When you think of dandelions, you might picture pesky little weeds that grow in your front yard. But this ‘weed’ was elevated to the position of a herb by many different cultures around the world. Different parts of the dandelion plant have been used by the native Americans, the Chinese, and the Europeans in the preparation of herbal medicines and teas to cure several ailments.
In recent years, scientific experiments have also found that dandelion has many health benefits and can be used to create potential cures for diseases and chronic ailments. This list of benefits should give you an idea as to why this common plant that was often classified as a weed is used so widely in traditional medicine.
1. Fights Cancer
It’s hard to imagine that a common weed would have compounds that are potent enough to kill cancer cells. And yet dandelion has proved its cancer-fighting prowess in multiple research experiments that targeted different types of cancers.
- Melanoma: Commonly known as skin cancer, melanoma begins in the melanocytes present in your skin. It is one of the most dangerous cancers and is notoriously chemoresistant. When dandelion root extracts were used to treat melanoma cells, it was found that the extracts caused the cells to die without having any toxic effect on the healthy cells.1
- Leukemia: This is a group of cancers that occurs in the blood cells and is hard to detect in the early stages. Chronic Leukemia can be very highly aggressive and resistant to drugs. As in the case of melanoma, research has shown that dandelion root extracts can selectively kill cancerous leukemia cells without affecting other cells.2
- Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer: Dandelion has also shown promising results when water-based extracts of different parts of the dandelion plant were tested on breast cancer and prostate cancer cells. Research has shown that dandelion leaf extracts decreased the growth of breast cancer cells while the root extracts blocked them from spreading. Similarly, it was found that dandelion leaf extracts were effective in blocking prostate cancer cells from spreading locally.3
2. Gets Rid of Excess Water
If you’re looking for a quick detox, try sipping on some dandelion leaf tea. Dandelion has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for its diuretic effects and its ability to detox your kidneys.4 Natural diuretics like dandelion help your body get rid of excess water and salt through urine, thus decreasing water retention-related bloating. A study conducted on the diuretic effects of dandelion on humans has also supported the fact that dandelion can significantly increase in the frequency of urination.5
Dandelion Leaf Tea Recipe:
One of the easiest ways to have dandelion is to make tea with it. Dandelion tea is can be made with either dried or fresh leaves.
- Add one teaspoon of dried dandelion leaf or a quarter cup of fresh leaves to one cup of hot water.
- Allow it to steep for 10 minutes before drinking.
Note: There are several different species of dandelion. If you’re using fresh leaves, make sure you use leaves of the correct dandelion plant known as Taraxacum Officinale. Also, ensure that the plant has not been treated with pesticides or herbicides.
3. Helps Fight Anemia
Dandelion has been used in North American folk medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments including anemia.6 This is largely due to the presence of antioxidants like phenolic compounds, flavonoids, and coumaric acid.7 8 They help protect the red blood cell membranes from getting damaged by free radicals and increase their number in your blood. Research conducted on mice has shown that the number of red blood cells and the rate of hemoglobin significantly increased when they were given dandelion extracts.9
4. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural immune response by your body when your tissues or cells are under attack by pathogens like harmful bacteria and viruses. In the case of certain autoimmune diseases like arthritis, the body’s immune response is triggered though there is no real threat, resulting in damage to tissues and inflammation.A study conducted on guinea pigs has shown that dandelion has anti-inflammatory effect on the body, especially on the lungs and intestines.10 If you suffer from inflammation, dandelion could work as a natural remedy to provide relief.
5. Aids In Weight-Loss
If only losing weight could be as easy as sipping tea. Well, if it’s dandelion tea, that might just be the case. A 2008 study done on mice found that dandelion extracts had an effect that was similar to a popular obesity drug.11 During the digestive process, an enzyme released by the pancreas known as pancreatic lipase plays an important role in the breakdown and absorption of fats. Studies have shown that dandelion roots contain at least five phenolic compounds that can inhibit the action of lipase enzymes resulting in lower fat absorption.12
6. Lowers Cholesterol
Cholesterol is not completely bad for your body. It’s a waxy, fat-like substance which your body uses to make hormones, vitamin D, and compounds that help in digestion. However, high levels of bad cholesterol or LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein), in your blood has been known to cause atherosclerosis, a condition where arteries become narrow and hardened due to the build up of plaque.13 Studies done on rabbits that were on a high-cholesterol diet found that dandelion root and leaf could protect against atherosclerosis by significantly reducing the LDL levels.14
7. Prevents Liver Damage
Dandelion finds mention as a liver tonic in many different traditional medicinal disciplines in India, Europe, and North America. This sparked interest among scientists of various countries to validate the use of dandelion in treating liver damage. And the results do not disappoint. Many research experiments conducted with dandelion leaf and root have confirmed that dandelion has therapeutic and regenerative effects on the liver.15 16 17 However, if you are suffering for a condition that’s affecting your liver, talk to your doctor before using dandelion for treatment.
8. Decreases Oxidative Stress
Antioxidants play an important role in our body by neutralizing free radicals that can cause cell damage. Free radicals also contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, cancer, vision loss, and many other chronic conditions.18 The antioxidant properties of dandelion have been documented by several different studies with one study specifically showing that dandelion protects against oxidative stress linked atherosclerosis.19 20 Having dandelion greens can be a great way to include more antioxidants in your diet.
