Dandelion is a common meadow herb of the Asteraceae or sunflower family, closely related to chicory. There are about 100 species of dandelion.
Dandelion is a corruption of the French “dents de lion”, meaning “teeth of the lion.”
Dandelion has been used for centuries by herbalists for general detox. These herbalists particularly used dandelion for the liver. Folk names for dandelion include lion’s tooth, bitterwort, wild endive, priest’s crown, doonheadclock, piss-a-bed, irish daisy, blow ball, yellow gowan, puffball, clock flower, swine snout, pu gong ying, fortune-teller, and cankerwort.
The generic name derives from the Greek words taraxos, meaning disorder, and akos, meaning remedy. The designation officinale indicates that Dandelion was officially listed as a medicinal.
The dandelion grows to a height of about 12 inches in temperate lands.
Although a fine herb by itself, dandelion is one of many herbs which help the liver.
History of dandelion
Dandelion has a long history. Early colonists brought it to North America,where indigenous people saw its value and used it for its medical and nutritional benefits.
Dandelion leaves and roots have been used for centuries to treat liver, gall bladder, kidney, and joint problems. In some countries, dandelion is considered a blood purifier and is used for ailments such as eczema and cancer. It has also been used to treat poor digestion, water retention, and diseases of the liver such as hepatitis.
The first mention of the dandelion as a medicine is in the works of Arabian physicians of the tenth and eleventh centuries. Thirteenth-century Welsh medicine lauds its properties.
Active constituents of dandelion
Dandelion is a source of potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorus and iron. The leaves are a richer source of vitamin A than carrots and contain some amounts of vitamins B, C and D. The root contains bitter glycosides, tannins, triterpenes, sterols, volatile oil, choline, asparagin, and inulin.
Diuretic, hepatic, cholagogue, anti-rheumatic, laxative, tonic, bitter. It is a general stimulant to the system, especially to the urinary organs, and is primarily used in kidney and liver disorders.
The root is commonly used as a hepatic – that is, to affect the liver. The leaf, taken cool, acts as a diuretic.
Uses of dandelion
The bitter compounds in dandelion leaves and root help stimulate digestion and are mild laxatives. They also increase bile production in the gall bladder and bile flow from the liver.
This makes dandelion a great tonic for people with sluggish liver function due to alcohol abuse or poor diet. The increase in bile flow can help improve fat (including cholesterol) metabolism in the body.
The whole plant is valuable as a general tonic. It may be taken as an infusion of the leaf, a juice extraction, a root decoction, a fluid extract or a tincture. Fresh leaves may be added to salads. The juice extraction is the most potent for medicinal purposes.
Dandelion has reportedly been used to eradicate warts and to soothe calluses, bee stings, or sores.
Many herbalists view the dandelion as an effective treatment for liver disease, even in extreme cases such as cirrhosis. It can also benefit the pancreas, kidneys, stomach, and spleen. The dried leaf, taken as a tea, is used as a mild laxative to relieve constipation.
Dandelion leaf is a good natural source of potassium, and will replenish any potassium that may be lost due to the herb’s diuretic action on the kidneys. This means dandelion is a safe diuretic in cases of water retention due to heart problems.
The herb is useful in cases of anaemia and hepatitis, and may help to lower high blood pressure. Dandelion may also provide relief for rheumatism and arthritis.
Dandelion therapy, consisting of therapeutic doses of dandelion preparations taken over time, may help reduce stiffness and increase mobility in situations of chronic degenerative joint disease.
Dandelion as a diuretic – for the kidneys
Most women experience pre-menstrual water retention. The familiar symptoms of weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness, and irritability can make the week prior to menstruation miserable.
A Diuretic helps the body with the elimination of urine. Synthetic diuretics flush important minerals such as potassium from the body. Potassium, together with sodium, helps to regulate muscle and nerve function. The loss of these minerals (called electrolytes) can cause dangerous muscle weakness and loss of co-ordination, and even heart rhythm disturbances. Dandelions are remarkable sources of natural potassium, and offer all the advantages of a balanced diuretic in natural form.
There are many other herbs for women to help monthly periods as well as to help menopause symptoms
Strain, and drink three to four cups daily as needed. While dandelion leaf tea is extremely safe, it’s always a good idea to increase your intake of potassium-rich foods such as apples, bananas, carrots, oranges, and potatoes when using a diuretic.
As a general tonic and to stimulate digestion use, 3 times a day:
2-3 grams of the dried root
5-10ml of a root tincture, or
20-30 drops of dandelion fluid extract – again, made from the root. A fluid extract is much stronger than a tincture, so less is needed. It is often the most convenient way to take dandelion root.
Some herbalists say that the tincture or fluid extracts are more effective because the therapeutic ‘bitter principles’ are more soluble in alcohol.
As a mild diuretic or appetite stimulant, 4-10 grams of dried leaves can be added to 1 cup of boiling water and taken as a decoction. 5-10ml of fresh juice from the leaves or 2-5ml of tincture made from the leaves can be used three times per day. The fresh juice is the most effective.
The dried dandelion leaves are also used in many digestive or diet drinks and herb beers. Dandelion Beer is a fermented drink common in many parts of the UK and Canada.
Cautions with dandelion
Dandelion is a safe and nutritious herb widely used throughout the world. No health hazards have been reported when dandelion is used in designated therapeutic doses.
No interactions have been reported between dandelion and standard medications.
Because dandelion acts as a cholagogue, which means that it increases the flow of bile, people with closure of the biliary ducts and other biliary ailments should not use it.
In cases of stomach ulcer or gastritis, dandelion should be used cautiously, as it may cause overproduction of stomach acid.
Use in small doses, and take advice from a practitioner if you are using any other medication or suffer from any chronic conditions. Seek medical advice during pregnancy.
Those experiencing fluid or water retention should consult a practitioner before taking dandelion leaves. People taking the leaves should be sure that their practitioner monitors potassium levels.
The milky latex in the stem and leaves of fresh dandelion may cause an allergic rash in some individuals.