The health benefits of dandelion include relief from liver disorders, diabetes, urinary disorders, acne, jaundice, cancer and anemia. It also helps in maintaining bone health, skin care and is a benefit to weight loss programs. These and other health benefits are currently being studied for complete validation by a number of international institutions.
There are many varieties of dandelion, but the common dandelion is scientifically known as Taraxacum Officinale. In terms of history, the plant is believed to have evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia.
Dandelion, which literally translates into “lion’s tooth” in French, is rich in vitamin-A, C, iron and calcium and detoxifiers which explains its common inclusion in medicines. Below, we will discuss the different things that benefit can do for us, besides decorating our gardens.
Health Benefits of Dandelions
Bone Health: Dandelions are rich in calcium, which is essential for the growth and strength of bones, and they are rich in antioxidants like vitamin-C and Luteolin, which protect bones from age-related damage. This inevitable damage is often due to free radicals, and is frequently seen as bone frailty, weakness, and decreased density.
Liver Disorders: Dandelions can help the liver in many ways. While the antioxidants like vitamin-C and Luteolin keep the liver functioning in optimal gear and protect it from aging, other compounds in dandelions help treat hemorrhaging in the liver. Furthermore, dandelions aid in maintaining the proper flow of bile, while also stimulating the liver and promoting digestion. Proper digestion can reduce the chances of constipation, which in turn reduces the risk of more serious gastrointestinal issues.
Diabetes: Dandelion juice can help diabetic patients by stimulating the production of insulin from the pancreas, thereby keeping the blood sugar level low. Since dandelions are diuretic in nature, they increase urination in diabetic patients, which helps remove the excess sugar from the body. Diabetics are also prone to renal problems, so the diuretic properties of dandelion can help removing the sugar deposition in the kidneys through increased urination. Furthermore, dandelion juice is slightly bitter to taste, which effectively lowers the sugar level in the blood, as all bitter substances do. Consistently lower blood sugar and a more regulated system of insulin release prevents dangerous spikes and plunges for diabetic patients, so dandelion extracts can be a perfect solution!
Urinary Disorders: Dandelions are highly diuretic in nature, so they help eliminate deposits of toxic substances in the kidneys and the urinary tract. The disinfectant properties of dandelions also inhibit microbial growth in the urinary system. In fact, the diuretic properties of dandelions are so strong that in France, the flower is also called “pissenlit” which means “urinate in bed”.
Skin Care: Dandelion sap, also known as dandelion milk, is useful in treating skin diseases which are caused by microbial and fungal infections. This treatment stems from the fact that the sap is highly alkaline and has germicidal, insecticidal and fungicidal properties. You should be careful while using this sap, and avoid any contact with the eyes. This sap can be used on itches, ringworm, eczema, and other skin conditions without the risk of side effects or hormonal disturbances commonly caused by pharmaceutical skin treatments.
Acne: Dandelion juice is a good detoxifier, diuretic, stimulant and antioxidant. These four properties make it a great treatment for acne. Before we know how it treats acne, we must know what causes it. Acne typically arises during the teenage years, when the body undergoes many physiological and hormonal changes. The flood of new hormones that bring about the changes in the body must be regulated, but if they don’t remain at a healthy ratio, they tend to deposit somewhat toxic substances into the body. These toxins tend to come out along with sweat through the sweat glands or sebaceous glands on the skin.
During these hormonal changes, these glands secrete more oils which, when mixed with dead skin, block the pores and the secretion of toxins is obstructed. Therefore, the toxic substances cannot escape and eventually result in acne. This situation is exacerbated by the microbial infections on the effected places. Dandelion juice, being a stimulant, diuretic and detoxifier in nature, can help regulate proper secretion of hormones, increase sweating and widen the pores. All of these factors help to facilitate the removal of toxins through sweat and urine. Furthermore, dandelion sap, if externally applied to areas with acne, can inhibit microbial infection and reduce the frustrating signs of acne. Also, it can speed up healing due to its vitamin-C content, so the scars and ugly red inflammation that traditionally follows acne treatment will be less noticeable.
