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Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale L.)
Parts used and where grown: Closely related to chicory, dandelion is a common plant worldwide and the bane of those looking for the perfect lawn. The plant grows to a height of about 12 inches, producing spatula-like leaves and yellow flowers that bloom year-round. Upon maturation, the flower turns into the characteristic puff-ball containing seeds that are dispersed in the wind. Dandelion is grown commercially in the United States and Europe. The leaves and root are used in herbal supplements.
In what conditions might dandelion be supportive?
¥ edema (water retention)
¥ indigestion and heartburn
¥ pregnancy and postpartum support Root:
¥ alcohol withdrawal support
¥ indigestion and heartburn
¥ liver support
¥ pregnancy and postpartum support
Historical or traditional use: Dandelion is commonly used as a food. The leaves are used in salads and teas, while the roots are often used as a coffee substitute. Dandelion leaves and roots have been used for hundreds of years to treat liver, gallbladder, kidney, and joint problems. In some traditions, dandelion is considered a blood purifier and is used for ailments as varied as eczema and cancer. As is the case today, dandelion has also been used historically to treat poor digestion, water retention, and diseases of the liver, including hepatitis.
Alterative, cholagogue (increase the flow of bile), deobstruent, diuretic, stomachic, hepatic, laxative, tonic, aperient, (a very mild laxative), liver and digestive tonic.
Biotin, calcium, choline, fats, gluten, gum, inositol, inulin, iron, lactupicrine, linolenic acid, magnesium, niacin, PABA, phosphorus, potash, proteins, resin, sulfur, vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B6, B9, B12, C, E, and P, and zinc.
Leaves: bitter glycosides, carotenoids, terpenoids, choline, potassium salts, iron and other minerals, vitamins A, B, C, D, G. (contain 7,000 units of Vitamin A per oz.) (compared with lettuce, 1,200 units per oz. and carrot, 1275 per oz.)
Root: bitter glycosides, tannins, triterpenes, sterols, volatile oil, choline, asparagin, inulin.
Active constituents: The principal constituents responsible for dandelionÕs effect on the digestive system and liver are the bitter principles. Previously referred to as taraxacin, these constituents are sesquiterpene lactones of the eudesmanolide and germacranolide type and are unique to dandelion.1 Dandelion is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals. The leaves have a very high content of vitamin A as well as moderate amounts of vitamin D, vitamin C, various B vitamins, iron, silicon, magnesium, zinc, and manganese.2 The leaves are a rich source of potassium, which is interesting since the leaves are used for their diuretic action. This may make dandelion the only naturally occurring potassium-sparing diuretic, although its diuretic action is likely different from pharmaceuticals.
At high doses, the leaves have been shown to possess diuretic effects comparable to the prescription diuretic frusemide (Lasix).3 Since clinical data in humans is sparse, it is advisable to seek the guidance of a physician trained in herbal medicine before using dandelion leaves for water retention.
The bitter compounds in the leaves and root help stimulate digestion and are mild laxatives.4 These bitter principles also increase bile production in the gallbladder and bile flow from the liver.5 This makes them a particularly useful tonic for persons with sluggish liver function due to alcohol abuse or poor diet. The increase in bile flow will help improve fat (including cholesterol) metabolism in the body.
How much should I take? As a general liver/gallbladder tonic and to stimulate digestion, 3-5 grams of the dried root or 5-10 ml of a tincture made from the root can be used three times per day. Some experts recommend the alcohol-based tincture because the bitter principles are more soluble in alcohol.6
As a mild diuretic or appetite stimulant, 4-10 grams of dried leaves can be added to a 250 ml (1 cup) of boiling water and drunk as a decoction; or 5-10 ml of fresh juice from the leaves or 2-5 ml of tincture made from the leaves can be used, three times per day.
A mildly bitter herb that cleanses the bloodstream and liver and increases the production of bile. A natural diuretic and digestive aid. Improves function of the pancreas, spleen, stomach and kidneys. Take for anemia, gall bladder problems, gout, rheumatism, jaundice, anemia, cirrhosis, typhoid fever, neuralgia, hepatitis, abscesses, boils, decayed teeth, snakebites, cramps, fluid retention, constipation, and breast tumors.
