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 have been used to treat
liver problems. Native Americans also used dandelion decoctions 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 primarily used as an appetite stimulant and
digestive aid while 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 a
head of 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 appetite
stimulant and digestive aid.
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. One advantage of dandelion
over other diuretics is that dandelion is a source of potassium, a nutrient
often lost through the use of other natural and synthetic diuretics.
Fresh or dried dandelion herbs are 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.
Some preliminary animal studies suggest that dandelion may help normalize
blood sugar levels and improve lipid profiles (namely, lower total cholesterol
and triglycerides while increasing HDL ["good"] cholesterol) in diabetic mice.
However, not all animal studies have had the same positive effect on blood
sugar. In addition, research needs to be conducted on people to know 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, prepared tea, or capsules.
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 to 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: 4 to 10 g three times a day
Dried root decoction: 2 to 8 g three times a day
Herb (stems and leaves): 4 to 10 g three times a day
Leaf tincture (1:5) in 30% alcohol: 100 to 150 drops three times a day
Powdered extract (4:1) leaf: 500 mg one to three times a day
Powdered extract (4:1) root: 500 mg one to three times a day
Root tincture (1:2) fresh root in 45% alcohol: 100 to 150 drops three
times a day
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and
treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger
side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For
these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a
practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.
Dandelion is generally considered safe. Some individuals, however, may
develop an allergic reaction from touching dandelion, and others may develop
People with gall bladder problems and gallstones should consult a health care
provider before eating dandelion.
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you
should not use dandelion preparations without first talking to your healthcare
Lithium Animal studies suggest that dandelion may worsen the
side effects associated with lithium, a medication commonly used to treat manic
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, or common dandelion, would interact with these antibiotics in the
same way. As a precaution, dandelion should not be taken at the same time as
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Review Date: April 2002
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Jacqueline A. Hart, MD,
Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University
and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh
(Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Enrico
Liva, ND, RPh, Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Steven Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric
Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry,
NH; David Winston, Herbalist (September 1999), Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc.,
Washington, NJ. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of
experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works,
Alexandria, VA;Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical
Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your
Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; R. Lynn Shumake, PD (March 2000),
Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary &
Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Ira Zunin,
MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for
Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.
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otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents
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currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a
guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information
provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare
practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts)
regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed