Dandelion ‘Weed’ Heals Liver and Numerous Conditions
The common weed we call Dandelion is one of nature’s most healing herbs.
The botanical name for dandelion is Taraxum officinale. Taraxum is derived from the Greek words “taraxos” for “disorder” and “akos” meaning remedy. Dandelion is a common weed with a characteristic beautiful yellow flower that assumes a globe of seeds to spread its humble yet incredible medicinal virtues. Its hollowed stem is full of milky juice, with a long, hardy root and leaves that taste good in a spring salad.
Dandelion is one of the most well known traditional herbs for all sorts of ailments that involve toxicity within the blood, liver, kidneys, lymphatic system and urinary tract. Dandelion has been listed in a variety of formularies and codeces around the world since the tenth century. Its use was expounded by many cultures from the Greeks to the Northern American Indians, who used it for stomach ailments and infection.
Dandelion is also used for the treatment of viral and bacterial infections as well as cancer. The latex or milky sap that comes from the stem has a mixture of polysaccharides, proteins, lipids, rubber and metabolites such as polyphenoloxidase. The latex has been used to heal skin wounds and protect wounds from infection—also its function when the plant is injured.
Dandelion helps heal liver disorders
Dandelion is known to protect and help rebuild the liver. Culpeper documented that it “has an opening and cleansing quality and, therefore, very effectual for removing obstructions of the liver, gall bladder and spleen and diseases arising from them, such as jaundice.” It is known to stimulate the elimination of toxins and clear obstructions from the blood and liver.
This is thought to be the reason why dandelion helps clear stones and gravel from kidneys, gallbladder and bladder. It has also been used to treat stomach problems, and has been used to blood pressure. In ancient Chinese medicine, it has been recommended for issues related to “liver attacking spleen-pancreas”—describing the imbalance between liver enzymes and pancreatic enzymes.
Dandelion has been used in traditional treatments for hypoglycemia, hypertension, urinary tract infection, skin eruptions and breast cancer. It has also been used traditionally for appetite loss, flatulence, dyspepsia, constipation, gallstones, circulation problems, skin issues, spleen and liver complaints, hepatitis and anorexia.
Dr. Michael Tierra notes that, “even the most serious cases of hepatitis have rapidly been cured, sometimes within a week with dandelion root tea taken in cupful doses four to six times daily…”
One study found that dandelion extract significantly prevented cell death in Hep G2 (liver) cells, while stimulating TNF and IL-1 levels—illustrating its ability to arrest or slow liver disease and stimulate healing (Koo et al. 2004).
Dandelion was shown to stimulate the liver’s production of glutathione (GST)—an important antioxidant (Petlevski et al. 2003).
UDP-glucuronosyl transferase, another important detoxifying liver enzyme, was increased 244% from controls in vivo by dandelion extract (Maliakal and Wanwimolruk 2001).
Traditional medicine shows many other benefits of Dandelion
In Chinese medicine, dandelion is known to clear heat, more specifically in the liver, kidney and skin. These effects are consistent with dandelion’s traditional uses for rheumatism, gout, eczema, cardiac edema, dropsy and hypertension. Dandelion is also said to increase the flow of bile. Dandelion root has also been used to heal bone infections.
Dandelion has been used to increase urine excretion, and reduce pain and inflammation. Yet it also contains an abundance of potassium—which balances its diuretic effect (as potassium is lost during heavy urination). It has been documented as a blood and digestive tonic, laxative, stomachic, alterative, cholagogue, diuretic, choleretic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-coagulatory and prebiotic.
(Shi et al. 2008; Schutz et al. 2006; Melzig 2004; Gundermann and Müller 2007; Wood 1997; Weiss 1988, Miceli et al. 2009; Tierra 1980; Williard 1992; Schauenberg and Paris 1977; Potterton 1983; Ellingwood 1983; Rodriguez-Fragoso et al. 2008; Mabey 1988; Foster and Hobbs 2002; Griffith 2000)
Some research on Dandelion
Bone health: Among 222 different medicinal extracts, dandelion was one of ten that regulated and inhibited the differentiation of osteocytes to osteoclasts—associated with the resorption process that results in bone loss and bone remodeling (bone spurs and growths) (Youn et al. 2008).
Inhibits cell death: A study by researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada (Hu and Kitts 2004) found that dandelion extract suppressed prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) without causing cell death.
Reduces pain and inflammation: Further tests in the above study indicated that COX-2 was inhibited by the luteolin and luteolin-glucosides in dandelion.
In a 2007 study from researchers at the College of Pharmacy at the Sookmyung Women’s University in Korea (Jeon et al. 2008), dandelion was found to reduce inflammation, leukocytes, vascular permeability, abdominal cramping, pain and COX levels among exudates and in vivo.
Other studies have illustrated that dandelion inhibits both interleukin IL-6 and TNF-alpha—both inflammatory cytokines (Seo et al. 2005).
Leukotriene production was decreased with an extract of dandelion (Kashiwada et al. 2001).
Lowers LDL and artery inflammation: In another study from Canada (Hu and Kitts 2005), nitric oxide was inhibited. Reactive oxygen species—free radicals—were also significantly inhibited by dandelion—attributed to the plant’s phenolic acid content. This in turn prevented lipid oxidation—one of the mechanisms in heightened LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and artery inflammation.
Inhibits cancer: Tests against several types of tumor cell lines resulted in inhibition of cancer cells (Sigstedt 2008).
Promotes probiotics: Dandelion was found to stimulate fourteen different strains of bifidobacteria—important components of the immune system that inhibit pathogenic bacteria (Trojanova et al. 2004).
Clears toxins: Dandelion increased the liver’s production of superoxide dismutase and catalase, increasing the liver’s ability to purify the blood of toxins (Cho et al. 2001).
The lupeol trierpenes in dandelion illustrated antitumor effects in mice (Hata et al. 2000).
Dandelion illustrated the ability to inhibit IL-1 and inflammation in Kim et al. (2000) and Takasaki et al. (1999).
Hepatitis: In a study of 96 chronic hepatitis B cases at the Beijing TCM Hospital (Chen 1990), 46 controls were compared to 51 patients given a mix of herbs that included a dandelion species. After five months of use, the medicinal herb group had a total effective rate of 74.5% compared to 24.4% in the control group.
Herpes: In another study at the Jiangxi Medical College (Zheng 1990), 472 traditional medicinal herbs were screened against the type 1 herpes simplex virus. After repeated screens, ten “highly effective herbs” included dandelion.
Colitis: In a study of 24 patients with chronic colitis, pains in the large intestine vanished in 96% of the patients by the 15th day after being given a blend of herbs including dandelion (Chakŭrski et al. 1981).
Finding and preparing Dandelion
The flowers, roots and the leaves are edible. Dandelion leaves can be picked most of the time, but are tastier during the spring. The roots are typically collected by digging up during the summertime. They can be split and then sun-dried.
Infusion tea can be made from all the plant’s parts. Roots will typically require a little boiling time, but the leaves and flowers can be steeped in hot water for 15-20 minutes before drinking.
Natural areas are best to harvest from. Lawns or roadsides that have been sprayed or pounded by traffic can contain residues of these toxins. Dandelion supplements are also available, and so are dandelion teas.
References cited above in parenthesis can be found in Arthritis: The Botanical Solution.