By Martin Hajek
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), is unfortunately usually known for being a pesky weed, which people commonly remove from their backyards (and often spray with herbicides). However, humans have been using dandelion in food and teas for its medicinal properties for most of the recorded history. Many people still underestimate the benefits of this plant.
When we talk about the dandelion tea, we are talking about two different teas: an infusion made from the leaves and the other made from the roots.
The best way to get all of the benefits is to put the dried root and leaves into a cup of boiling water (cover and let steep for 10 minutes or longer), strain and drink it as is. The more herb you use and the longer you let it steep, the stronger the brew.
In Chinese medicine, dandelion is used to support liver health, stimulate urinary function to promote cleansing, but also for bones and joint health.
Herbalists often use this plant’s root to cleanse the liver and gallbladder, and the leaves to aid in kidney function and also as a digestive aid.
Some people also use this super-weed to treat infections, skin problems like eczema, joint pain, and even cancer. It is also extensively employed and studied as a diuretic. It is also believed to help prevent age spots and breast cancer.
Dandelion is also beneficial for brain health and acts as a neuroprotective agent due to its high luteolin content.
You can also use dandelion greens in your salads since it is very rich in nutrients, vitamins (especially beta-carotene and vitamin K), minerals and antioxidants. Do not forget about the flowering part, which is especially rich in phytonutrients.
There are some great dandelion recipe books and ready-to-use dandelion products that you can use daily for your overall health. See my recommendations at the end of this article.
Let’s Take A Closer Look at Top 15 Health Benefits and Uses of Dandelion
The function of our liver is to produce bile, which helps to filter and detoxify our blood.
This medicinal weed enhances liver function by eliminating toxins and restoring hydration and electrolyte balance. Dandelion contains bitter compound taraxacin, which makes the gallbladder to contract to increase bile flow. Dandelion’s ability to increase the flow of bile helps detoxify the liver.
According to Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, for all liver disorders, most effective is dandelion and burdock (+ milk thistle).
One study on mice states that dandelion leaf promotes healthy lipid profiles, lessens insulin resistance, and suppresses fat accumulation in the livers. Moreover, this plant shows a protective effect against hepatoxicity due to its antioxidant properties.
Liver Detox Kidney Cleansing
Dandelion leaf is a diuretic that increases urination which contributes to removing toxins and waste from the kidneys. It helps them to clean out waste, salt, and excess water. It is a good source of potassium, which helps to flush excess sodium through the kidneys.
Dandelion as a diuretic increases the excretion of water from our bodies, so it is imperative to drink enough water to compensate for the water loss. Also keep a check on your potassium levels while taking dandelion (Although it is quite rich in potassium, so it usually replenishes the levels itself).
Moreover, various herbs may have a therapeutic role in preventing and treating kidney and bladder stone formation, and Taraxacum is one of them, say the researchers.
Purifies the Blood and Removes Toxins
It helps to purify the blood, eliminate toxins and improves blood circulation. Dandelions may also aid with anemia as it increases the iron in your blood.
Dandelion is rich in vitamin K (one cup fo the Greens contains over 500% RD) which was proved in a study that it could reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality significantly. One of the main benefits of vitamin K is its role in healthy blood clotting.
The leaves and flowers are particularly rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients which combat cancer. Due to the Dandelion’s free radical-fighting abilities, it was shown being effective in killing different cancers cells. Also, dandelion may slow cancer’s growth and prevent it from spreading. In addition, Herbal and folk medicine uses dandelion as a prevention for breast and prostate cancer.
As mentioned earlier, this plant is very high in vitamin K which significantly reduce the risk of cancer, according to a study. In fact, Vitamin K has been shown to be effective as a natural cancer treatment.
Dandelion root has been lately studied for its cancer-fighting potential, and the results seem really encouraging. For example, a Canadian study from 2011 states that dandelion root extract induces melanoma cell death without affecting the healthy cells. The conclusion of that study is: “dandelion root exhibits a potential non-toxic option to conventional leukemia treatment.”
Furthermore, this plant contains compound Luteolin, which is a potent flavonoid with potential for cancer prevention and therapy. In fact, it destroys vital components of cancer cells when it attaches to them, making them ineffective and unable to reproduce. (According to a prostate cancer study).
Anti-Cancer Skin Conditions and Infections
Dandelion is also beneficial in several skin disorders. Typically, you can use it with success in several skin conditions, including acne.
The sap of dandelion stem helps fights skin infections as it is highly alkaline. The juice also aids eczema and psoriasis, but also warts.
Excess toxins in our livers may be responsible for many skin and face problems, so drinking dandelion tea helps to clean out your skin as well.
Digestive Aid and Weight Loss
Dandelion improves digestion, may relieve heartburn and balances the beneficial bacteria in your intestines. In traditional medicine, it has been used for ages to improve appetite, ease minor digestive ailments, bloating, and relieve constipation, as it is a mild laxative.
Normal bile production supports healthy digestion. Due to its ability to increase the bile production, cholesterol and fats are broken down and eliminated from the body more efficiently. This improves the whole digestive process.
