burdock helps memory

Photo by Jason Hollinger

By Case Adams, Naturopath

New research has revealed that a central constituent of the traditional herb Greater Burdock not only eliminates lung cancer cells and other cancer cell types, but it has been shown to boost memory. What a combination. A ‘smart’ herb indeed.

Read the updated article on Plant Medicines

The research, from Japan’s Kagoshima University and University of the Ryukyus, tested the constituent called Arctigenin from Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa L.) on lung cancer cells. Because Arctigenin has been shown in other recent cancer studies to be a potent anti-cancer constituent, the researchers delved into the mechanisms of its ability to knock down lung cancer cells.

The researchers exposed Arctigenin to human lung adenocarcinoma cells in the laboratory, and measured and analyzed its ability to produce cell death – apoptosis – among the cancer cells.

The study found that Arctigenin knocks out cancer cells with two simultaneous processes. The first is by inhibiting the cancer cells’ production of particular proteins (NPAT proteins) – which effectively cripples the cancer’s ability to reproduce.

Then Arctigenin performs a double-whammy by knocking out the cancer cell through its effect on the cell’s intracellular glutathione metabolism – effectively weakening the cancer cell from the inside.

This ‘smart’ approach of this herbal constituent to cancer cells is typical among so many herbal medicines, that change cellular processes within the body to effect improved health and metabolism.

This study confirms another study done by researchers at Kagoshima University last year. This research tested 364 herbal extracts for anti-cancer activity and found that Greater Burdock’s Arctigenin had one of the highest levels among the other herbs.

The researchers found that Arctigenin killed human lung cancer cells, human liver cancer cells and human stomach cancer cells. In their conclusion they wrote:

“In conclusion, this study found that arctigenin was one of cancer specific phytochemicals, and in part responsible for the tumor selective cytotoxicity of the herbal medicine.”

As if this weren’t enough, other research has established that Greater Burdock boosts memory.

Researchers from South Korea’s Kyung Hee University conducted memory and brain and nerve cell testing using Arctium lappa L. – Greater Burdock – in the laboratory. The researchers found that Greater Burdock extract produced from 62-73% reductions in memory deficits while improving functional activity memory significantly.

They found that the mechanism of Burdock extract was due to its two central constituents, arctigenin and arctiin, blocking acetylcholinesterase. When acetylcholinesterase is blocked among the brain and nervous system cells, it allows better transmission between nerve/brain cells, because acetylcholinesterase degrades acetylcholine – a critical neurotransmitter.

In other words, when acetylcholinesterase is blocked, more acetylcholine is available to nerve and brain cells, which improves brain/nerve cell transmissions.

Greater Burdock has a long medicinal history

Greater Burdock – Niu Bang Zi in Chinese Medicine – has been used for many centuries – dating back thousands of years in Asia – for its medicinal and nutritional benefits. The roots and seeds are typically used, as they contain numerous medicinal compounds known to be anti-inflammatory. Thus Greater Burdock is often used for lung infections and skin infections. It mucilage content is soothing to mucosal membranes while its arctigenin, arctiin aglycone, sulfur and acetylene compounds have been shown to be anti-viral and anti-inflammatory.

REFERENCES:

Susanti S, Iwasaki H, Inafuku M, Taira N, Oku H. Mechanism of arctigenin-mediated specific cytotoxicity against human lung adenocarcinoma cell lines. Phytomedicine. 2013 Sep 7. doi:pii: S0944-7113(13)00285-7.

Susanti S, Iwasaki H, Itokazu Y, Nago M, Taira N, Saitoh S, Oku H. Tumor specific cytotoxicity of arctigenin isolated from herbal plant Arctium lappa L. J Nat Med. 2012 Oct;66(4):614-21. doi: 10.1007/s11418-012-0628-0.

Lee IA, Joh EH, Kim DH. Arctigenin isolated from the seeds of Arctium lappa ameliorates memory deficits in mice. Planta Med. 2011 Sep;77(13):1525-7.

Hayashi K, Narutaki K, Nagaoka Y, Hayashi T, Uesato S. Therapeutic effect of arctiin and arctigenin in immunocompetent and immunocompromised mice infected with influenza A virus. Biol Pharm Bull. 2010;33(7):1199-205.

Zhao F, Wang L, Liu K. In vitro anti-inflammatory effects of arctigenin, a lignan from Arctium lappa L., through inhibition on iNOS pathway. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Apr 21;122(3):457-62. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.01.038.