Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 31, 2023 ·  4 min read

Cocklebur plant: The ‘invasive weed’ with Anti-aging, anti-inflammatory potential

The cocklebur plant is a weed that is often found in the wild. It’s known for its spiny, burr-like seeds, which attach themselves to clothing and fur so that they can be carried away by animals. The plants are native to North America, although they can be found worldwide. These plants are just annoying weeds, however. It turns out they actually have many skin care and anti-aging benefits.

The Cocklebur Plant: The Natural, Anti-Aging Weed?

More and more people are looking for natural skincare solutions. They want to keep their skin looking young and fresh but not expose themselves to unnecessary chemicals. This is why more and more scientists and skin care experts are recognizing the incredible properties of many different types of plants. One of these is the Cocklebur plant. (1)

It’s All in the Fruit

The fruit of the cocklebur plant contains several compounds that have been shown to have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, at lower doses, these extracts protected the skin against UVB damage and promoted wound healing. (2)

“extraction with ethanol and analysis of bioactive composition in the cocklebur fruit was the first step in our research,” said Eunsu Song, a doctoral candidate at Myongji University in South Korea and lead author of this study. “As a result, chlorogenic acid, (an) antioxidant, was the main phenolic compound in cocklebur. Furthermore, ß-sitosterol was the main phytosterol in cocklebur. Both bioactive compounds have been studied due to (their) antioxidant, skin allergic, and wound-healing effects.”

An Old Tradition

Though modern science only recognizes this plant’s powerful benefits, the knowledge of what it can do isn’t new. The cocklebur plant has long been used in traditional medicine as a treatment for various skin conditions. It contains saponins, which are thought to help remove dead cells from the surface of the skin and prevent dryness. Saponins also have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce redness, swelling and itching.

The saponins found in the cocklebur plant also have antibacterial and antifungal properties that help fight infections. This can be especially useful for those with psoriasis or eczema as it may reduce symptoms of these conditions. There is evidence that this herb has been used as a treatment for skin issues since ancient times, but it wasn’t until recently that science began to catch up.

In a study of psoriasis, researchers found that the saponins in cocklebur reduced symptoms of the condition. They also noted that this herb had similar effects on eczema. However, it should be noted that some people may develop an allergic reaction from using this plant topically.

More Research Needed

Though it’s easy to get excited about the cocklebur plant’s potential, researchers warn that more studies are needed. The studies that have been done are small, which means it’s hard to say whether this herb will work for everyone. And even if it does help with skin problems, researchers aren’t sure how potent the treatment would be in comparison with existing treatments.

“Until now, we figured out whether cocklebur really helps wound healing and the production of collagen, which plays an important role in skin health at the molecular level,” said Song. “To move on to the next step, we have to determine mechanisms at the molecular levels which may involve. After that, we are going to test cocklebur with other animal alternative methods.”

They also warn that, in too high doses, there is a potential for toxicity. To get the most benefits from this herb, it’s best to consult with your doctor. This way, you can make sure that it won’t interfere with any medications you’re currently taking. And if you decide to try cocklebur as a treatment for eczema or psoriasis, be sure to do so under the supervision of a dermatologist.

“Toxicant characteristics in cocklebur happen due to carboxyatractyloside present in burs,” Song explained. “It may be one of the reasons for toxic results in a high concentration of cockleburs. Not only carboxyatractyloside but also other compounds with high concentrations can result in toxicity. Therefore, it is very important to find the proper dose through acute toxicity tests.”

The Bottom Line

Like any skincare and related products, whether natural or otherwise, always start with a small patch of skin somewhere discreet. Wait and see how your skin reacts to it before applying it to your whole face or body. It is always a good idea to consult your doctor, or better yet a dermatologist, before use. This is especially true if you have any skin conditions you are already being treated for.

Keep Reading: 8 Vitamin Deficiencies That Show Up On Your Skin


  1. Bioengineered Efficacy Models of Skin Disease: Advances in the Last 10 Years.” NCBI. Diana Nicole Stanton,et al. January 28, 2022.
  2. Anti-aging, wound-healing potential found in an invasive weed.” Medical News Today.  Corrie Pelc. March 28, 2023.