Dandelion: Closely related to chicory, dandelion is a common plant worldwide and the bane of those looking for the perfect lawn. The plant grows to a height of about 12 inches, producing spatula-like leaves and yellow flowers that bloom year-round. Upon maturation, the flower turns into the characteristic puffball containing seeds that are dispersed in the wind. Dandelion is grown commercially in the United States and Europe. The leaves and root are used in herbal supplements.
Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies): Dandelion is commonly used as a food. The leaves are used in salads and teas, while the roots are often used as a coffee substitute. Dandelion leaves and roots have been used for hundreds of years to treat liver, gallbladder, kidney, and joint problems. In some traditions, dandelion is considered a blood purifier and is used for ailments as varied as eczema and cancer. As is the case today, dandelion has also been used historically to treat poor digestion, water retention, and diseases of the liver, including hepatitis.
The principal constituents responsible for dandelions action on the digestive system and liver are the bitter principles. Previously referred to as taraxacin, these constituents are sesquiterpene lactones of the eudesmanolide and germacranolide type and are unique to dandelion. Dandelion is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals. The leaves have a high content of vitamin A as well as moderate amounts of vitamin D, vitamin C, various B vitamins, iron, silicon, magnesium, zinc, and manganese.
Animal studies show, at high doses (2 grams per kg of body weight), the leaves possess diuretic effects comparable to the prescription diuretic furosemide (Lasix). Since clinical data in humans is sparse, people should seek the guidance of a physician trained in herbal medicine before using dandelion leaves for water retention.
The bitter compounds in the leaves and root help stimulate digestion and are mild laxatives. These bitter principles also increase bile production in the gallbladder and bile flow from the liver. For this reason dandelion is recommended by some herbalists for persons with sluggish liver function due to alcohol abuse or poor diet. The increase in bile flow may help improve fat (including cholesterol) metabolism in the body.
As a general liver/gallbladder tonic and to stimulate digestion, you can take 35 grams of the dried root or 510 ml of a tincture made from the root can be used three times per day. Some experts recommend the alcohol-based tincture because the bitter principles are more soluble in alcohol.
As a mild diuretic or appetite stimulant, 410 grams of dried leaves can be added to a 250 ml (1 cup) of boiling water and drunk as a decoction;8 or 510 ml of fresh juice from the leaves or 25 ml of tincture made from the leaves can be used, three times per day.
Dandelion leaf and root should be used with caution by persons with gallstones. Persons with an obstruction of the bile ducts should avoid dandelion altogether. In cases of stomach ulcer or gastritis, dandelion should be used cautiously, as it may cause overproduction of stomach acid. Those experiencing fluid or water retention should consult a nutritionally oriented doctor before taking dandelion leaves. The milky latex in the stem and leaves of fresh dandelion may cause an allergic rash in some individuals.
Certain medications interact in a positive and/or negative way with dandelion. Check with your doctor.
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