Scientific Name(s): Taraxacum officinale Weber, Taraxacum platycarpum
Common Name(s): Dandelion, Lion's tooth, Pissenlit, Priest’s crown, Puffball, Taraxacum
Dandelion has been used for its nutritional value. Other traditional uses include regulation of blood glucose, treatment of liver and gallbladder disorders, appetite stimulation, treatment of dyspeptic complaints, and as a diuretic. However, limited clinical studies are available to provide evidence to support such claims.
Clinical trials on which to base dosing are limited. Fresh roots and leaves are often consumed in salads.
The German Commission E Monographs recommends 3 to 4 g of the root or 10 to 15 drops of root tincture twice a day, or 4 to 10 g of the leaves or 2 to 5 mL of leaf tincture 3 times a day.
Contraindications have not yet been identified.
Generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration or used as food. Avoid dosages above those in foods; safety and efficacy of such dosages are unproven.
None well documented.
Allergy and mild gastric discomfort have been reported.
The acute toxicity of dandelion is considered low. Decreased fertility in male rats has been observed.
- Asteraceae/Compositae (Aster)
The dandelion is a weedy composite plant with a rosette of leaves radiating from its base. The stem is smooth and hollow and bears a solitary yellow head, consisting solely of ray flowers, that produces a cluster of numerous tiny, tufted, single-seed fruits. The perrenial plant has a deep taproot and can reach 0.5 m in height. The leaves may be nearly smooth-edged, toothed, or deeply cut; the toothed appearance gave 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.1, 2, 3 A synonym is Leontodon taraxacum L.
The dandelion is mentioned as early as the 10th century by Arab physicians, who used it for medicinal purposes. It has also been described in ancient Chinese texts. The plant is native to Europe and Asia but was naturalized in North America. It 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 eaten raw in salads, used in wine making, or cooked like spinach. The root can be roasted and used to brew a coffee-like beverage said to lack the stimulant properties of coffee. The dandelion plant has long been used in herbal remedies for diabetes and disorders of the liver and as a laxative and tonic. Dandelion has been classified in traditional medicine as a hepatic, a mild laxative, a cholagogue, a diaphoretic, an analgesic, a stimulant, a tonic, and a regulator of blood glucose. Root and leaves have been used for heartburn, bruises, chronic rheumatism, gout, diabetes, and eczema and other skin problems, as well as for cancers.2, 3, 4
Dandelion leaves are one of nature's richest green vegetable sources of beta-carotene, from which vitamin A is created (14,000 units per 100 g of dandelion leaf versus 11,000 units per 100 g of carrot). They are also a very good source of fiber, potassium (297 mg, or 7.6 mEq per 100 mg of dandelion leaf), iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamine, and riboflavin. Sodium and vitamins C and D are also present. The flowers also contain carotenoids.
Dandelion root contains triterpenes, including beta-amyrin, taraxol, and taraxerol; sterols, including beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, taraxasterol, homotaraxasterol; sugars; choline; inulin; pectin; glucosides; phenolic acids; gum; resins; minerals; and vitamins. Identified acids include caffeic, p-hydroxyphenylacetic, chlorogenic, oleic, and palmitic acids, and the fatty acids linoleic and linolenic; gallic and ascorbic acids are also found. The bitter taste is attributed to the presence of sesquiterpene lactones.2, 3, 5, 6
Uses and Pharmacology
There are no clinical data regarding the use of dandelion for clinical applications of antioxidant activity, aside from theorized protectant effects.
A case report of hypoglycemia secondary to the consumption of dandelion in a 58-year-old woman with known type 2 diabetes exists.18 Clinical trials are lacking.
In a pilot study (N = 17), dandelion leaf extract demonstrated a diuretic effect with an increase in the frequency of urination demonstrated over a 1-day study period.20 Despite extensive traditional use as a diuretic, clinical trials do not support this application.
GI and choleretic activity
Studies in animals from the 1930s and 1950s reported increased bile production following intraduodenal administration of dandelion whole-plant extract. Based on this data, the use of dandelion in gallbladder diseases, as well as applications to increase the flow of bile should be done cautiously.3, 17 Dandelion extract decreased gastric transit time and increased smooth muscle motility in rats,21 whereas in another experiment, the root was bifidogenic in vitro.3, 22
Selected flavonoid-rich dandelion extracts reduced adipogenesis and intracellular lipid accumulation in vitro.23 Rats fed a high-cholesterol diet and diabetic rats showed improved lipid profiles when administered dandelion extracts.5, 24, 25
There are no clinical data regarding the use of dandelion for effect on the lipid profile.
An aqueous extract of dandelion demonstrated in vitro activity against influenza virus type A26 and HIV-1.27 Activity against bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, and Staphylococcus aureus, has been shown in vitro.28, 29 Clinical studies are lacking.17
A single in vitro study in 1996 reported antiplatelet activity,3, 5 whereas another reported that dandelion had an effect on hematological indices in mice.35 The crude extracts of the Chinese herb T. platycarpum was discovered to have anticoagulant properties; further purification studies indicated the active moiety was a protein or peptide. It increased thrombin time most dramatically but also increased prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time via competitive inhibition of thrombin at non-active and active fibrinogen binding based on the T. platycarpum protein concentration. It also inhibited kallikrein but not fibrinogen. When added to murine macrophage cells, production of cyclooxygenase-2, nitric oxide synthase, nitric oxide, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha was observed.45
Dandelion herb is considered the above-ground parts of the plant, whereas dandelion root is the root and herb gathered while blooming.2
Clinical trials on which to base dosing are limited. Fresh roots and leaves have beenconsumed in salads.
The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends 3-times-daily administration of 0.5 to 2 g of dandelion root or 4 to 8 mL of root tincture, whereas the German Commission E Monographs recommends 3 to 4 g of dandelion root or 10 to 15 drops of root tincture twice a day, or 4 to 10 g of dandelion leaves or 2 to 5 mL of leaf tincture 3 times a day.5, 40
Pregnancy / Lactation
None well documented. Interactions may result from dandelion’s potassium, sodium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium content.41 Case reports exist that may indicate potential for potentiation of medicines used in diabetes and diuresis.18, 20
Dandelion is GRAS, with mild GI adverse effects reported.17 Like many plants in the Asteraceae family, dandelion is known to cause allergy, including contact dermatitis, rhinoconjunctivitis, and asthma.17 A case report of hyperoxaluria exists following excessive consumption of dandelion tea (2.4 to 3.5 L daily for 6 months).42 Case reports of hepatotoxicity and cardiotoxicity exist for dandelion when taken in combination preparations with other herbs.41, 43
Because median lethal dose values in mice are 37 g/kg for the root and 29 g/kg for herb, the acute toxicity of dandelion is considered low.17 A study in rats demonstrated decreased male fertility, including decreased sperm count, motility, normal morphology, and pregnancy rate, with administration of an aqueous extract of dandelion.44
- Leontodon taraxacum L.
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