Basic Information


Common name: Dandelion

Other Names: Lion’s Tooth, Puffball, Pissenlit, and Piscialetto (the latter two used in France and Italy, respectively, in reference to its propensity to cause bedwetting in children.)

Latin Binomial: Taraxacum officinale

Parts Used: Leaf and Root

 

Medicinal Uses


Dandelion?! Yes, dandelion – the same pesky, yellow-headed weed that you spend time and money to remove from your pristine green lawn. You know dandelion, the one with the round, wooly white spores that break off and drift lazily through the air until they land on your lawn and sprout more fuzzballs that grow up into more yellow-headed children. Yes, this is the same dandelion that offers a myriad of health benefits. It’s use as a medicine dates back as far as the 11th century by physicians in the Middle East (Chevallier, 2000).

Often mistaken for chicory or endive, both the leaves and the root are good as part of a bitters blend to stimulate pancreatic enzyme secretion as well as bile release.

Leaves

Dandelion leaf has a pronounced diuretic action that is useful in conditions where the body needs to flush excess water or salt, such as high blood pressure, kidney and liver issues, glaucoma, and edema, to name a few. This same diuretic action is beneficial for the gallbladder in that dandelion leaf has been known as a preventative for gallstones as well as a treatment to flush out non-impacted gallstones due to increased bile release and kidney stones due to increased diuresis.

When taking a diuretic, a common and valid concern is the flushing of too much potassium. However, dandelion leaves contain a large amount of potassium, which enables a balance between the excretion of fluids and the replenishment of potassium to the body.

The leaves are also known as a good anti-inflammatory treatment for arthritis (aka rheumatism) of various sorts. The leaves can be eaten as salad greens or boiled. When boiling, take care not to discard the broth, since that is where the medicinal content will reside.

Root

Dandelion root, on the other hand, has a cholagogic action that stimulates the release of bile from the gallbladder. This action is beneficial in a number of ways. First, in the treatment and prevention of cholecystitis, a condition where bile gets trapped in the gallbladder, causing inflammation. Second, to digest fatty and fat-soluble foods in the small intestines. Because fats have a propensity to clump together, bile is necessary to break them apart so their nutrients can be absorbed. A proper amount of bile for digestion will prevent or alleviate uncomfortable digestive issues like sluggishness, bloating, and indigestion.

Nutrients digested are absorbed from the small intestine and into the hepatic portal vein, where glucose, fats, and proteins are filtered before being allowed to enter the systemic circulation, which pumps oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the body’s organs (Marieb, 2015). This is how the constituents from dandelion root circulate through the liver and exert its detoxification action, for which it is well known. Due to its reputation as a detoxifying herb, it has been widely credited for being effective in clearing up skin conditions, such as eczema, rosacea, and skin eruptions of various sorts.

Finally, roasted dandelion root mixed with equal part chicory root has been used as a coffee substitute. When brewed, it gives off a strong, fragrant aroma, like coffee, as well as an energetic boost, making it very effective for those who want to reduce or eliminate their caffeine intake but still require their morning cup of joe to get moving. It is also exerts a gentle laxative effect that isn’t too strong for regular use.

 

Key Constituents


Leaves

  • Potassium (necessary mineral salt for proper functioning of many of the body’s organs)
  • Vitamin A (fat-soluble with antioxidant properties; necessary for healthy skin, vision, and nerve functioning)
  • Vitamin B complex (water-soluble and necessary for proper brain functioning, mood stabilization, and energy levels)
  • Vitamin C (water-soluble and supports the immune system)
  • Vitamin D (fat-soluble and supports metabolism and mineral absorption)
  • Betacarotene (fat-soluble pre-cursor to Vitamin A)
  • Sesquiterpene lactones (bitter chemical constituents that exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial actions)
  • Triterpenes (pre-cursor to steroids that reduces cholesterol levels)
  • Flavonoids (antioxidants)
  • Phenolic Acids (stimulates the immune system)
  • Coumarins (aromatic with anti-spasmodic, vasodilation, and antifungal actions)

Root

  • Sesquiterpene lactones (bitter chemical constituents that exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial actions)
  • Triterpenes (pre-cursor to steroids that reduces cholesterol levels)
  • Phytosterols (reduces cholesterol absorption)
  • Phenolic Acids (stimulates the immune system)
  • Coumarins (aromatic with anti-spasmodic and vasodilation actions)
  • Inulin (a water-soluble fiber that promotes satiety of hunger and prevents sugar spikes because it does not break down in the small intestines and passes whole into the large intestines. This creates and overall slow transit time through the intestinal tract. In addition, it is food for the good bacterial flora in the large intestines and thus promotes more good bacteria to further improve waste elimination.)

(Gonzales-Castejon, et.al., 2012)

 

Actions


  • Diuretic (leaf)
  • Detoxifying (root)
  • Bitter (leaf and root)

 

Body Organs Acted Upon


  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Stomach
  • Small Intestines

 

When and How to Use It


In general, dandelion is used as a supporting or foundational herb in combination with other herbs to get the best results. Best taken in the format of a tea or tincture because the liquid is more quickly processed and delivered to the necessary organs. Take approximately 30 minutes before a meal, however, immediately before you take the first bite will suffice when you forget to take it earlier.

 

Safety Considerations


In general, the plant is not poisonous and can be taken in large doses for prolonged periods of time. There is no contraindication for pregnancy or lactation. It is also safe for children but you should exercise caution with dosage (remember the diuretic and bile effects). It is not recommended for infants due to lack of knowledge on its impact. There have been rare instances of contact dermatitis with frequent exposure to the milky juice from the stem. Someone who has a sensitivity to other plants in the Asteraceae family could be allergic to dandelion, but this is theoretical rather than something that has been witnessed and documented.

Dandelion is contraindicated for those taking pharmaceutical diuretics or blood thinning medications. As an herb with primary actions for the biliary system (bile creation and movement), there are certain instances where dandelion should not be used, such as when the bile duct is completely blocked by gallstones, a diseased bile duct or pancreas (i.e., cancer, cirrhosis, viral hepatitis ); jaundice as a result of a blood disease or hereditary condition; sepsis; absence of intestinal movement, i.e., ileus (Bone and Mills, 2013).

 

References:

Bone, Kerry and Mills, Simon (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine, 2nd ed. Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier, Ltd. China.

Chevallier, Andrew (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine: The definitive reference to 550 herbs and remedies for common ailments, 2nd ed. Dorling Kindersley. New York, NY.

Gonzalez-Castejon, M., Visioli, F., and Rodriguez-Casado, A. (2012). Diverse biological activities of dandelion. Nutrition Reviews. 70(9). 534-47.

Marieb, E.N. (2015). Essentials of human anatomy and physiology, 11th ed. Pearson Education, Inc. Glenview, IL.

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