Monday, March 22, 2010
Dandelions a worldwide source of healing, nutrition and beauty
While many people think of the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) as a pesky weed, herbalists consider it a valuable herb with many culinary and medicinal uses. Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc. Its leaves are often used to add flavor to salads, sandwiches, and teas. The roots can be found in some coffee substitutes, and the flowers are used to make certain wines.
In traditional medicine, dandelion roots and leaves were used to treat liver problems. Native Americans also used dandelion decoctions (liquid made by boiling down the herb in water) to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and stomach upset. Chinese medicinal practitioners traditionally 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.
Today, dandelion roots are mainly used as an appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and for liver and gallbladder function. Dandelion leaves are used as a diuretic to stimulate the excretion of urine.
Hundreds of species of dandelion grow in the temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Dandelion is a hardy, variable perennial that can grow to a height of nearly 12 inches. Dandelions have deeply notched, toothy, spatula-like leaves that are shiny and hairless. Dandelion stems are capped by bright yellow flowers. The grooved leaves funnel the flow of rainfall into the root.
Dandelion flowers are sensitive to light, so they open with the sun in the morning and close in the evening or during gloomy weather. The dark brown roots are fleshy and brittle and are filled with a white milky substance that is bitter and slightly odorous.
Dandelion leaves produce a diuretic effect while the roots act as an antiviral agent, appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and may help promote gastrointestinal health. Dandelion flower has antioxidant properties. Dandelion may also help improve the immune system.
Health care providers clinically use dandelion root to promote liver detoxification and dandelion leaves to support kidney function.
Medicinal Uses and Indications:
Dandelion is a natural diuretic that increases urine production by promoting the excretion of salts and water from the kidney. Dandelion may be used for a wide range of conditions requiring mild diuretic treatment, such as poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure. Dandelion is a source of potassium, a nutrient often lost through the use of other natural and synthetic diuretics.
Fresh or dried dandelion herb is also used as a mild appetite stimulant and to improve upset stomach (such as feelings of fullness, flatulence, and constipation). The root of the dandelion plant is believed to have mild laxative effects and is often used to improve digestion. Research suggests that dandelion root may improve the health and function of natural bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Studies have also reported that dandelion root may help improve liver and gallbladder function.
Some preliminary animal studies also suggest that dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and improve lipid profiles (lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL, "good," cholesterol) in diabetic mice. However, not all animal studies have shown the same positive effect on blood sugar. In addition, research needs to be done on people to determine if this traditional use for diabetes (see Overview) has modern-day merit.
Dandelion herbs and roots are available fresh or dried in a variety of forms, including tinctures, liquid extract, teas, tablets, and capsules. Dandelion can be found alone or in combination dietary supplements.
How to Take It:
To improve digestion, adjust the recommended adult dose to account for the child's weight. Most herbal dosages for adults are calculated on the basis of a 150 lb (70 kg) adult. Therefore, if the child weighs 50 lb (20 - 25 kg), the appropriate dose of dandelion for this child would be 1/3 of the adult dosage.
Dandelion may be used in a variety of available forms:
Dried leaf infusion: 1 - 2 teaspoonfuls, 3 times daily. Pour hot water onto dried leaf and steep for 5 - 10 minutes. Drink as directed.
Dried root decoction: 1/2 - 2 teaspoonfuls, 3 times daily. Place root into boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes. Strain and drink as directed.
Leaf tincture (1:5) in 30% alcohol: 100 - 150 drops, 3 times daily
Standardized powdered extract (4:1) leaf: 500 mg, 1 - 3 times daily
Standardized powdered extract (4:1) root: 500 mg, 1 - 3 times daily
Root tincture (1:2) fresh root in 45% alcohol: 100 - 150 drops, 3 times daily
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.
Dandelion is generally considered safe. Some individuals, however, may develop an allergic reaction from touching dandelion, and others may develop mouth sores. If you have an allergy to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine, you should avoid dandelion. In some people, dandelion can cause increased stomach acid and heartburn. It may also irritate the skin if applied topically.
People with gallbladder problems and gallstones should consult a health care provider before eating dandelion.
Dandelion leaf is a diuretic and may increase the excretion of drugs from the body. If you are taking prescription medications, ask your health care provider before taking dandelion leaf. If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use dandelion preparations without first talking to your health care provider:
Lithium -- Animal studies suggest that dandelion may worsen the side effects associated with lithium, a medication used to treat bipolar disorder.
Antibiotics, quinolone -- One species of dandelion, Taraxacum mongolicum, also called Chinese dandelion, may decrease the absorption of quinolone antibiotics (such as ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, and levofloxacin) from the digestive tract. It is not known whether Taraxacum officinale, also known as common dandelion, would interact with these antibiotics in the same way. As a precaution, dandelion should not be taken at the same time as these antibiotics.
Antacids -- Avoid antacids and other medicines that lower stomach acid, such as Pepcid, Taganet, Zantac, and others.
Lion's tooth; Priest's crown; Swine's snout; Taraxacum officinale
Reviewed last on: 12/5/2008
Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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