Weight Loss: Our urine consists of up to 4% fat, so the more we urinate, the more water and fats are lost from the body. Dandelions, being diuretic in nature, promotes urination and thereby helps lose the dreaded “water weight” without causing any side effects. Furthermore, dandelions are low in calories, like most leafy greens, but for the small expense of calories (~1oo cal./4 cups), you get a huge amount of beneficial side effects. This is also why dandelions are sometimes used as sweeteners, because they are not packed with unhealthy sugars.
Cancer: Dandelions are high in antioxidants, such as vitamin-C and Luteolin, which reduce the free radicals (major cancer-causing agents) in the body, therebyreducing the risk of cancer. It also detoxifies the body, which further helps protect from the development of tumors and various cancers. Luteolin actually poisons essential components of cancer cells when it binds to them, rendering them ineffective and unable to reproduce. This characteristic has been demonstrated most notably with prostate cancer, although there are other studies being done.
Jaundice: Jaundice is primarily a disorder of the liver in which the organ starts overproducing bile, which ultimately enters the bloodstream and wreaks havoc on the body’s metabolism. The excess bile is also reflected through color of the skin, and eyes, which typically develop a yellow tint. The treatment of jaundice includes three main steps. First, you need to curb the production of bile. Second, you must remove the excess bile from the body, and third, you have to fight the underlying viral infection.
Dandelions are very helpful in all of these steps. It promotes liver health and regulates bile production. Being diuretic in nature, it promotes urination, where the excess bile can be eliminated. Finally, as an antioxidant and disinfectant due to the presence of vitamin-C and Luteolin, it fights viral infections as well. It is most beneficial when taken with sugarcane juice, since it replaces the sugar in the body that is significantly lowered due to the impact of excess bile. A lack of sugar can cause extreme fatigue and weakness, so dandelions help boost your energy levels after infection!
Gall Bladder Disorders: Dandelions are very beneficial for the gall bladder and liver, because they improve their general functioning, protects them from ill effects of oxidants and infections, and regulates the various secretions from both organs.
Constipation: Certain components of dandelion, namely the high levels of dietary fiber, make it abeneficial aid for digestion and proper intestinal health. Dietary fiber stimulates healthy bowel movements by adding bulk to stool, and also reduces chances of constipation as well as diarrhea. It regulates bowel movements, which can prevent more serious gastrointestinal issues. It is commonly prescribed for children who are experiencing constipation, as it is relatively soothing on the stomach. It has also been used to stimulate the appetite, particularly following trauma or surgery.
Anemia: Dandelions have relatively good levels of iron, vitamins, and protein content. While iron is the integral part of hemoglobin in the blood, vitamins like vitamin-B and protein are essential for the formation of red blood cells and certain other components of the blood. This way dandelion can help anemic people keep their condition in check.
High Blood Pressure: Urination is an effective way of lowering blood pressure. In fact, most of the modern medicines for lowering blood pressure are based on this phenomenon. Dandelion juice, being diuretic in nature, increases urination, both in quantity and frequency. Therefore, it helps lower high blood pressure. The fiber in dandelion is also helpful in reducing cholesterol and thereby assists in lowering blood pressure, since cholesterol is one of the factors that increases blood pressure. Finally, there is the high potassium content of dandelions, which is very effective in lowering blood pressure by replacing sodium.
Other Benefits: Dandelions can also be used as a vegetable and is a good source of fiber. It promotes digestion, and in the past, it was used to treat scurvy, because of its high levels of vitamin-C. It also has healing effects on dyspepsia, infections in the stomach, intestines and urinary system.
The species of Taraxacum are tap-rooted biennial or perennial herbaceous plants, native to temperate areas of the globe.
The leaves are 5–25 cm long or longer, simple and basal, entire or lobed, forming a rosette above the central taproot. The flower heads are yellow to orange coloured, and are open in the daytime but closed at night. The heads are borne singly on a hollow stem (scape) that rises 1–10 cm or more above the leaves and exudes a milky latex when broken. A rosette may produce several flowering stems at a time. The flower heads are 2–5 cm in diameter and consist entirely of ray florets. The flower heads mature into spherical seed heads called "blowballs"or "clocks" (in both British and American English) containing many single-seeded fruits called achenes. Each achene is attached to a pappus of fine hairs, which enable wind-aided dispersal over long distances.
The flower head is surrounded by bracts (sometimes mistakenly called sepals) in two series. The inner bracts are erect until the seeds mature, then flex downward to allow the seeds to disperse; the outer bracts are always reflexed downward. Some species drop the "parachute" from the achenes; the hair-like parachutes are calledpappus, and they are modified sepals. Between the pappus and the achene, there is a stalk called a beak, which elongates as the fruit matures. The beak breaks off from the achene quite easily, separating the seed from the parachute.
Segment of pappus fiber showing barbs.
A number of species of Taraxacum are seed dispersed ruderals that rapidly colonize disturbed soil, especially the common dandelion (T. officinale), which has been introduced over much of the temperate world. After flowering is finished, the dandelion flower head dries out for a day or two. The dried petals and stamens drop off, the bracts reflex (curve backwards), and the parachute ball opens into a full sphere.
Dandelions are found on all continents and have been gathered for food since prehistory, but the varieties cultivated for consumption are mainly native to Eurasia. A perennial plant, its leaves will grow back if the taproot is left intact. To make leaves more palatable, they are often blanched to remove bitterness.or sauteed in the same way as spinach. Dandelion leaves and buds have been a part of traditional Slovenian, Sephardic,Chinese, and Korean cuisine. In Crete, Greece, the leaves of a variety called Mari (Μαρί), Mariaki (Μαριάκι) or Koproradiko (Κοπροράδικο) are eaten by locals, either raw or boiled, in salads. Taraxacum megalorhizon, a species endemic to Crete, is eaten in the same way; it is found only at high altitudes (1000 to 1600 m) and in fallow sites, and is called pentaramia (πενταράμια) or agrioradiko (αγριοράδικο).
The flower petals, along with other ingredients, usually including citrus, are used to make dandelion wine. The ground, roasted roots can be used as a caffeine-free dandelion coffee. Dandelion was also traditionally used to make the traditional British soft drink dandelion and burdock, and is one of the ingredients of root beer. Also, dandelions were once delicacies eaten by the Victorian gentry, mostly in salads and sandwiches.
Dandelion leaves contain abundant vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron and manganese.
Main article: Medicinal properties of dandelion
Historically, dandelion was prized for a variety of medicinal properties, and it contains a wide number of pharmacologically active compounds. Dandelion is used as a herbal remedy in Europe, North America and China. It has been used in herbal medicine to treat infections, bile and liver problems, and as a diuretic.
Dandelion pollen may cause allergic reactions when eaten, or adverse skin reactions in sensitive individuals.Contact dermatitis after handling has also been reported, probably from the latex in the stems and leaves. Due to its high potassium level, dandelion can also increase the risk of hyperkalemia when taken with potassium-sparing diuretics. The consumption of dandelion leaves has also been implicated in occurrences offasciolosis.
As source of natural rubber
Dandelions secrete latex when the tissues are cut or broken, yet in the wild type the latex content is low and varies greatly. Using modern cultivation methods and optimization techniques, scientists in the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) in Germany developed a cultivar that is suitable for commercial production of natural rubber. The latex produced exhibits the same quality as the natural rubber from rubber trees. In collaboration with Continental Tires, IME is building a pilot facility. As of May 2014, the first prototype test tires made with blends from dandelion-rubber are scheduled to be tested on public roads over the next few years.