May aid in the prevention of breast cancer and age spots. Reduces serum cholesterol, and uric acid. The greatest benefit of this herb is to help detoxify any poisons in the liver, but is also has been beneficial in lowering blood pressure. Root is one of the best remedies for treatment of hepatitis and may be a possible preventative for breast cancer.
Recommended for treating arthritis; it is said to disperse acidic deposits from the affected joints. To benefit from this herb, the leaves (slightly bitter) should be eaten raw in salads; or prepare an infusion in the usual way. Also, the 'milk' from the hollow stalks of this plant may be applied with good effect to all pimples, canker sores, ulcers, edema, and sores.
Dried root thought to be weaker, often roasted as coffee substitute. Dried leaf tea is a folk laxative. Experimentally, root is hypoglycemic, weak antibiotic against yeast infections (Candida albican), stimulates flow of bile and weight loss. All plant parts have served as food. Leaves and flowers are rich in vitamins A and C. Boil leaves and serve like spinach.
In Chinese medicine, dandelion is regarded as a blood cleanser, tonic, diabetes, and digestive aid. It is ground and applied as a poultice to snake bites.
Legends, Myths and Stories
Potassium is often flushed from the body when synthetic diuretics are taken. But dandelion has an abundance of potassium to off-set this problem.
The feathery seed balls of the dandelion were once used by young girls to determine if their true loves were really true. They would blow on the dandelion fuzzy ball 3 times; if at least one of the fuzzy seeds remained, it was taken as an omen that her sweetheart was thinking about her.
Culpeper says dandelion is "vulgarly called Piss-a-Beds."
Since the 7th century, the Chinese have known about the antibacterial properties of the juice of the dandelion. Researchers recently discovered that dandelion may protect against cirrhosis of the liver. In Europe, the dandelion first appears as being used medicinally in 1485. The name dandelion was invented by a 15th century surgeon, who compared the shape of the leaves to a lion's tooth, or dens leonis. Old timers called dandelion the "King of Weeds."
A French authority claimed that the flowers and stems of dandelion are "enormously rich in estrogen." Dandelion was brought to the New World by the early colonists. They used the whole plant. The flowers made wine, the leaves made salads, the stems and roots dried and used medicinally. According to stories, dandelion never grows where there are no human inhabitants. The early pioneers found no trace of them in western America. After a few years, up sprang a dandelion head and soon there were millions of them. Native Americans learned to love them and would walk miles to gather them if they could not be found locally.
Dandelion coffee is made of high quality roots, now grown on specialized farms. Proper harvesting, drying and skillful roasting methods give dandelion a remarkable roasted flavor that many people readily accept as a coffee substitute. Dandelion coffee has been found to be of benefit to dyspeptic people, who cannot tolerate real coffee. The roasted root has no caffeine, so drink it as often as desired, even as a night cap.
Roasted dandelion root has almost a magical effect upon milk. Steep 1 heaping tsp. of roasted root in 1 cup of hot, not boiling, milk, for 5 to 10 minutes and strain. Sweeten if desired. The resultant liquid tastes like rich cream. Of course with fewer calories. Try on breakfast cereals, it is great. Also, try this dandelion milk in recipes that call for milk as an ingredient.
Add 1/4 tsp. powdered licorice to give dandelion milk a pleasant tang.
Are there any side effects or interactions? Dandelion leaf and root should be used with caution by persons with gallstones. If there is an obstruction of the bile ducts, then dandelion should be avoided altogether. In cases of stomach ulcer or gastritis, dandelion should be used cautiously, as it may cause overproduction of stomach acid. Those experiencing fluid or water retention should consult a nutritionally oriented doctor before taking dandelion leaves. People taking the leaves should be sure their doctor monitors potassium levels. The milky latex in the stem and leaves of fresh dandelion may cause an allergic rash in some individuals.
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3. Racz-Kotilla E, Racz G, Solomon A. The action of Taraxacum officinale extracts on body weight and diuresis of laboratory animals. Planta Med 1974,26:212&endash;7.
4. Kuusi T, Pyylaso H, Autio K. The bitterness properties of dandelion. II. Chemical investigations. Lebensm-Wiss Technol 1985;18:347&endash;9.
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6. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 26&endash;7.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.