Dandelion

Scientific names: Taraxacum officinale, Leontodon taraxacum

Common names: Dandelion also is known as lion's tooth.

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Dandelion?

The dandelion is a weedy composite plant of the Asteraceae family (daisies). The plant has a deep taproot. The leaves may be nearly smooth-edged, toothed, or deeply cut. The toothed appearance gives rise to the plant's name (dent-de-lion means “lion's tooth” in French). It grows wild in most parts of the world and is cultivated in France and Germany.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/ethnobotanical uses

The dandelion is mentioned as early as the 10th century by Arab physicians, who used it for medicinal purposes. The plant also was recommended in an herbal written in the 13th century by the physicians of Myddfai in Wales. It is native to Europe and Asia, but was naturalized in North America and now grows widely as a weed in nearly all temperate climates. It is cultivated by some European growers, and more than 100 specialized varieties have been developed. The bitter greens are used raw in salads, in wine making or cooked like spinach. The root is roasted and used to brew a coffee-like beverage said to lack the stimulant properties of coffee. Dandelions long have been used in herbal remedies for diabetes and disorders of the liver (the sugars in the plant are said not to aggravate this disease) and as a laxative and tonic. The juice of the leaves has been used to treat skin diseases, loss of appetite, and to stimulate the flow of bile.

Nutritional

Dandelions are one of nature's richest green vegetable sources of beta-carotene, from which vitamin A is created (14,000 units/100 g leaf vs. 11,000 units/100 g in carrots). They also are a very good source of fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamine, and riboflavin. Sodium and vitamins C and D also are present.

Other uses

In addition to its nutritional value, dandelion has been used for diuresis, regulation of blood glucose, liver and gall bladder disorders, appetite stimulation, and for dyspeptic complaints. Dandelion has been classified as a hepatic, mild laxative, cholegogue (stimulates bile), diaphoretic, analgesic, stimulant, and tonic. The roots have been used as a laxative, diuretic, tonic, hepatic and for spleen ailments. Root and leaves have been used for heartburn, bruises, chronic rheumatism, gout, diabetes, eczema, and other skin problems, as well as for cancers.

Taraxacum species have been used in China for over 1100 years in treating breast cancer and other breast ailments. Clinical studies using Chinese Taraxacum species also support the use of dandelion to treat hepatitis as well as various respiratory infections.

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of dandelion for diuresis, liver and gall bladder disorders, or regulation of blood glucose. There is some limited animal data indicating possible benefits in these areas of use.

What is the recommended dosage?

Dandelion root has been used as a tonic for digestive complaints in doses of 9 to 12 g/day, prepared as a tea.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/nursing

Generally recognized as safe when used as food. Safety and efficacy for dosages above those in foods is unproven and should be avoided.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Like many plants in this Asteraceae family, dandelions are known to cause contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Gastric discomfort also has been reported.

Toxicities

Dandelion may be potentially toxic because of the high concentration of potassium, magnesium, and other minerals.

References

  1. Dandelion. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2004. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 16, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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