I wanted to continue on the theme of detoxification from last week and share with you some information about dandelion, Taraxacum officinale. Dandelion supports the liver, and since the liver is one of the main organs responsible for removing toxins from our body, dandelion can be a wonderful supplement, tea, or vegetable to consume during any detoxification or detox program. You can also consume it on a daily basis, and not just during a detox. Here is more interesting information about dandelions.
1. Despite Being a Weed, Dandelion is a Healthy Herb
We commonly know dandelion as a weed and find it readily in gardens, grasses, green areas, and even on roadsides. While many consider it a nuisance, and struggle to get rid of dandelions, others cultivate it for its health benefits.
Dandelion belongs to the Asteraceae family, and besides its hepatic or liver toning effects it also functions as an alterative, anti-inflammatory, bitter tonic, diuretic, laxative, digestive, and nutritive, amongst others (Petersen, 2014). The roots, leaves, and flowers can be used for culinary and medicinal purposes to treat conditions such as acne, psoriasis, arthritis, indigestion, jaundice, sluggish liver, and hepatitis, among others (Petersen, 2014).
Consuming dandelion leaves as part of the daily diet helps to treat various skin conditions including acne, warts, sores, eczema, and psoriasis. The leaves contain valuable nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. These include “iron, copper, silicon, magnesium, sodium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, vitamin A,” thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, vitamin D, choline, proteins, and fats (Petersen, 2014). They work as antioxidants, given that they contain luteolin and lueolin 7-glucoside.
Dandelion provides a good source of potassium, which is a valuable nutrient. Potassium, and thus dandelion, are useful in the treatment of hypertension. However, the herb should be used with caution on those taking potassium-sparing diuretics, as they could increase their risk for hyperkalemia (Petersen, 2014).
Sulfur found within the herb helps it function as a cleanser since sulfur stimulates the elimination of urea and uric acid. In other words, dandelion is a diuretic. In addition, dandelion contains inulin, which not only helps to regulate the pancreas and is useful in the treatment of hypoglycemia and diabetes, but also serves as a food source for beneficial bacteria within the intestines called bifidobacteria, stimulating their growth. As a result, dandelion is a prebiotic (Petersen, 2014).
There is no evidence of a recommended dose for dandelion supplements, but the herb has been administered as a dried root, leaf extract, and root tincture daily for a period of up to 4 months (Ulbricht, 2010). It should be noted that T. officinale might inhibit the cytochrome P450 IA2 pathway, and as a result it may affect the action of some drugs such as amitripyline, haloperidol, odansetron, propranolol, theophylline, and verapamil (Petersen, 2014). It also may also affect the absorption of drugs that are UDP-glucuronosyltransferase substrates, such as oral contraceptives and acetaminophen. Dandelion may interact with quinoline antibiotics (Petersen, 2014).
2. Dandelion Is A Healthy Addition to Your Meals & Drinks
The leaves can be used to extract juice as well as be prepared as a vegetable. They can be eaten raw or steamed, and incorporated into side dishes or in salads. However, it is best to collect the leaves before the plant flowers in order to avoid them tasting bitter.
The root can be used either fresh or dried. The roots contain caffeic acid, and when dried and ground can be used as a coffee alternative. Dandelion coffee can be used by those who are looking to reduce their coffee intake, or during a detox program to satisfy their need for a coffee-like taste.
The whole plant makes a great option for making a refreshing non-alcoholic beer. Just incorporate yeast, lemon, sugar, cream of tartar, ginger and water. The flowers can be used to make wine (Petersen, 2014).
3. Dandelion Can Be Found Everywhere, But Not At First
The herb is natively from Greece (Petersen, 2014), but given its ability to grow quite quickly in diverse environments, it is widely available in many parts of the world. It is grown for commercial purposes in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, United Kingdom (UK), and Tibet (American Botanical Council (ABC), 2013).
For dandelion to be sold as an herb for its therapeutic benefits, there are many specifications in should fulfill. Pharmacopeia grade dandelion leaf has to be made out of leaves collected before flowering. Pharmacopeia grade dandelion root has to be made out of dried roots and rhizome collected in the fall (ABC, 2013).
In the UK it is recognized for its health benefits, and is included in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the British Herbal Compendium (ABC, 2013). It is in the General Sale List of herbal medicines available for internal and external use (Wichtl, 2004). However, in order to incorporate dandelion into a commercially available product in the UK it requires a product license.
Dandelion was introduced into the United States (US) many years ago, and was commonly used by Native Americans (Ulbricht, 2010). It is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a result, it can be readily found in dietary supplements, as a natural extract, as a tea, dried root, and in other forms (Wichtl, 2004).
Canadian Native populations also used dandelion. The Bella Coola tribe in British Columbia used it as an analgesic (ABC, 2013). Currently, it requires pre-market authorization by Canadian agencies before being incorporated in any medicine. It is approved as an ingredient in more than 100 over the counter herbal medicines sold in Canada (Wichtl, 2004). It has been added to homeopathic medicines and vaccines such as Summer Pollen Vaccine (Wichtl, 2004).
The Australian Government’s Department of Health did not provide specific regulatory information on the herb, but over 600 dietary and herbal supplements containing dandelion were approved for sale in Australia (Therapeutic Goods Administration, n.d.).
Although some think of dandelions as pesky herbs, they can be a great addition to a healthy lifestyle. I encourage you to consume dandelion as a tea, vegetable, or supplement. But, I caution you against picking up dandelion from the side of the road. Dandelions on or close to roadsides will absorb the toxic pollutants released from vehicles and road work, so be sure your dandelions are clean and toxic-free.
American Botanical Council. (2013). Dandelion root with herb. Herbal Medicine. Retrieved on December 17, 2014 from http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbstream/achs/HerbalMedicine/index.html#param.wapp?sw_page=@@@@@@expEView%3Fufgp%3DDandelionrootwithherb.html
Petersen, D. (2014). Herb 504 Advanced Herbal Materia Medica III. Portland, OR: American College of Healthcare Sciences.
Therapeutic Goods Administration. (n.d.). Search results for “Taraxacum officinale.” Australian Government Department of Health. Retrieved on December 18, 2014 from http://search-au.funnelback.com/s/search.html?query=lentinus+edodes&collection=tga-artg
Ulbricht, C. E. (2010). Natural Standard: Herb & Supplement Guide- An Evidence-Based Reference. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.
Wichtl, M. (Ed.). (2004). Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals: A Handbook for the Practice on a Scientific Basis, 3rd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.