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Supplements

dandelion

What Is It?
Health Benefits
Forms

Dosage Information

Guidelines for Use
General Interaction
Possible Side Effects

Cautions
References
Evidence Based Rating Scale

 

What Is It?

The word "dandelion" derives from the French "dent de lion," meaning lion's tooth. The jagged edges of the plant's shiny smooth leaves account for its fierce-sounding name. In Europe the medicinal properties of this perennial (Taraxacum officinale) are so prized that it is grown commercially, but in North America dandelion is often dismissed as a bothersome weed. It wasn't always so, however. Wise minds at England's Hudson Bay Company, which was founded in 1670, made sure that employees in their Canadian outposts received shipments of Vitamin- and Mineral-rich dandelion roots to supplement an excessively meat-laden diet. Ordinary English settlers planted dandelion in their window boxes and Herb gardens. The leaves and flowers are rich in vitamins A and C and the dried root can be used as a coffee substitute

Health Benefits

For centuries, dandelion root has been regarded as an effective, gentle laxative. The roots and leaves are most often used to treat liver conditions like jaundice and hepatitis, and to encourage normal digestion. Dandelion leaves are rich in quercetin, a potent anti-inflammatory agent that could explain the plant’s traditional use in inflammatory conditions. The yellow flower also contains beneficial compounds. In fact, all parts of the plant have high concentrations of vitamin A, as well as choline, an essential nutrient that is involved in maintaining human cell membrane structure, cell signaling, nerve impulse transmission, and lipid transport from the liver. Germany’s Commission e approves Dandelion herb for loss of appetite and dyspepsia, such as feeling of fullness and flatulence. The root is approved for those uses as well as for stimulation of bile flow and diuresis (urine production). (1) Dandelion is even being explored as a treatment for cancer and other conditions.

Specifically, dandelion may help to:

Prevent urinary tract infections (UTI). Dandelion is a natural diuretic. In one study in mice, the diuretic activity of dandelion leaves was comparable to that of the conventional medication furosemide (Lasix) but without the negative side effects because, unlike furosemide, dandelion replaces potassium that is lost in the urine with furosemide and thiazide-type diuretic medications. (2) A specific combination of dandelion and uva ursi extracts seems to help prevent UTIs in women. (3) In a study of 57 women with recurrent UTIs given either a regimen of dandelion root plus leaf (to increase urination) in conjunction with uva ursi (for its antibacterial properties) or placebo, women in the treatment group had significantly fewer UTIs compared to the placebo group during one year of follow-up. (4) More research is needed.

Aid in digestion. By stimulating the secretion of salivary and gastric juices, as well stimulating the release of bile by the liver and gallbladder, dandelion may help to aid in digestion and treat constipation. This action is believed to be a result of a bitter constituent of dandelion called taraxacin, which has intestinal antiseptic, germicidal and expectorant effects. (5) Dandelion root also contains inulin, an indigestible carbohydrate that promotes the growth of "friendly" bacteria, making it a useful "prebiotic" to promote healthy intestinal bacteria. The plant is believed to also have mild laxative effects. These properties contribute to the plant's ability to promote digestive tract health and to improve digestion. (6-7) However, dandelion has not been studied for this use. Research is needed. 

Treat hepatitis and jaundice. Dandelion has been shown to have a direct effect on both the liver and gallbladder, stimulating the release of bile by the liver and flow to the gallbladder. In turn, this action causes the gallbladder to contract and release stored bile. Through this ability to act as a "tonic" to the liver, dandelion is believed to improve liver and gallbladder function. However, when a blockage (such as a gallstone) is present, dandelion has been shown to cause a sudden, unwanted contraction of the gallbladder and adverse reactions like an acute attack or lodging of the stone in a bile duct. (8-11) Early studies found that dandelion extract (one 5-ml injection per day for 20 days) has liver-healing properties against hepatitis, swelling of the liver, jaundice, and dyspepsia from deficient bile secretion. (12, 13) In an animal study, dandelion significantly improved the liver's ability to clear toxins by 244%. (14) Research in humans is needed.

Decrease blood sugar and cholesterol in diabetics. Preliminary research in animals indicates that the inulin in dandelion may help to improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels in diabetics. In two separate studies, diabetic mice treated with dandelion in the form of a water extract decreased their blood sugar, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, and raised their concentrations of beneficial high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. (14, 16) However, another early study did not show this positive effect on blood sugar. (17) More research is needed to determine efficacy in humans.

Prevent cancer. In preliminary animal and laboratory studies, an extract of dandelion has shown anti-tumor activity. (18-20) In a 2008 study on breast and prostate cancer cells, dandelion leaf extract slowed the growth of breast cancer cells and stopped the spread of prostate cancer cells. (20) However, research is limited. More research is needed to determine efficacy in humans.

Forms

Dandelion is sold as a single-herb supplement, and is also available in combinations called liver-complex or lipotropic (Fat-metabolizing) formulas. Other ingredients in these products that may benefit liver function include milk thistle, inositol, hexaniacinate, methionine, and choline.

Dandelion is available in various forms:

  • Capsule
  • Fresh leaves–often found in the grocery store in springtime
  • Liquid extract
  • Powder extract
  • Tablet
  • Tea
  • Tincture

Dosage Information

Standard dosages are generally equal to amounts found in foods, as dandelion is not recommended in dosages greater than those naturally occurring.

Typical dosages vary by available forms:

  • Dried leaf infusion: 1 - 2 teaspoonfuls (2 - 8 g), 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 (2 - 8 g), 3 times daily. Place root into boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes. Strain and drink as directed.

