Dandelion or Taraxacum officinale is a herb that has a long history of use as a herbal remedy in many parts of the world. It is used medicinally for stomach upset, loss of appetite, eczema, joint pain, gallstones, and jaundice. Dandelion is said to be a great laxative and also a diuretic that increases urine production.
Most people often see dandelion as that notorious weed that cause some nuisance to their residential areas and gardens without knowing the medicinal properties associated with them. After reading this post, you might give that weed a chance to grow by your garden.
Dandelion, when literally translated, means “lion’s tooth” (French), is said to be native to Eurasia. They bear brilliantly colored flowers which makes them to be used as ornamental flowers. There are many varieties of Dandelion, but the common one is Taraxacum officinale, followed by Taraxacum erythrospermum.
In terms of nutrition, raw green dandelions per 100 grams contain (USDA):
- Fat – 0.7 g
- Cholesterol – 0 mg
- Sodium – 76 mg
- Potassium – 397 mg
- Carbohydrate – 9 g ( dietary fiber – 3.5 g)
- Protein – 2.7 g
- Vitamins and minerals present in rich amounts include vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Others contained in significant amounts include calcium, iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium.
Medicinal uses of Dandelion
- Fights skin diseases
- Improves bone health
- Fights diabetes
- Fights liver diseases
- Protects against cancer
- Promotes weight loss
- Treats jaundice
- Fights constipation
Fights Skin diseases
The sap of dandelion also known as dandelion milk is said to be high alkaline, and equipped with anti-fungal properties. It can be very useful in the treatment of skin diseases caused by fungal and microbial infections. The sap can be used relieve irritation caused by eczema, ringworm, and other skin conditions.
What’s even more interesting is that using dandelion against skin conditions is safe, and does not carry such side effects caused by most pharmaceutical preparations.
Improves Bone health
As we have seen earlier, dandelion contains calcium in significant amounts, and just 100 grams provides 18% of the daily recommended intake for an average adult for this mineral. As the most abundant mineral in the human body, calcium is needed for the formation of bones.
If you are willing to increase the amount of calcium in your body, then consumption of dandelion won’t be a bad idea. If you are not comfortable in using the raw greens, then there are other options such as dandelion tea, which also still retains a quite fair amount of its nutrients.
Dandelion tea is said to be good for the diabetics by stimulating the production of insulin, thus, keeping blood sugar level low. To test the effectiveness of this anti-diabetic effect of dandelion by some researchers, its leaf and root powder was given to type 2 diabetes patients for 9 days (1).
The results showed how both dandelion leaf and root powder was able to significantly lower blood glucose levels in all patients. The researchers suggested how including medicinal plants such as dandelion could help and improve the overall well-being of type 2 diabetic patients.
The diuretic nature of this wonderful herb also helps the diabetics. It acts by increasing urine production, which helps eliminate excess sugar from the body.
Fights Liver diseases
Dandelion can be beneficial to the liver in many ways. It can help cleanse the liver of toxins and improve its functions. Antioxidants present in this herb may as well protect the liver from aging.
A research published in the Journal of medicinal plants research, evaluated the hepatoprotective effect of dandelion against induced chronic liver cirrhosis (2). The study showed promising results, with the dandelion extract effective in protecting the liver and restoring the normal functional ability of its hepatocytes (liver cells).
Another study, but this time around published in the Journal of medicinal foods, recorded some success in using dandelion leaf extracts to protect against liver injury induced by methionine and Choline-deficient diet in Mice (3).
Whatever the case may be, consumption of dandelion can help protect your liver, and improve its overall functioning. Dandelion tea is nice way to get started.
Protects against Cancer
Dandelions are a great source of antioxidants. These antioxidants are able to fight off free radicals in our body, which are capable of initiating cancerous growths. An antioxidant known as luteolin has been identified in dandelion. It helps fight cancer by binding to its cells and halting their reproductive ability.
A research carried out recently (2016) showed us how dandelion root extract affects colorectal cancer proliferation and survival. This is achieved through the activation of multiple death signalling pathways for cancer cells. The research suggested how dandelion root extract could be a non-toxic and effective alternative in the treatment of cancer (4).
Not too long ago, a group of researchers in Windsor (Ontario) received a total of $217,000 grant to study how effective dandelion root extract is in fighting cancer. This was after their first study found how treatment with low dose dandelion root extract was effective in killing most of the cancerous cells in blood cancer.
John Dicarlo, a man of 72 years, narrated to CBC (a Canadian broadcasting Company) how dandelion tea saved his life after other treatments for his leukemia failed. This wasn’t a fluke, as dandelion extract is presently under intense research to affirm its effectiveness as an anti-cancer. Adding the greens of this wonderful plant to your diet or consuming its tea can help protect you from cancer.
Promotes Weight loss
The diuretic effect of dandelion is said to be responsible for its weight loss property. As a great diuretic, dandelion increases overall urine output, which is made up of water, urea, etc. Increased urine production makes us to loose more amount of water, and the more water that is lost, the more the drop in our body weight.
Diuretics are effective in causing weight loss. However, many health professional have argued the reliability of such weight loss, claiming how deceiving it can be since the loss of weight is caused by loosing some water, which can cause dehydration.
Apart from being a diuretic, dandelion contains very small amounts of calories, just perfect for someone who wants to shed off some weight.
Jaundice which is the yellow coloration of the skin and whites of the eye is caused by overproduction of bile from the liver. This excess bile enters into the bloodstream and disrupts the body’s metabolism. Jaundice is not a disease, but rather a symptom caused by the obstruction of the bile duct, excessive breakdown of red blood cells, or liver diseases.
To find a lasting solution to jaundice, you might need to curb or regulate the production of bile by fighting the underlying cause, and eliminate excess bile from the body. This is where dandelions come into contention. They can help regulate bile production, and also facilitate the removal of excess bile from the body due to their diuretic nature.
This wonderful herb doesn’t stop at stimulating appetite, it can also fight constipation. This is mainly due to dandelion’s laxative nature in helping facilitate bowel movement, which is attributed to the fiber content it contains.
You can read some tips on “how to avoid constipation“.