By Martin Hajek
Posted Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 05:05am EDT
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), is unfortunately usually known for being a pesky weed, which people commonly remove from their backyards (and often spray with herbicides). However, humans have been using dandelion in food and teas for its medicinal properties for most of the recorded history. Many people still underestimate the benefits of this plant.
When we talk about the dandelion tea, we are talking about two different teas: an infusion made from the leaves and the other made from the roots.
The best way to get all of the benefits is to put the dried root and leaves into a cup of boiling water (cover and let steep for 10 minutes or longer), strain and drink it as is. The more herb you use and the longer you let it steep, the stronger the brew.
In Chinese medicine, dandelion is used to support liver health, stimulate urinary function to promote cleansing, but also for bones and joint health.
Herbalists often use this plant’s root to cleanse the liver and gallbladder, and the leaves to aid in kidney function and also as a digestive aid.
Some people also use this super-weed to treat infections, skin problems like eczema, joint pain, and even cancer. It is also extensively employed and studied as a diuretic. It is also believed to help prevent age spots and breast cancer.
Dandelion is also beneficial for brain health and acts as a neuroprotective agent due to its high luteolin content.
You can also use dandelion greens in your salads since it is very rich in nutrients, vitamins (especially beta-carotene and vitamin K), minerals and antioxidants. Do not forget about the flowering part, which is especially rich in phytonutrients.
There are some great dandelion recipe books and ready-to-use dandelion products that you can use daily for your overall health. See my recommendations at the end of this article.
Let’s take a closer look at TOP 15 HEALTH BENEFITS and USES of DANDELION:
1. LIVER DETOX
Andrew Chevallier, in his book “Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine” says that Dandelion aids to detoxify the liver and promote increased bile production.
The function of our liver is to produce bile, which helps to filter and detoxify our blood.
This medicinal weed enhances liver function by eliminating toxins and restoring hydration and electrolyte balance. Dandelion contains bitter compound taraxacin, which makes the gallbladder to contract to increase bile flow. Dandelion’s ability to increase the flow of bile helps detoxify the liver.
According to Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, for all liver disorders, most effective is dandelion and burdock (+ milk thistle).
One study on mice states that dandelion leaf promotes healthy lipid profiles, lessens insulin resistance, and suppresses fat accumulation in the livers. Moreover, this plant shows a protective effect against hepatoxicity due to its antioxidant properties.
It is used with success in conditions like jaundice and hepatitis, but also cirrhosis of the liver. However, it should not be taken if you have obstructive jaundice.
2. KIDNEY CLEANSING
Dandelion leaf is a diuretic that increases urination which contributes to removing toxins and waste from the kidneys. It helps them to clean out waste, salt, and excess water. It is a good source of potassium, which helps to flush excess sodium through the kidneys.
Dandelion as a diuretic increases the excretion of water from our bodies, so it is imperative to drink enough water to compensate for the water loss. Also keep a check on your potassium levels while taking dandelion (Although it is quite rich in potassium, so it usually replenishes the levels itself).
Moreover, various herbs may have a therapeutic role in preventing and treating kidney and bladder stone formation, and Taraxacum is one of them, says the researchers.
3. PURIFIES THE BLOOD AND REMOVES TOXINS
It helps to purify the blood, eliminate toxins and improves blood circulation. Dandelions may also aid with anemia as it increases the iron in your blood.
Dandelion is rich in vitamin K (one cup fo the Greens contains over 500% RD) which was proved in a study that it could reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality significantly. One of the main benefits of vitamin K is its role in healthy blood clotting.
The leaves and flowers are particularly rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients which combat cancer. Due to the Dandelion’s free radical-fighting abilities, it was shown being effective in killing different cancers cells. Also, dandelion may slow cancer’s growth and prevent it from spreading. In addition, Herbal and folk medicine uses dandelion as a prevention for breast and prostate cancer.
