Dandelions are not only a notorious weed and granter of wishes but can also treat many common health problems. Dandelion is easily added to your diet in the form of a tasty side dish, sauce, or tea. Read on to learn more about the proven health benefits of dandelion, and its side effects.
What Is Dandelion?
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is known as a garden weed and belongs to a group of flowering plants (Taraxacum). The common name is derived from the French word dent-de-lion, which means lion’s tooth [R].
Dandelion has been used in the traditional medicine of many cultures for centuries. In Russia, India, China, Turkey, and Mexico, dandelion was used for treating ailments such as diabetes, blisters, spleen, liver, and gallbladder issues [R, R].
The dandelion plant is entirely edible from root and greens to flower. The majority of the beneficial properties of dandelion are common among root, greens, and flower. Health benefits may depend on what part of the plant is used, what species, and how it is extracted [R].
Dandelion is a rich source of many vitamins and minerals such as [R]:
- Vitamin A (1400 IU/100g) [R]
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate)
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
Mechanisms of Action
Dandelion acts by:
- Protecting cells from damage and oxidation (PI3K–AKT) [R]
- Reducing inflammation (TNF-alpha, NF-kB, mTOR, IL-6, COX-2) [R, R, R, R, R]
- Fighting cancer (TNF-a and IL-1a) [R, R, R, R]
- Lowering cholesterol (AMPK ) [R]
Health Benefits of Dandelion
1) Dandelion Acts as a Diuretic
Dandelion has been used as a diuretic for centuries. In France, it is commonly referred to as pissenlit which roughly translates to “wet the bed.”
A pilot trial of 17 participants found that dandelion extract increased the frequency and volume of urination for up to 5 hours [R].
2) Dandelion Is an Antioxidant
Rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet supplemented with dandelion root had increased antioxidant enzyme activity [R].
The leaves and especially the petals of dandelions contain phenolic compounds that showed antioxidant properties in human blood [R].
Dandelion roots also showed antioxidant activity in fat cells (adipocytes) of mice [R].
3) Dandelion Reduces Inflammation
Dandelion protects against damage in several mouse models of lung injury by reducing the production of important inflammatory markers (such as TNF-a and IL-6) and blocking inflammatory pathways (Akt/PI3K/mTOR) [R, R, R, R, R].
The Korean dandelion (Taraxacum coreanum Nakai) blocks the production of multiple inflammation markers in mouse immune cells [R].
In mice with life-threatening infections, the Korean dandelion reduced multiple markers of inflammation (NO, PGE2, iNOS, COX-2, IKK phosphorylation, MAPK, and STAT1 activation) and increased survival by 83% [R].
NF-kB is one of the most important factors driving inflammation in the body. Dandelion extract protected cell lines by decreasing inflammation. Specifically, complex sugars (polysaccharides) in dandelion reduced inflammation in mouse cells by blocking NF-kB [R, R, R].
4) Dandelion May Protect the Liver
One of the most popular reasons for consuming dandelion is its protective effect on the liver. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of dandelion leaf extract protected against numerous models of liver damage in mice and rats [R, R, R, R, R].
When pregnant rats exposed to toxic lead consumed a diet rich in dandelion, it protected the liver of their newborn pups [R].
5) Dandelion May Help Cancer
Mice consuming dandelion extract had significantly slowed the growth of tumors [R].
Dandelion root extract caused cell death in several different cancer cell models including leukemias, stomach cancer, and drug-resistant melanoma. It did not affect healthy cells, making it a safe potential treatment [R, R, R, R].
Dandelion extract killed colon cancer in cell studies [R].
Dandelion leaf extract slowed the growth of breast cancer cells and the spreading of prostate cancer cells. The root extract stopped breast cancer cells from spreading. Slowing down cancer spreading could be important for stopping metastasis (cancer growth at secondary sites) [R].
6) Dandelion May Help Diabetes
There are several molecules found in dandelion, such as sesquiterpene lactones, taraxasterol, taraxerol, and chlorogenic acid, which could potentially be used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. In fact, dandelion acts similarly to standard anti-diabetic drugs in a test tube (blocking alpha-glucosidase) [R, R].
7) Dandelion May Reduce Cholesterol
Rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet supplemented with dandelion extract had improved cholesterol profiles [R].
8) Dandelion May Fight Infections
The microbe-fighting properties also make dandelion a potentially useful treatment for urinary tract infections [R].
9) Dandelion Protects Against Skin Damage
A less common species of dandelion (Taraxacum platycarpum) extract hydrated the skin in mice. It increased an important compound for preventing skin dryness (filaggrin) [R].
