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Root for good digestion

03 Nov
Burdock root helps to absorb oil in food, stimulate bowel movements and detoxify the body.

 Busy lifestyles can mean rushed meals and poor nutritional choices. The result could well be a less-than-optimal digestive system and other woes resulting from the inflammation produced by a bad diet.
Burdock, also known as niubang in Mandarin, is believed to be a remedy for these woes. A biennial plant found worldwide, burdock is farmed for its brownish green root, which can grow to about 1m long and is crisp and sweet. The root grown in China can be found in supermarkets at about $3.50 to $4.50 per kilogram.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), burdock root is used to cleanse the intestines and digestive system, said Ms Li Xue Qing, a TCM physician with Unity TCM Wellness. The fibrous root is believed to stimulate bowel movement and loosen sticky waste matter in the big intestine. It is also believed to help absorb oil in food, dissolve cholesterol and decrease the level of toxins accumulated in the body. So not only will people feel better after eating it, they could also lose some weight, said Ms Li.
Burdock root is also used as a diuretic to rid the body of excess water and toxins along with it.

TCM believes that workers in air-conditioned environments do not get to sweat and so they retain humidity in their bodies which causes aches and pains in the muscles. If they do not take care of this, it could lead to rheumatism and arthritis, said Ms Li.
Burdock also clears the meridians or channels in the body to promote the smooth flow of blood, thereby detoxifying the body and promoting health, she added. In TCM, on top of good circulation of blood, balance of the opposing aspects – yin and yang –
is also required for good health. Yin is commonly associated with “coldness” while yang is linked to “heat”. Burdock root has cooling properties and is able to dissipate heat from people with a “warm” disposition by lubricating the throat, moisturising the skin and detoxifying the body, Ms Li said.

It is sometimes called the Eastern ginseng for its nourishing and anti-ageing properties. The herb speeds up metabolism in the cells, which stimulates blood circulation and removes waste more efficiently, said Ms Li. So not only is burdock good for the insides, it
also clarifies the skin and gets rid of acne for a better complexion on the outside, she said. The goodness of burdock does not end there.


According to TCM, burdock may be helpful in diabetes management as it contains inulin, a kind of sugar which takes longer than conventional sugar to be digested and does not raise sugar levels in the blood as quickly as conventional sugar does.
Diabetics, who already have a high blood sugar level, have to bring this down or their nerves, blood vessels and organs could be damaged. TCM also believes that eating the root dilates the blood vessels and lowers pressure. The root is also believed to stimulate
the immune system to fight against bacteria and cancer. When it acts in the body, it produces more than 30 types of substances, some of which prevent cellular changes that can lead to cancer, said Ms Li. Burdock root is suitable for people of all ages and can be
eaten daily in a soup, she added.


But it is not recommended for people with “cool” dispositions and weak spleens. Anyone with diarrhoea or soft stools and people with eczema or sensitive skin should also avoid the herb, she cautioned.

Dr Andrea Rajnakova, a consultant gastroenterologist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, noted that burdock root is used in traditional herbal medicine as a cleansing agent for the bowel and digestive stimulant in Asian countries, especially Japan, Korea and Thailand.
She said studies on animals showed the root may have anti-inflammatory properties and protective effects on the stomach and colon lining, but there has been no clinical study on its benefits for humans. The best thing to do then is to eat it in moderation and stop if there is any adverse effect, she said.
She advised patients with digestive or other medical problems to see a doctor. An examination and other investigations may be needed to arrive at a proper diagnosis, so appropriate medication can be prescribed, she said.


Article by Tan Lay Leng, Oct 6, 2011

Publishid in The Straight TImes

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