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  • Xanthium strumarium L.
  • Compositae
  • Composite family

Common Names

herbsHsi-erh (Chinese name)

Parts Usually Used

Leaves, root

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Cocklebur is a variable weedy annual plant that grows to 5 feet in height. The leaves are oval to heart-shaped, somewhat lobed or toothed, on long stalks. The green flowers are inconspicuous. The fruits are oval, with crowded hooked prickles, often called burrs. Blooms September to November.

Where Found

Found in waste places.

Medicinal Properties

Antispasmodic, analgesic, alterative, antibacterial, antifungal, diuretic, febrifuge, sedative

Biochemical Information

Xanthostrumarin, resin, fatty oil, alkaloids, organic acid, vitamin C, ceryl alcohol

Legends, Myths and Stories

This weed is very obnoxious to contact; the seed pods tend to adhere to animal fur and human clothing. Often transplanted throughout an area by clinging to the fur of animals and dropping at distances to become wider spread and more obnoxious. It is a very valuable therapeutic medicinal used by the Chinese for rheumatic pains and aches as well as sinus blockage. Also used as a yellow dye.

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria L.) is sometimes called cocklebur, but this herb belongs to the rose family and is no relation to the true cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium L.)


Cocklebur was once used for rabies, fevers, malaria, sinusitis, allergic rhinitis with headaches, chronic lumbago, leprosy, and pruritis (severe itching) of the skin. Native Americans used the leaf tea for kidney diseases, rheumatism, arthritis, tuberculosis (TB), colds, as a blood tonic, and diarrhea. The Chinese had similar uses.

Nutrient Content

Vitamin C


Most cocklebur species are toxic to livestock and are usually avoided by them. Seeds contain toxins, but the seed oil has served as lamp fuel.

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