One study also shows the possible anti-obesity effects of dandelion (from a Korean study – says it could have similar effects on the body as the weight loss drug Orlistat).
Immunity, Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant
This super-plant also strengthens the immune system. This weed contains plenty of antioxidants and phytonutrients that reduce inflammation and keep your immune system healthy. Several studies have shown potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of dandelion.
Vitamin A as a beta-carotene in dandelion provides immune support as well (just one cup of dandelion greens has over a 100% DV). It is also relatively high in vitamin C, which boosts your immunity.
Dandelion is high in antioxidants, therefore drinking Dandelion tea aids the body to avoid cell damage from free radicals.
In addition, studies suggest that dandelion can help fights off infections. In fact, a water extract of dandelion exhibits anti-influenza activity.
Dandelion stimulates urinary function and inhibits microbial growth in the urinary system. This superweed’s roots and leaves may help prevent urinary tract infections as well as bladder disorders and kidney problems.
An especially effective combo is with another herb, uva ursi. This combination works because of potent anti-bacterial effects of uva ursi, and the increased urine flow associated with dandelion.
Dandelion tea benefits people with diabetes by stimulating the production of insulin from the pancreas and regulating blood sugar levels. Keeping pancreas healthy, so it can produce proper amounts of insulin, is vital in the prevention of diabetes.
Modern mammal studies show that dandelion helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, mostly through its ability to control the lipid levels.
Also, thanks to its diuretic properties, Dandelion tea helps the body remove excess sugar stored in your body.
Dandelion raises bile production and lessens the inflammation to aid with gallbladder problems and blockages. It may also help prevent gallbladder stones (but you should not take it without medical supervision when you have active gallstones or any blockages).
For a stronger effect on your liver and gallbladder health, consider also taking artichoke, burdock root and milk thistle seed along with dandelion.
Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure
Dandelion root is often used to increase bile production to break down fats and remove cholesterol from the body.
Studies done on rabbits have shown that dandelion reduces and controls cholesterol levels while improving cholesterol ratios by raising the good ‘HDL’. The study also says that Dandelion is beneficial in “preventing hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis and reducing risk factors for coronary artery disease.“
This plant also assists in regulating blood pressure due to the fiber and potassium content and thanks to its diuretic properties.
Bone and Joint Health
This plant is very rich in Vitamin K, which is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a major role in bone and heart health. Your body needs it for controlling binding of calcium in the bones and other tissues. Nowadays, good calcium supplements already contain vitamin K, D, and magnesium.
Vitamin K, like calcium, is classified as a bone-enhancing nutrient. Studies suggest that vitamin K can improve bone health and reduce the risk of bone fractures. Humans deficient in vitamin K are at a greater risk. Vitamin K seems to build bones better than a calcium! Vitamin K deficiencies are quite common, as you can find it mostly in Green Leafy Vegetables, and most of us do not eat enough greens.
Dandelion also contains 10% of calcium per cup which protects your bones as well.
Furthermore, a recent study from 2015 says that Taraxasterol (a compound isolated from dandelion) may be a useful agent for prevention and treatment of Osteoarthritis, a chronic degenerative joint disease.
Tonsils and Sore Throat
Chinese herbal remedies are commonly used to treat a sore throat in China and are used globally by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.
Dandelion shows promise in Inflammation of the tonsils (Tonsillitis). An early study found that humans who had their tonsils removed recovered quicker if they ate soup bearing dandelion compared to those who ate soup without it. In fact, “Dandelion soup was more effective than sodium penicillin for acute purulent tonsillitis.”
Brain Health, Luteolin
Dandelion has a positive impact on your brain health as well. What makes dandelion useful as a natural nootropic is its large Luteolin content. Luteolin from dandelion is a natural nootropic that works directly within the brain.
“Tranquility Labs research has found that dandelion extract is one of the most potent sources of Luteolin in the world (almost 10 times stronger than artichoke).”
Luteolin is a flavonoid that can eradicate free radicals and act as an anti-inflammatory agent. This is crucial when it comes to brain function, memory, and cognition. It can lessen inflammation in the brain which is responsible for causing memory and cognitive dysfunction.
According to Dr. Johnson of the University of Illinois:
“Luteolin can be used to mitigate age-associated inflammation and therefore improve cognitive function and avoid some of the cognitive deficits that occur in aging.”
Furthermore, in a study, Luteolin has been shown to Reduce Alzheimer’s Disease pathologies induced by Traumatic Brain Injury.
