair and condition as usual.
So, is burdock root all that it's cracked up to be? The answer is... maybe. The experts agree there is still more research to be done as evidence is not strong enough to prove that it's the miracle root, but that being said, its potential benefits make it worth trying, especially for those with targeted hair concerns.
Can burdock root be used with other products?
Yes. "Burdock root is pretty benign and can be combined with most other hair products," says Dr. Nazarian.
What time of day is best to apply burdock root to the hair?
Experts agree that burdock root products can be applied at any time of day.
Can I be allergic to burdock root?
Yes. "The greatest risk is for contact dermatitis or other allergic reactions," says Dr. Nazarian. Always consult your physician before trying a new ingredient, especially if you have known allergies.
Mount Sinai. Burdock. Mount Sinai Health Library. 2021.
Chan YS, Cheng LN, Wu JH, et al. A review of the pharmacological effects of Arctium lappa (burdock). Inflammopharmacology. 2011;19(5):245-254. doi:10.1007/s10787-010-0062-4