What is dandelion?
Dandelion is an extremely common plant found worldwide. It grows to a height
of about 12 inches, with oblong, green leaves and distinctive yellow flowers that
bloom year-round. When the plant matures, the flower turns into a fuzzy, globe-shaped
cluster that contains seeds for propagation.
In many countries, dandelion
is used as a food. It contains high amounts of vitamin A, and smaller amounts
of vitamin C, vitamin D, various B vitamins, iron, silicon, magnesium, manganese,
selenium and zinc. Dandelions leaves are used in salads and teas, and since
the plant is closely related to chicory, its roots are sometimes used as a coffee
substitute. Both the leaves and root are used in herbal preparations.
Why do we need dandelion? What is it used for?
Historically, dandelion has been used to treat problems relating to the liver, gallbladder, kidneys and
joints. Dandelion leaves and root have been used to treat constipation, indigestion,
heartburn, and to remove water from the body, while the root is used to increase
bile production in the gallbladder and to treat liver problems. Animal studies
have found that dandelion leaves act as a diuretic and are comparable to prescription
medications for their effects, but these studies have not been conducted in humans.
In traditional Chinese medicine, dandelion is used during instances when there is
liver involvement with heat and toxins in the blood. These conditions include
jaundice, hepatitis, urinary tract infections, red or swollen eyes, and abscesses.
How much dandelion should I take?
As a liver tonic or to stimulate digestion, many herbalists
recommend 3-5 grams of dried dandelion root or 102 teaspoons of
a dandelion tincture three times per day. As a diuretic, 4-10 grams of dried leaves
can be added to one cup of boiling water and drunk as a decoction, or 1-2 teaspoons
of fresh dandelion juice combined with milk can be used three times per day. Fresh
dandelion juice is considered the most effective.
What forms of dandelion are available?
Dandelion is available either fresh or as a dried root.
Some stores sell dandelion tinctures, extracts and infusions. Dandelion juice
can be made by pressing the leaves.
What can happen if I take too much dandelion? Are there any
interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?
Because dandelion stimulates production of bile, it should
not be used by patients with gallstones or an obstruction of the bile ducts. Patients
with stomach ulcers or gastritis are generally encouraged to avoid dandelion,
as it may stimulate overproduction of stomach acid.
The milky substance in the stem and leaves of fresh dandelion may cause an allergic rash in some people.
People with a confirmed sensitivity to inulin, a fiber widely found in fruits,
vegetables and plants, should avoid dandelion.
Certain medications may interact with dandelion. Loop diuretics, spironolactone, thiazide diuretics and triamterene
may all react adversely with dandelion products. It may also reduce the effectiveness
of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin.
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