Let’s not forget about dandelion flowering parts, which shows that:
- have higher levels of polyphenols
- have greater antioxidant properties
- contains potent anti-inflammatory compounds
- may act as chemopreventive agents
More Possible Uses and Benefits
- excellent for fluid retention problems
- may ease menopausal symptoms
- reduces uric acid levels
- improves the functioning of pancreas
- helps with constipation (dandelion is a mild laxative), and contains fiber
- muscular rheumatism (according to Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Phyllis A. Balch, CNC)
- may help with some hormone imbalances (especially estrogen excess, according to Dr. Sarah Brewer)
- congestive heart failure: should be prescribed for every case of edema of heart origin(according to Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine)
- Dandelion is also used as a bitter tonic in atonic dyspepsia
- A water extract of the roots and leaves demonstrated antidepressant effects in an animal model
- extract of the root has protective action against alcohol-induced toxicity in the liver
- may also help with lung inflammation “(compound Taraxasterol inhibits cigarette smoke-induced lung inflammation)”
Dandelion is usually safe in food and medicinal levels. However, as with any herb, some people may have an allergic reaction to it. If you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications (especially with effect on the liver), you should talk to a healthcare professional before taking. Dandelion is a potent diuretic, so don’t overdo it and do not combine with other diuretics! Also not recommended for people with active gallstones, biliary tract obstruction, and obstructive jaundice. When you add dandelion to your diet in any way, start small and monitor your body’s response.
I hope I have convinced you enough to start eating/drinking dandelion on a regular basis :). Next time when you walk through your backyard, think twice if you want to get rid of the dandelions or eat them. Remember, You can dry all the parts and use them all year long.
One of the best things about dandelion is that it is easy to find and prepare. Before harvesting, make sure that they were not treated with any chemicals. Dandelion leaves, flowers, and roots are all edible. If you want to harvest the roots, dig deep and pull up the entire mass. You can dry it or use it fresh in salads; roots can also be roasted in an oven to make a popular coffee-like beverage.
Don’t forget that dandelion has a slightly bitter flavor, but you can minimize it by harvesting them in the spring and fall. Preferably, harvest young plants. When preparing the tea, if possible, use roots, leaves, but also the flowers and steep them for 10-30 minutes in a boiling water. If you sweeten, use raw organic honey.
If you plan to buy dandelion in any form, get it from a reputable organic brand. There is always a risk for any herb being treated with chemicals (mostly herbicides and pesticides in this case) and contaminated with heavy metals. You can buy teas, whole freeze-dried plants, liquid forms, herbal extracts, and even dandelion honey! If you read the whole article, please say so in the comments, I will congratulate you 🙂
- Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC.
- The Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook: 148 recipes for dandelion leaves, flowers, buds, stems, & roots, by Kristina Seleshanko.
- Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: The Definitive Home Reference Guide to 550 Key Herbs with all their Uses as Remedies for Common Ailments, by Andrew Chevallier.
- Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: The Definitive Guide to the Herbal Treatments of Diseases, by Thomas Bartram.
- The Essential Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplements, by Dr Sarah Brewer.
- Vitamin K and bone health in adult humans.
- Taraxacum officinale leaf extract protects against liver injury.
- Diverse biological activities of Taraxacum officinale.
- The Diuretic Effect in Human Subjects of an Extract of Taraxacum officinale Folium.
- Pancreatic lipase inhibitory activity of taraxacum officinale.
- The efficacy of Taraxacum root extract in inducing apoptosis in human melanoma cells.
- Dietary intake of vitamin K is inversely associated with mortality risk.
- Selective induction of apoptosis through activation of caspase-8 in human leukemia cells.
- Extracts of Taraxacum officinale on growth and invasion of breast and prostate cancer cells.
- Hypolipidemic and Antioxidant Effects of Taraxacum Root and Leaf on Cholesterol-Fed Rabbits.
- Clinical Research of Taraxacum officinale – MRCNS – Staphylococci Infection.
- Vitamin K in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis and arterial calcification.
- Taraxacum officinale Tea for Liver Detox, Healthy Skin & Stomach.
- Chinese medicinal herbs for sore throat.
- Botanical analysis: Taraxacum officinale.
- Luteolin, an emerging anti-cancer flavonoid, poisons eukaryotic DNA topoisomerase I.
- The Herbal Brain Booster You’ve Never Heard Of.
- Is the Healthies part of Taraxacum officinale its Flower?
- Taraxasterol inhibits cigarette smoke-induced lung inflammation.
- Taraxasterol inhibits IL-1β-induced inflammatory response in human osteoarthritic chondrocytes.
- Luteolin from Taraxacum officinale flower suppress iNOS and COX-2 in RAW264.7 cells.
- Anti-inflammatory activity of Taraxacum officinale.
- Anti-carcinogenic activity of Taraxacum plant.
- Hepatoprotective effects of extract from Taraxacum root against alcohol-induced oxidative stress.
- Taraxacum officinale protects against cholecystokinin-induced acute pancreatitis in rats.
- Antidepressant effects of the water extract from Taraxacum officinale leaves and roots in mice.
- A flavonoid luteolin with potential for cancer prevention and therapy.
- Luteolin Reduces Alzheimer’s Disease Pathologies Induced by Traumatic Brain Injury.
- Luteolin as an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective agent.
- Anti-influenza virus effect of aqueous extracts from Taraxacum officinale.
- Antioxidant properties of Taraxacum officinale leaf – protective effect against hepatoxicity.