Melanin is one of the major determining factors of skin color and is produced in response to UV light exposure. Dandelion blocked melanin production in mouse cells, which could be beneficial for decreasing freckles and sunspots [R].
10) Dandelion Aids Digestion
There are numerous anecdotal reports and traditional uses of dandelion for improving digestion [R].
Dandelion extract sped up stomach emptying in mice and rats. This allows for food to move more smoothly from the stomach to the small intestine [R].
11) Dandelion May Boost Energy
12) Dandelion May Protect the Kidneys
Common dandelion protected the kidneys in rats with kidney damage [R].
13) Dandelion May Protect Against Ulcers
14) Dandelion May Treat Anemia
People with anemia have low levels of red blood cells in the body, often caused by lack of iron. Not only is dandelion a rich source of iron, but dandelion extract increased red blood cell count as well as hemoglobin levels in mice [R].
15) Dandelion May Help Treat Depression
16) Dandelion May Treat Mastitis
Mastitis is one of the most dreaded complications of breastfeeding for new mothers. It involves flu-like symptoms and hot, painful lumps in the breast tissue. The oral dandelion extract had a protective effect in a mouse model of mastitis by reducing secretion of TNF-alpha [R].
Treatment of a mastitis mouse cell model with dandelion extract also blocked key inflammatory proteins [R].
17) Dandelion May Improve Bone Health
Dandelion extract stopped the activity of cells that cause bone disease in a study on mouse bone marrow cells [R].
18) Dandelion May Boost Weight Loss
Many people report using dandelion tea for weight loss, but there is little scientific evidence to back this claim. Weight loss claims likely stem from diuretic effects, which results from temporarily reducing body fluids [R].
19) Dandelion May Prevent Blood Clots
A small protein was isolated from Taraxacum platycarpum that blocks thrombin. Thrombin is responsible for blood clotting and is a common target for anticoagulant drugs [R].
Limitations and Caveats
Although numerous studies have been published on the health benefits of dandelion, most are performed in cell lines and require expansion to animal and human studies in order to confirm those findings. The studies performed in human subjects are quite limited and have a small sample size.
Dandelion extract had minimal side effects in studies on rabbits, mice, and rats [R].
Dandelion does not cause damage to healthy cells in human cell studies [R].
However, allergies are possible. A study of 235 adults with various skin conditions tested for an allergy to dandelion found that 1.3% had a skin reaction [R].
There is a documented case of low blood sugar in a 58-year-old woman with type 2 diabetes [R].
Contrary to traditional use, dandelion decreased fertility in male rats, when given orally for 2 months [R].
Safety of long-term use has not been established, and it is not recommended to ingest amounts greater than those found in food, for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or for children [R].
- Dandelion can dangerously raise levels of drugs that suppress the immune response (cyclosporine and sirolimus) (by blocking CYP3A4) [R].
- Dandelion can interact with antibiotics, which may have unexpected consequences (increased or decreased antibiotic action). Dandelion changed the action of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin (Cipro) in rats [R].
- Dandelions contain coumarins, which could theoretically increase the risk of bleeding if taken with other supplements that affect blood clotting [R].
- Dandelion has high amounts of vitamin A, so caution should be taken if supplementing to avoid toxicity [R].
Dandelion in Combination with Other Supplements
A human study treated 24 patients with chronic gut inflammation (colitis) with dandelion in combination with other herbal supplements. Afterward, 95% of patients reported that pain had disappeared after 15 days of treatment, and the majority of issues with bowel movements were resolved [R].
An additional study (prospective cohort) using a combination of artichoke leaf, dandelion radix, turmeric rhizome, and rosemary essential oil-treated 311 human patients with indigestion (functional dyspepsia) and found that 38% of patients had a 50% reduction in all symptoms within 30 days [R].
Dandelion can be taken as food or supplement.
There are many simple ways to include dandelion in your diet, like consuming dandelion greens. Microwaving or steaming dandelion can increase total antioxidant activity by nearly 61% [R].
Other preparations include:
Dosing recommendations (for adults 18 years or older) vary based on preparation. The following is recommended [R]:
- Dried root: 2 to 8 grams as a tea or infusion
- Leaf fluid extract: 4 to 8 mL of 1:1 alcohol extract
- Root tincture: 1 to 2 tsp of 1:5 tincture in 45% alcohol
Most people take dandelion to reduce fluid buildup in the body (as a diuretic) and report overall good results.
Users report numerous other benefits from dandelion supplementation, including:
- Treating constipation
- Decreasing inflammation
- Aiding digestion
Several users reported lower blood pressure after 1 month of taking dandelion root capsules.
Another user reported decreased liver function (based on blood tests) after 6 months of daily dandelion tea.