Dandelion
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Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Dandelion

Also listed as: Lion's tooth; Priest's crown; Swine's snout; Taraxacum officinale
Table of Contents > Herbs > Dandelion     Print

Overview
Plant Description
Parts Used
Medicinal Uses and Indications
Available Forms
How to Take It
Precautions
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research

Overview

While many people think of the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) as a pesky weed, herbalists consider it a valuable herb that can be used as a food and medicine. Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc. Dandelion leaves are used to add flavor to salads, sandwiches, and teas. The roots are used in some coffee substitutes, and the flowers are used to make wines.

Traditionally, dandelion roots and leaves were used to treat liver problems. Native Americans also boiled dandelion in water and took it to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and upset stomach. In traditional Chinese medicine, dandelion has been used to treat stomach problems, appendicitis, and breast problems, such as inflammation or lack of milk flow. In Europe, it was used in remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.

So far, there have not been any good quality scientific studies on dandelion. Today, the roots are mainly used as an appetite stimulant, and for liver and gallbladder problems. Dandelion leaves are used as a diuretic to help the body get rid of excess fluid.

Plant Description

Hundreds of species of dandelion grow in the temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Dandelion is a hardy perennial that can grow to a height of nearly 12 inches. Dandelions have deeply notched, toothy, spatula-like leaves that are shiny and hairless. Dandelion stems are capped by bright yellow flowers. The grooved leaves funnel rain to the root.

Dandelion flowers open with the sun in the morning and close in the evening or during gloomy weather. The dark brown roots are fleshy and brittle and are filled with a white milky substance that is bitter and slightly smelly.

Parts Used

Dandelion leaves act as a diuretic, increasing the amount of urine the body produces. The leaves are used to stimulate the appetite and help digestion. Dandelion flower has antioxidant properties. Dandelion may also help improve the immune system.

Herbalists use dandelion root to detoxify the liver and gallbladder, and dandelion leaves to support kidney function.

Medicinal Uses and Indications

Traditionally, dandelion has been used a diuretic, to increase the amount of urine the body produces in order to get rid of excess fluid. It has been used for many conditions where a diuretic might help, such as liver problems and high blood pressure. However, there is no good research on using dandelion as a diuretic in people.

Fresh or dried dandelion herb is also used as a mild appetite stimulant and to improve upset stomach. The root of the dandelion plant may act as a mild laxative and has been used to improve digestion. There is some very preliminary research that suggests dandelion may help improve liver and gallbladder function, but the study was not well designed.

Some preliminary animal studies also suggest that dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and lower total cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL, "good," cholesterol in diabetic mice. But not all the animal studies have found a positive effect on blood sugar. Human studies are needed to see if dandelion would work in people.

A few animal studies also suggest that dandelion might help fight inflammation.

Available Forms

Dandelion herbs and roots are available fresh or dried in a variety of forms, including tinctures, liquid extract, teas, tablets, and capsules. Dandelion can be found alone or combined with other dietary supplements.

How to Take It

Pediatric

Ask your doctor before giving dandelion supplements to a child, so your doctor can help you determine the dose. Eating dandelion in food is safe for a child.

Adult

Ask your doctor to help you determine the right dose for you. Some traditional doses include:

  • Dried leaf infusion: 1 - 2 teaspoonfuls, 3 times daily. Pour hot water onto dried leaf and steep for 5 - 10 minutes. Drink as directed.
  • Dried root decoction: 1/2 - 2 teaspoonfuls, 3 times daily. Place root into boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes. Strain and drink as directed.
  • Leaf tincture (1:5) in 30% alcohol: 30 - 60 drops, 3 times daily
  • Standardized powdered extract (4:1) leaf: 500 mg, 1 - 3 times daily
  • Standardized powdered extract (4:1) root: 500 mg, 1 - 3 times daily
  • Root tincture (1:2) fresh root in 45% alcohol: 30 - 60 drops, 3 times daily

Precautions

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.

Dandelion is generally considered safe. Some people may develop an allergic reaction from touching dandelion, and others may develop mouth sores.

If you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine, you should avoid dandelion.

In some people, dandelion can cause increased stomach acid and heartburn. It may also irritate the skin if applied topically.

People with kidney problems, gallbladder problems, or gallstones should ask their health care provider before eating dandelion.

Possible Interactions

Dandelion leaf may act as a diuretic, which can speed up how fast drugs leave your system. If you are taking prescription medications, ask your health care provider before taking dandelion leaf. If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use dandelion without first talking to your health care provider:

Antacids -- Dandelion may increase the amount of stomach acid, so antacids may not work as well.