As mentioned earlier, this plant is very high in vitamin K which significantly reduce the risk of cancer, according to a study. In fact, Vitamin K has been shown to be efficient as a natural cancer treatment.
Dandelion root has been lately studied for its cancer-fighting potential, and the results seem really encouraging. For example, a Canadian study from 2011 states that dandelion root extract induces melanoma cell death without affecting the healthy cells. Conlusioon of that study is : “dandelion root exhibits a potential non-toxic option to conventional leukemia treatment.”
Furthermore, this plant contains compound Luteolin, which is a potent flavonoid with potential for cancer prevention and therapy. In fact, it destroys vital components of cancer cells when it attaches to them, making them ineffective and unable to reproduce. (According to a prostate cancer study).
5. SKIN CONDITIONS AND INFECTIONS
Dandelion is also beneficial in several skin disorders. Topically, you can use it with success in several skin conditions, including acne.
The sap of dandelion stem helps fights skin infections as it is highly alkaline. The juice also aids in eczema and psoriasis, but also warts.
Excess toxins in our livers may be responsible for many skin and face problems, so drinking dandelion tea helps to clean out your skin as well.
6. DIGESTIVE AID AND WEIGHT LOSS
Dandelion improves digestion, may relieve heartburn and balances the beneficial bacteria in your intestines. In traditional medicine, it has been used for ages to improve appetite, ease minor digestive ailments, bloating, and relieve constipation, as it is a mild laxative.
Normal bile production supports healthy digestion. Due to its ability to increase the bile production, cholesterol and fats are broken down and eliminated from the body more efficiently. This improves the whole digestive process.
One study also shows the possible anti-obesity effects of dandelion (from a Korean study – says it could have similar effects on the body as the weight loss drug Orlistat).
7. IMMUNITY, ANTI-INFLAMMATORY, ANTIOXIDANT
This super-plant also strengthens the immune system. This weed contains plenty of antioxidants and phytonutrients that reduce inflammation and keep your immune system healthy. Several studies have shown potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of dandelion.
Vitamin A as a beta-carotene in dandelion provides immune support as well (just one cup of dandelion greens has over a 100% DV). It is also relatively high in vitamin C, which boosts your immunity.
Dandelion is high in antioxidants, therefore drinking Dandelion tea aids the body to avoid cell damage from free radicals.
In addition, studies suggest that dandelion can help fights off infections. In fact, a water extract of dandelion exhibits anti-influenza activity.
8. URINARY TRACT
Dandelion stimulate urinary function and inhibits microbial growth in the urinary system. This superweed’s roots and leaves may help prevent urinary tract infections as well as bladder disorders and kidney problems.
An especially effective combo is with another herb, uva ursi. This combination works because of potent anti-bacterial effects of uva ursi, and the increased urine flow associated with dandelion.
9. DIABETES HELP
Dandelion tea benefits people with diabetes by stimulating the production of insulin from the pancreas and regulating blood sugar levels. Keeping pancreas healthy, so it can produce proper amounts of insulin, is vital in the prevention of diabetes.
Modern mammal studies show that dandelion helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, mostly through its ability to control the lipid levels.
Also, thanks to its diuretic properties, Dandelion tea helps the body remove excess sugar stored in your body.
10. GALLBLADDER HEALTH
Dandelion raises bile production and lessens the inflammation to aid with gallbladder problems and blockages. It may also help prevent gallbladder stones (but you should not take it without medical supervision when you have active gallstones or any blockages).
For a stronger effect on your liver and gallbladder health, consider also taking artichoke, burdock root and milk thistle seed along with dandelion.
11. CHOLESTEROL AND HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Dandelion root is often used to increase bile production to break down fats and remove cholesterol from the body.
Studies done on rabbits have shown that dandelion reduces and controls cholesterol levels while improving cholesterol ratios by raising the good ‘HDL’. The study also says that Dandelion is beneficial in “preventing hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis and reducing risk factors for coronary artery disease.“
This plant also assist in regulating blood pressure due to the fiber and potassium content and thanks to its diuretic properties.