9.Urinary Tract Infections
Though dandelion may not directly cure urinary tract infections, its diuretic effect on the body ensures that any bacteria that’s causing problems is flushed out of the bladder.21 22
10.Improves Bone Health
Including dandelion greens in your diet can be a natural and effective way to keep your bones healthy and fight osteoporosis. Dandelions are rich in vitamin K which has been known to prevent osteoporosis by reducing bone loss and maintaining the mineral density in bones.23
While some experiments on rats have shown that dandelion water extracts do decrease glucose concentration levels, there are others that have not resulted in significant changes in blood glucose.24 25 It is advised that you talk to your doctor if you are diabetic and want to include dandelion in your diet.
12.Aids In Digestion
Many traditional medicinal practitioners recommend dandelion as a digestive aid. It stimulates the flow of bile which creates a mild laxative effect and helps in removing waste more efficiently. You can either drink dandelion leaf/root tea or add young dandelion leaves to your salads.26 27
Since dandelion has been known to heal the liver and reduce inflammation, it has also been used in traditional medicine to treat problems like swelling of the liver and jaundice. A Chinese study on animals found that dandelion, along with a few other herbal extracts, was effective in curing jaundice.28 Since there are no conclusive studies, talk to your healthcare provider before taking dandelion to help cure jaundice.
How To Have Dandelion
There are various ways in which dandelion can become a part of your diet. Dandelion leaves and roots are available fresh or dried and can be used to prepare teas or tinctures. You can also go for dandelion supplements in the form of capsules. Dandelion leaves can be used to make salads or you could just add them to your green smoothie.
Word Of Caution
Dandelion belongs to a group of plants known as compositae or asteraceae. These are flowering plants that have been known to cause allergies like contact dermatitis and hives. If you are allergic to plants like ragweed, marigold, chrysanthemums, chamomile, daisies, or yarrow, chances are that you’re allergic to dandelion too. If you’re in doubt, talk to a dermatologist. A routine patch test can be used to find out if you are allergic.29
Though dandelion has several health benefits, it’s not safe to assume that it won’t have any side effects. According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, dandelion could interact with certain medications and it’s always recommended that you talk to your doctor about having dandelion if you’re on medication. Here’s are some medications that could interact with dandelion.30
Diabetes Medication: If you’re diabetic and already on medication, talk to your doctor before taking dandelion in any form as it could affect blood glucose levels.
Diuretics: Avoid dandelion if you’re already taking prescription diuretics. Having dandelion while on other medication or herbs that are also diuretics could cause electrolyte imbalance.
Antacids: Dandelion may increase stomach acidity which could reduce the effectiveness of antacids.
Blood-Thinning Medications: If you’re already taking blood thinners, dandelion could increase the risk of bleeding.
Antibiotics: A species of dandelion known as taraxacum mongolicum (Chinese dandelion) may interfere with the absorption of the antibiotic ciproflaxin. Though dandelions used in America belong to a different species (taraxacum officinale), it’s always safe to consult with your doctor if you’re on antibiotics.
Lithium: Studies have shown that dandelion may worsen the effects of lithium, a widely used medication for bipolar disorder.
Several experiments have shown that dandelion has a healing effect on the liver. This also means that it could affect drugs that are broken down by the liver. If you’re on medication, talk to your doctor before taking dandelion.
Dandelion is an extremely versatile herb that has been used since ancient times to treat a variety of medical conditions. Herbalists across the world have recognized its healing properties, many of which have been proved to be true by scientists and researchers. For specific ailments, talk to a certified alternative healthcare practitioner before you use dandelion as a cure. However, for general health purposes, you could always have dandelion to increase the overall health quotient of your diet.
References [ + ]
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|2.||↑||Ovadje, P., S. Chatterjee, C. Griffin, C. Tran, C. Hamm, and S. Pandey. “Selective induction of apoptosis through activation of caspase-8 in human leukemia cells (Jurkat) by dandelion root extract.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 133, no. 1 (2011): 86-91.|
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|10.||↑||Awortwe, C., Dorcas Osei-Safo, I. J. Asiedu-Gyekye, and A. C. Sackeyfio. “Anti-inflammatory activity of Taraxacum officinale leaves in ovalbumin-sensitized guinea-pigs.” (2013).|
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|15.||↑||Domitrović, Robert, Hrvoje Jakovac, Željko Romić, Dario Rahelić, and Žarko Tadić. “Antifibrotic activity of Taraxacum officinale root in carbon tetrachloride-induced liver damage in mice.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 130, no. 3 (2010): 569-577.|
|17.||↑||Park, Chung Mu, Yeon Suk Cha, Hyun Joo Youn, Chung Won Cho, and Young Sun Song. “Amelioration of oxidative stress by dandelion extract through CYP2E1 suppression against acute liver injury induced by carbon tetrachloride in sprague‐dawley rats.” Phytotherapy Research 24, no. 9 (2010): 1347-1353.|
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|23.||↑||Adams, Jamie, and Joseph Pepping. “Vitamin K in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis and arterial calcification.” American journal of health-system pharmacy 62, no. 15 (2005): 1574-1581.|
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