Blood-thinning medications -- Theoretically, dandelion may increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you already take blood-thinners such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), or clopidogrel (Plavix).

Diuretics (water pills) -- Dandelion may act as a diuretic, increasing the amount of urine to help your body get rid of excess fluid. If you also take prescription diuretics or other herbs that act as diuretic, you could be at risk for an electrolyte imbalance.

Lithium -- Animal studies suggest that dandelion may make the side effects of lithium worse. Lithium is used to treat bipolar disorder.

Ciproflaxin (Cipro) -- One species of dandelion, Taraxacum mongolicum, also called Chinese dandelion, may lower the absorption of the antibiotic ciproflaxin from the digestive tract. Researchers don’t know whether the common dandelion would do the same thing.

Medications for diabetes -- Theoretically, dandelion may lower blood sugar levels. If you take medications for diabetes, taking dandelion may increase the risk of low blood sugar.

Supporting Research

Auerbach: Wilderness Medicine.5th ed. New York, NY: Mosby; 2007.

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2002:78-83.

Cho SY,Park JY, Park EM, et al. Alternation of hepatic antioxidant enzyme activities and lipid profile in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats by supplementation of dandelion water extract. Clin Chim Acta. 2002;317(1-2):109-117.

Clare BA, Conroy RS, Spelman K. The diuretic effect in human subjects of an extract of Taraxacum officinale folium over a single day. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Aug;15(8):929-34.

Davies MG, Kersey PJ. Contact allergy to yarrow and dandelion. Contact Dermatitis. 1986;14 (ISS 4):256-7.

Hu C, Kitts DD. Antioxidant, prooxidant, and cytotoxic activities of solvent-fractionated dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) flower extracts in vitro. J Agric Food Chem. 2003;51(1):301-10.

Hudec J, et al. Antioxidant capacity changes and phenolic profile of Echinacea purpea, nettle (Urtica dioica L.), and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) after application of polyamine and phenolic biosynthesis regulators. J Agric Food Chem. 2007;55(14):5689-96.

Jeon HJ, Kang HJ, Jung HJ, Kang YS, Lim CJ, Kim YM, Park EH. Anti-inflammatory activity of Taraxacum officinale. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Jan 4;115(1):82-8.

Kim HM, Shin HY, Lim KH, el al., Taraxacum officinale inhibits tumor necrosis factor-alpha production from rat astrocytes. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2000;22(3):519-30.

Kisiel W, Barszcz B. Further sesquiterpenoids and phenolics from Taraxacum officinale. Fitoterapia. 2000;71(3):269-73.

LaValle JB, Krinsky DL, Hawkins EB, et al. Natural Therapeutics Pocket Guide. Hudson, OH:LexiComp; 2000: 420-421.

Mascolo N, et al. Biological screening of Italian medicinal plants for anti-inflammatory activity. Phytotherapy Res. 1987:28-29.

Miller L. Herbal Medicinals: Selected Clinical Considerations Focusing on Known or Potential Drug-Herb Interactions. Arch Intern Med. 1998;158:2200-2211.

Petlevski R, Hadzija M, Slijepcevic M, Juretic D. Effect of 'antidiabetis' herbal preparation on serum glucose and fructosamine in NOD mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2001;75(2-3):181-184.

Schutz K, Carle R, Schieber A. Taraxacum--a review on its phytochemical and pharmacological profile. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;107(3):313-23.

Sigstedt SC, Hooten CJ, Callewaert MC, Jenkins AR, et al. Evaluation of aqueous extracts of Taraxacum officinale on growth and invasion of breast and prostate cancer cells. Int J Oncol. 2008 May;32(5):1085-90.

Swanston-Flatt SK, Day C, Flatt PR, Gould BJ, Bailey CJ. Glycaemic effects of traditional European plant treatments for diabetes. Studies in normal and streptozotocin diabetic mice. Diabetes Res. 1989;10(2):69-73.

Sweeney B, Vora M, Ulbricht C, Basch E. Evidence-based systematic review of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) by Natural Standard Research Collaboration. J Herb Pharmacother. 2005;5(1):79-93.

Trojanova I, Rada V, Kokoska L, Vlkova E. The bifidogenic effect of Taraxacum officinale root. Fitoterapia. 2004;75(7-8):760-3.

Zhi X, Honda K, Ozaki K, Misugi T, Sumi T, Ishiko O. Dandelion T-1 extract up-regulates reproductive hormone receptor expression in mice. Int J Mol Med. 2007;20(3):287-92.

Review Date: 1/2/2011
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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