  • Leaf tincture (1:5) in 30% alcohol: 100 - 150 drops, 3 times daily

  • Standardized powdered extract (4:1) leaf: 250 - 500 mg, 1 - 3 times daily

  • Standardized powdered extract (4:1) root: 250 - 500 mg, 1 - 3 times daily

  • Standardized fluid extract (4:1) 1 - 2 teaspoonfuls (4 - 8 g) 1 - 3 times daily

  • Root tincture (1:2) fresh root in 45% alcohol: 100 - 150 drops, 3 times daily 

Guidelines for Use 

Don't pluck the dandelions you find growing in a lawn and use them medicinally; the flowers absorb fertilizers used to stimulate lawn growth. Get them at a health-food store that can verify that the flower was grown in organic, untreated soil. 

Use dandelion for no longer than six weeks at a time. 

General Interaction

In a study with rats given the Chinese dandelion species Taraxacum mongolicum along with the conventional drug ciprofloxacin (an antibiotic in the quinolone class), levels of the drug were 73% lower than those of a control group that received only the antibiotic. This species should not be used when therapeutic antibiotic levels are needed, and consumers should use caution to obtain the appropriate species when purchasing a dandelion supplement. (15)

Note: Although considered safe and widely used, there are theoretical potential interactions between dandelion and a variety of other drugs. For information on interactions with specific drugs, see our WholeHealthMD Drug/Nutrient Interactions Chart.

Possible Side Effects

No serious side effects have been associated with the use of dandelion. However, if taken in large quantities (much more than commonly recommended) it may cause a skin rash, diarrhea, heartburn, or stomach discomfort. Stop using the herb if these reactions occur, and mention the problem to your doctor.

Products containing dandelion pollen can cause allergic reactions in individuals sensitive to the asteraceae/compositae family, which includes ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies and other herbs. Handling the plant may cause contact dermatitis in some individuals —probably from the latex-like substance in the stems. (21)

Cautions

Consult a physician if you have a gallbladder problem before taking dandelion. It shouldn’t be taken if gallstones are present.

Because of dandelion's diuretic effect, women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should avoid it. 

References

1. Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.
2. Racz-Kotilla E, Racz G, Solomon A. The action of Taraxacum officinale extracts on the body weight and diuresis of laboratory animals. Planta Med 1974;26:212-7.
3. Head KA. Natural approaches to prevention and treatment of infections of the lower urinary tract. Altern Med Rev. 2008 Sep;13(3):227-44.
4. Larsson B, Jonasson A, Flanu S. Prophylactic effect of UVA-E in women with recurrent cystitis: a preliminary report. Curr Ther Res. 1993;53:441-3.
5. Ahmad VU, Yasmeen S, Ali Z, et al. Taraxacin, a new guaianolide from Taraxacum wallichii. J Nat Prod 2000;63:1010-1011.
6. Williams CA, Goldstone F, Greenham J. Flavonoids, cinnamic acids and coumarins from the different tissues and medicinal preparations of Taraxacum officinale. Phytochemistry 1996;42:121-7.
7. Trojanova I, Rada V, Kokoska L, Vikova E. The bifidogenic effect of Taraxacum officinale root. Fitoterapia 2004;75:760-3.
8. Bisset NG, ed. Max Wichtl. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Prss Inc., 1994;486-489.
9. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD, eds. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals . London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
10. Leung AY; Fosters. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients . New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1996;205-207.
11. Brooks S. Prot J Bot Med . 1998;2(3):268.
12. Faber K. [The dandelion Taraxacum officinale.] Pharmazie 1984;4:961-6.
13. Hobbs C. Taraxacum officinale: a monograph and literature review. In Alstadt E, ed. Eclectic dispensatory. Portland, OR: Eclectic Medical, 1989.
14. 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.
15. Zhu M, Wong PY, Li RC. Effects of taraxacum mongolicum on the bioavailability and disposition of ciprofloxacin in rats. J Pharm Sci. 1999 Jun;88(6):632-4.
16. Yamashita K, Kawai K, Itakura M. Effects of fructo-oligosaccharides on blood glucose and serum lipids in diabetic subjects. Nutr Res. 1984;4:961-66.
17. 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.
18. Takasaki M, Konoshima T, Tokuda H, et al. Anti-carcinogenic activity of Taraxacum plant. I. Biol Pharm Bull. 1999 Jun;22(6):602-5.
19. Takasaki M, Konoshima T, Tokuda H, et al. Anti-carcinogenic activity of Taraxacum plant. II. Biol Pharm Bull. 1999 Jun;22(6):606-10.
20. Sigstedt SC, Hooten CJ, Callewaert MC, 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.
21. Foster S, Duke JA. Easter/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs, Second Edition, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2000.

Evidence Based Rating Scale

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies and what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice into a visual and easy to interpret format. This tool is meant to simplify the information on supplements and therapies that demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions.

 

Condition

Rating

Explanation

 

Cancer prevention

   

Preliminary animal and laboratory studies indicate potential efficacy to prevent cancer. More research is needed. (18-20)

Constipation  
Constituents of dandelion may help to promote digestion and relieve constipation, but it has not been studied for this use. Research is needed. (5-7)
 Diabetes  
Preliminary studies in animals indicates potential efficacy, but conflicting evidence exists. (14, 16-17)
 

Hepatitis  


Preliminary studies in animals indicate potential efficacy. Human trials are needed. (8-15)

Urinary tract infections  
Preliminary evidence indicates potential efficacy to prevent recurrence. More research is needed. (2-4)


Date Published: 04/18/2005
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