12. BONE AND JOINT HEALTH
This plant is very rich in Vitamin K, which is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a major role in bone and heart health. Your body needs it for controlling binding of calcium in the bones and other tissues. Nowadays, good calcium supplements already contains vitamin K, D, and magnesium.
Vitamin K, like calcium, is classified as a bone-enhancing nutrient. Studies suggest that vitamin K can improve bone health and reduce the risk of bone fractures. Humans deficient in vitamin K are at a greater risk. Vitamin K seems to build bones better than a calcium! Vitamin K deficiencies are quite common, as you can find it mostly in Green Leafy Vegetables, and most of us do not eat enough greens.
Dandelion also contains 10% of calcium per cup which protects your bones as well.
Furthermore, a recent study from 2015 says that Taraxasterol (a compound isolated from dandelion) may be a useful agent for prevention and treatment of Osteoarthritis, a chronic degenerative joint disease.
13. TONSILS AND SORE THROAT
Chinese herbal remedies are commonly used to treat a sore throat in China and are used globally by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.
Dandelion shows promise in Inflammation of the tonsils (Tonsillitis). An early study found that humans who had their tonsils removed recovered quicker if they ate soup bearing dandelion compared to those who ate soup without it. In fact, “Dandelion soup was more effective than sodium penicillin for acute purulent tonsillitis.”
14. BRAIN HEALTH, LUTEOLIN
Dandelion has a positive impact on your brain health as well. What makes dandelion useful as a natural nootropic is its large Luteolin content. Luteolin from dandelion is a natural nootropic that works directly within the brain.
“Tranquility Labs research has found that dandelion extract is one of the most potent sources of Luteolin in the world (almost 10 times stronger than artichoke).”
Luteolin is a flavonoid that can eradicate free radicals and act as an anti-inflammatory agent. This is crucial when it comes to brain function, memory, and cognition. It can lessen inflammation in the brain which is responsible for causing memory and cognitive dysfunction.
According to Dr. Johnson of the University of Illinois:
“Luteolin can be used to mitigate age-associated inflammation and therefore improve cognitive function and avoid some of the cognitive deficits that occur in aging.”
Furthermore, in a study, Luteolin has been shown to Reduce Alzheimer’s Disease Pathologies Induced by Traumatic Brain Injury.
15. DANDELION FLOWERS
Let’s not forget about dandelion flowering parts, which shows that:
- have higher levels of polyphenols
- have greater antioxidant properties
- contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds
- may act as chemopreventive agents
16. MORE POSSIBLE USES AND BENEFITS
- excellent for fluid retention problems
- may ease menopausal symptoms
- reduces uric acid levels
- improves the functioning of pancreas
- helps with constipation (dandelion is a mild laxative), and contains fiber
- muscular rheumatism (acording to Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Phyllis A. Balch, CNC)
- may help with some hormone imbalances (especially oestrogen excess, according to Dr. Sarah Brewer)
- congestive heart failure: should be prescribed for every case of oedema of heart origin (according to Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine)
- Dandelion is also used as a bitter tonic in atonic dyspepsia
- A water extract of the roots and leaves demonstrated antidepressant effects in an animal model
- extract of the root has protective action against alcohol-induced toxicity in the liver
- may aslo help with lung inflammation “(compound Taraxasterol inhibits cigarette smoke-induced lung inflammation)”
Dandelion is usually safe in food and medicinal levels. However, as with any herb, some people may have an allergic reaction to it. If you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications (especially with effect on the liver), you should talk to a health care professional before taking. Dandelion is a potent diuretic, so don’t overdo it and do not combine with other diuretics ! Also not recommended for people with active gallstones, biliary tract obstruction, and obstructive jaundice. When you add dandelion to your diet in any way, start small and monitor your body’s response.