Dandelion Health Benefits
Healing Herb or Folklore?

Traditionally, dandelion has been used as a diuretic and to treat kidney and liver disorders. What does modern science say about these dandelion health benefits?



According to the Sloan-Kettering Institute, the reported benefits of dandelion consist of the following:

  • Stimulates appetite

  • Treats cancer

  • Acts as blood sugar regulator for diabetics

  • Treats eczema

  • Treats GI disorders

  • Stimulates lactation

  • Treats liver disease

  • Promotes urination

  • Soothes rheumatoid arthritis

However, the Institute does not consider the physiological effects of dandelion to be well proven by science. To quote them:

Few well-designed clinical studies have investigated the safety and efficacy of dandelion.

So, does it mean we should stop drinking dandelion tea?

Not at all. The dandelion herb has been used for centuries, and for good reasons. A review of its medical history reveals why.

Dandelion Health Benefits #1:
Aids Digestion

Early dandelion studies date back to 1927, when European researchers reported that it caused a contraction of the gall bladder and promoted bile flow in dogs.

Bile is essential for digestion. It is a fluid secreted by the liver and gall bladder to emulsify fats for digestion. The researchers found that dandelion increased the flow of bile by 3 to 4 times!

In 1935, researchers discovered that dandelion stimulated bile flow by acting directly on the liver.

They conducted their experiment using rats without gall bladders. The researchers found that dandelion stimulated bile to the same extent as an injection of bile into the liver.

Dandelion Health Benefits #2:
Treats Gallstones

That same year, physicians found that dandelion could be used to treat bile duct inflammation, liver congestion and gallstones.

News of the finding started spreading to other European countries. By 1958, a German company created an over-the-counter herbal combination consisting primarily of dandelion.

This herb was used in the clinical study of patients with gallstones, complete gall bladder obstruction, bile duct and gall bladder inflammation and jaundice. Researchers reported near to complete recovery, depending on the severity of symptoms.

Dandelion Health Benefits #3:
Prevents Cancer?

 In 1981, when three Japanese researchers discovered that dandelion had anti-tumor activity, women were happy to learn about the herb's anti-cancer potential.

The anti-tumor activity was clearly correlated with the timing of the administration of the dandelion extract. Research shows that the polysaccharides in dandelion are similar to those in mushrooms with anti-tumor properties.

Part of the anti-cancer properties of dandelion may be related to its nutritional content.

The US Department of Agriculture study found that dandelion greens are richer in vitamin A than carrots. The herb contains more vitamin B, C, and D than most traditional vegetables. Vitamin A, C, and D have since been found to be to prevent cancer, as have a few of the B vitamins.

Dandelion Health Benefits #4:
Regulates Blood Sugar?

Dandelion is also high in inulin, which is helpful for diabetics in aiding with blood sugar regulation.

When blood sugar levels are high, harmful chemicals called advanced glycation endproducts or AGE's are produced.  These accelerate aging, diabetes, and dementia, and cause cancer.

Dandelion Health Benefits #5:
Promotes Antioxidant Effects

A 2004 study conducted by the University of British Columbia reported that dandelion flower contains luteolin and luteolin-7-O-glucosid. Both compounds were found to have significant antioxidant and anticancer benefits. To quote the authors:

Luteolin and luteolin-7-O-glucoside at concentrations lower than 20 microM, significantly suppressed the productions of nitric oxide and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) ... without introducing cytotoxicity.

The inhibitory effects were further attributed to the suppression of both inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) protein expression, and not reduced enzymatic activity.

This study was done in mice and showed that dandelion has no toxic effects.

Dandelion Health Benefits #6:
Relieves PMS Symptoms

A 2007 study conducted by the Osaka City University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan found that dandelion increased the activity of female hormone receptors in mice, implying that the herb may be useful to women experiencing PMS.

According to the Japanese researchers, reproductive hormones exert their actions via receptors in many body tissues. The more active the receptors, the more evident the hormone effects.

Mice were divided into two groups. One group was fed dandelion extract for 6 weeks. The other group had a plain diet.

The researchers found that mice that were fed dandelion showed greater activity in estrogen and progesterone receptors in the reproductive tissues. To quote the scientists:

The present study shows that oral intake of [dandelion extract] up-regulates [estrogen receptors, progesterone receptor and follicle-stimulating hormone receptor] expression in mice, suggesting the potential application of [dandelion extract] for the clinical treatment of reproductive hormone-related disturbances.

Perhaps this explains why the Kiowa Indian women used the dandelion blossoms mixed with pennyroyal for cramps and PMS?

Recommendation

As you can see from this review, the potential health benefits of dandelion are many, but the herb is still not well understood by scientists. Few studies have been conducted recently. Most of these have been animal studies rather than human trials.

Given the lack of comprehensive studies, perhaps it would be more instructive to turn to the herbalists for an answer? After all, dandelion has been used in ancient civilizations for many hundreds of years.

You may find it interesting to know that in traditional medicine, dandelion roots and leaves were used to treat liver problems. Native Americans used dandelion decoctions to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and stomach upset.

Chinese medicinal practitioners used dandelion to treat digestive disorders, appendicitis, and breast problems (such as inflammation or lack of milk flow).

In Europe, herbalists incorporated it into remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.

To me, what is remarkable about this herb is that it does not contain caffeine and has few side effects. It is a fantastic diuretic and is an ideal replacement beverage for coffee. To learn why dandelion can be your best friend, read Dandelion Uses.

References

Baba K, Abe S, Mizuno D (1981). Antitumor activity of hot water extract of dandelion, Taraxacum officinale-correlation between antitumor activity and timing of administration. Yakugaku Zasshi. 1981 Jun;101(6):538-43.

Chun Hu and David D. Kitts (2004). Luteolin and luteolin-7-O-glucoside from dandelion flower suppress iNOS and COX-2 in RAW264.7 cells. Mol Cell Biochem. 2004 Oct;265(1-2):107-13.

Zhi X, Honda K, Ozaki K, Misugi T, Sumi T, Ishiko O (2007). Dandelion T-1 extract up-regulates reproductive hormone receptor expression in mice. Int J Mol Med. 2007 Sep;20(3):287-92.

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