Niu Bang Zi (Fructus Arctii or Burdock Seeds)

What Is Niu Bang Zi

Niu Bang Zi commonly known as Fructus Arctii or Burdock Seeds is the ripe fruit of Arctium lappa, which is a biennial herb belonging to the family Asteraceae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Mingyi Bie Lu> around 420-589 AD.

There are about 44 species of Arctium[1]. They are native to the temperate regions of Eurasia and have now been introduced into North America and Australia. Among them, some plants have relatively high nutritional value and medicinal value. In some countries, they are defined as economic crops.

Arctium lappa is commonly known as greater burdock, gobō, edible burdock, or beggar’s buttons and is a long-day plant. This plant likes a warm and humid environment. They grow well in sunny, deep, fertile, and well-drained loam. They are distributed in Eurasia, North America, and Australia. Their roots are widely consumed in China, Japan, and Korea.

Arctium lappa

Every autumn, people gather the mature fruits of Arctium lappa, remove impurities, dry them in the sun, use them directly, or stir-fry them, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Niu Bang Zi contains arctiin, arctigenin, isoarctigenin, matairesinol, lariciresinol, pinoresinol, trachelogenin, lappaol A-H, arctignan A-H, neoarctin A, neoarctin B, α-amyrin, β-amyrin, lupeol, taraxasterol, β-daucosterin, β-sitosterol, φ-taraxasterol, taraxasteryacetate, linolenic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, linoleic acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, polysaccharides, vitamins, amino acids, proteins, cellulose, volatile oils and a small number of alkaloids.

Generally, the gray-brown, large, and plump Niu Bang Zi is preferred. Chewing good quality Niu Bang Zi will make your tongue feel numb.

According to <Yaoxing Lun> (Discourse on the Properties of Pharmaceutical Substances), the medicinal nature of Niu Bang Zi is relatively cold, with a pungent and bitter taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the lung and stomach meridians.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is often used to dispel wind and heat, disperse lung to dispel phlegm, relieve sore-throat and promote eruptions, remove toxins and subside swelling, and treat flu, mumps, upper respiratory tract infection, lung infection, acute bronchitis, acute attack of chronic bronchitis, pharyngitis, bleeding gums, habitual constipation, rubella, measles, scabies, erysipelas, psoriasis, flat warts, hyperlipidemia, renal proteinuria, acute glomerulonephritis, gonococcal urethritis, diabetes, whooping cough, trigeminal neuralgia, and peripheral facial nerve palsy.

There are about 100 kinds of Chinese medicine prescriptions containing it, such as Yin Qiao San, Wufu Huadu Wan, and Qingfei Xiaoyan Wan.


  • Anti-inflammation, inhibiting xylene-induced swelling of the mouse ear, and egg white-induced swelling of the mouse foot.
  • Anti-oxidation, scavenging DPPH free radicals and hydroxyl free radicals.
  • Inhibiting the replication of the H1N1 virus and the response of the HIV-1 virus.
  • Inhibiting the activity of α-glucosidase and improving the blood glucose level of rats induced by streptozotocin.
  • Inhibiting CCL4-induced liver damage and protecting the liver.
  • Inducing apoptosis of sarcoma S180 cells, esophageal cancer EC-1 cells, and liver cancer HepG2 cells.
  • Dispelling wind and heat, treating fever and throat swelling and pain in the early stage of warm diseases or wind-heat.
  • Dispersing lung, treating cough, excessive phlegm, and failure to cough up phlegm caused by wind-heat.
  • Promoting eruptions, treating the insufficient outbreak, or recrudescence of measles.
  • Relieving itching caused by rubella and scabies.
  • Treating skin ulcers, abscesses, and constipation caused by fire toxins.
  • Relieving the swelling and pain of breast carbuncle and treating erysipelas, mumps, and pharyngitis caused by heat toxins.
  • Arctiin can dilate the blood vessels of rabbit ears and cause a temporary decrease in blood pressure.
  • Studies have found that intraperitoneal injection of arctigenin can effectively improve serum biochemical indicators of experimental nephrotic rats and reduce urinary protein excretion.
  • Inhibiting Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans and Bacillus subtilis.


Side Effects

  • Modern research shows that Niu Bang Zi are relatively less toxic.
  • A small number of people taking it may cause allergic reactions, such as dizziness, vomiting, chest tightness, shortness of breath, feeling of blockage in the throat, pimples, itching, or drop in blood pressure.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Niu Bang Zi should be controlled at 6-12g.
  • It can be made into decoctions, powders, or medicinal liquors.
  • People who are allergic to Niu Bang Zi should not take it.
  • Patients with loose stools due to qi deficiency should not take it.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take it.
  • The unprocessed Niu Bang Zi is often used to dispel wind and heat, and the stir-fried Niu Bang Zi is often used to remove toxins and promote eruptions.