What is Dandelion?
Dandelions are found North America, Europe, and Asia, and they can be produced without pollination. The plants can grow to a length of 12 inches and they have spatula-like leaves that are shiny and smooth. The roots tend to be brittle and filled with a substance usually bitter to the taste with an obnoxious odor. Dandelions contain vitamins and minerals and have shown several benefits, with the potential of utilizing every part of the plant. The leaves may be used as a diuretic and for the treatment of kidney-related conditions, for stimulating appetite, and for helping with digestion. The flowers may be used as an antioxidant and the roots are used for detoxification. Dandelion may be utilized as a whole plant or may be obtained in supplement form.
8 Facts About Dandelion
- Dandelion is from the French word dent de lion which means “tooth of the lion.”
- Early colonists brought the herb to North America.
- The flowers of the dandelion plant open in the morning and close in the evening (or when it’s overcast).
- The flowers of the dandelion plant are used to make wine.
- Dandelion is normally classified as a flower, though many consider it a weed.
- Dandelions enhance soil composition by adding nutrients and minerals, making it more beneficial to other plants.
- Due to its bright color and structure, dandelions attract pollinating insects.
- Dandelions release ethylene gas, which helps to ripen fruits.
Where is Dandelion Found?
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale ) is a common meadow herb of the Asteraceae or sunflower family. There are about 100 species of dandelion, and all are beneficial. This sun-loving beauty is a native of Greece, naturalized in temperate regions throughout the world, and familiar to nearly everyone. The perennial dandelion grows freely wherever it can find a bit of earth and a place in the sun. …
There are numerous folk names for this widely-used herb. They include pissabed, Irish daisy, blow ball, lion’s tooth, bitterwort, wild endive, priest’s crown, doonheadclock, yellow gowan, puffball, clock flower, swine snort, fortune-teller, and cankerwort.
Dandelion may be used in its natural state or as a supplement in liquid extract, teas, tablets, and capsules.
Dandelion may be eaten in a salad, brewed as a tea, or just eaten raw. It may also be taken in its supplemental form, either as capsules or a liquid extract. If you happen to be allergic to dandelion, exposure can be minimized by simple avoidance of the fresh plant or supplements containing dandelion.
Health Benefits of Dandelion
Dandelion is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and compounds which make it very beneficial in the treatment of certain disease and conditions. Dandelion contains 535 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin K, the vitamin which plays an integral role in building strong bones, proper formation of blood cells, maintaining proper brain function, treating neurological disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers.
Dandelion contains 112 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin A, which has functionality in skin and eye health. In addition dandelion also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds which absorb harmful light rays and provides protection to the retina.
Vitamin C and calcium are also found in dandelion, and these play an important role in bone health, nervous system health, and boosting one’s immune system.
In addition, dandelion contains thiamine, iron, potassium, manganese, folate, magnesium, phosphorus and copper which finds functionality in cardiovascular health and bodily function.
Dandelion has also found functionality in the treatment of certain disease and conditions such as kidney disease, liver problems, acne, heartburn, appendicitis, inflammation, joint pains, constipation, anemia, diabetes and urinary tract infection. Vitamin C and lutein help the proper functioning of the liver by reducing hemorrhaging and maintaining a proper production of bile which promotes a healthy digestive system.
Dandelion assists in the treatment of diabetes by the production of insulin and by its diuretic effects, which has the overall cumulative effect of removing excess sugar from the blood and at the same time regulating the blood sugar level.
The following properties of dandelion makes it an excellent treatment for acne: it is a good detoxifier, diuretic, stimulant, and antioxidant; it has germicidal, antimicrobial and fungicidal properties. The mechanism behind this is that dandelion helps regulate the hormones associated with puberty as well as opens the pores on the surface of the skin so that the toxins produced can be released effectively. Furthermore the white substance found in the root of the dandelion plant is perfect for applying to the skin for treatment of the symptoms, due to its antimicrobial property.
When combined with another herb—namely uva ursi, also known as bearberry—dandelion is effective in treating urinary tract infections and other complications linked to the reproductive system. Uva ursi has antibacterial properties and dandelion has diuretic and antimicrobial properties; together, both combat the root cause of urinary tract problems. The fiber in dandelion relieves gastrointestinal problems and aids digestion by adding bulk to the diet; this in turn has other health benefits associated with it.
Is Dandelion Ever Bad for You?
Dandelion is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and minerals and is generally considered safe for otherwise healthy individuals; however, there are some side effects associated with it, and people with certain conditions and diseases should be careful when consuming dandelion.
Dandelion may cause allergic reactions in persons who are allergic to ragweed, chamomile, daisies, latex, or iodine tend to be allergic to dandelion and as such should avoid it. Allergy may be manifested in the form of skin irritation, itching, mouth sores and or anaphylactic shock. Furthermore, a substance known as inulin found in dandelion causes an allergic reaction which can prove to be quite dangerous.
Dandelion may cause gastrointestinal discomfort such as increased stomach acid, heartburn, upset stomach, and diarrhea.
Because of the diuretic effects and increased production of insulin caused by dandelion, blood sugar level is reduced; however, if an individual is already on medication to control their blood sugar level, a condition known as hypoglycemia may occur, which is just as life-threatening. Also because of this effect, diabetics should exercise caution as it interacts with medications used to treat this condition.
Dandelion may decrease the effectiveness of antibiotics as a result of its diuretic characteristic; as more of the medication is flushed out of the body, less is absorbed to be utilized. Medications which are changed by the liver—such as Zofran or Haldol—may be rendered ineffective, as dandelion increases the rate at which these medications are changed, thereby decreasing their overall effect on the body. Dandelion also interacts with antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin or norfloxacin, and anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen. Other interactions include increasing the side effects of some drugs; dandelion contains coumarins which increases the risk of bleeding when drugs such as aspirin has been administered.
Persons with bipolar disorder or related conditions for which lithium is administered should avoid dandelion, as it worsens the side effects of lithium. Furthermore, dandelion may decrease how much lithium and potassium is removed from the body when water pills are being taken. A buildup of lithium or potassium in the body may lead to heart complications or other related problems.
Persons who are on diuretic medications should take precaution, as important electrolytes may be lost due to the diuretic effects of dandelion. Individuals on antibiotics and or blood thinners (anticoagulants like warfarin or aspirin) should consult a health care provider, as dandelion may interact with these drugs and cause adverse reactions.
The Bottom Line
Dandelion—once considered a nuisance and a problematic weed—has proven to have quite beneficial effects, ranging from bone health to skin health. The vitamin and mineral content makes it ideal for treating bone-related disorders such as osteoporosis, detoxification of the liver and eye care. The fiber content addresses issues of constipation and other digestive disorders.
Dandelion, being rich in antioxidants, helps to mop up free radicals which can cause deleterious effects on the body, thereby reducing the risk of cancer of the colon, prostate, and the stomach.
But in spite of the many benefits that dandelion offers, it may prove to be problematic for some individuals who do not tolerate it very well. For persons who are suffering from certain diseases or are on particular drugs, it is highly recommended that before consuming dandelion or taking it as a supplement these persons consult their health care provider for proper guidance on whether or not this is suitable for them.