Dandelion is a member of the Asteraceae/Compositae family closely related to chicory. It is a perennial herb, native to the Northern hemisphere, and found growing wild in meadows, pastures, and waste grounds of temperate zones. Most commercial dandelion is cultivated in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the United Kingdom.
Dandelion was commonly used in Native American medicine. The Iroquois, Ojibwe, and Rappahannock prepared the root and herb to treat kidney disease, upset stomach, and heartburn. In traditional Arabian medicine, dandelion has been used to treat liver and spleen ailments. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), dandelion is combined with other herbs to treat liver disease, to enhance immune response to upper respiratory tract infections, bronchitis, or pneumonia, and as a compress for mastitis (breast inflammation).
Dandelion root and leaf are used widely in Europe for gastrointestinal ailments. The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) recommends dandelion root for the restoration of liver function, to treat upset stomach, and to treat loss of appetite. The German Commission E authorizes the use of combination products containing dandelion root and herb for similar illnesses. Some modern naturopathic physicians assert that dandelion can detoxify the liver and gallbladder, reduce side effects of medications metabolized (processed) by the liver, and relieve symptoms associated with liver disease.
Dandelion is generally regarded as safe with rare side effects including contact dermatitis, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal upset.
Dandelion is used as a salad ingredient, and the roasted root and its extracts are sometimes used as a coffee substitute.
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These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Research in laboratory animals suggests that dandelion root may possess anti-inflammatory properties. There is a lack of well-conducted human studies currently available in this area.
Several laboratory studies report antioxidant properties of dandelion flower extract, although this research is preliminary, and effects in humans are not known.
Limited animal research does not provide a clear assessment of the effects of dandelion on tumor growth. There is a lack of well-conducted human studies currently available in this area.
There is a report with several patients that suggests that a combination herbal preparation containing dandelion improved chronic pain associated with colitis. Because multiple herbs were used, and this study is not well designed or reported, the effects of dandelion are not clear.
There is limited research on the effects of dandelion on blood sugar levels in animals. Effects in humans are not known.
Diuretic (increased urine flow)
Dandelion leaves have traditionally been used to increase urine production and excretion. Animal studies report mixed results, and there is a lack of reliable human research in this area.
One human study reports improved liver function in people with hepatitis B after taking a combination herbal preparation containing dandelion root, called Jiedu Yanggan Gao (also including