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2 Dandelion Benefits (Root, Tea, Greens) + Future Research

Written by Chelsea Paresi, PhD (biomedical science) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Chelsea Paresi, PhD (biomedical science) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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Health Benefits of Dandelions
Dandelions are antioxidant greens packed with nutrients, and they can be easily added to your diet in the form of a tasty side dish, sauce, or tea. Might they have specific health benefits? Learn about the latest research here.

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 dent-de-lion, which means lion’s tooth [1].

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 [2, 3].

Nutrients & Active Compounds

The dandelion plant is entirely edible from root and greens to flower. The majority of the beneficial properties of dandelion are common among the root, greens, and flower. Health benefits may depend on what part of the plant is used, what species, and how it is extracted [4].

Dandelion is a rich source of many vitamins and minerals such as [2]:

Dandelion also contains many important components responsible for its diverse effects, such as sesquiterpene lactones, taraxasterol, taraxerol, chlorogenic acid, and chicoric acid [2].

Mechanisms of Action

The health benefits of dandelion result from nutrients and antioxidants, as well as its diuretic and microbe-fighting action [6, 7, 8, 9].

In cell studies, dandelion has:

Antioxidant Activity

Rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet supplemented with dandelion root had increased antioxidant enzyme activity [20].

The leaves and especially the petals of dandelions contain phenolic compounds that showed antioxidant properties in human blood [21].

Dandelion roots also showed antioxidant activity in fat cells (adipocytes) of mice [22].

In mouse leukemia cells, dandelion extract acted as an antioxidant and protected the cells (via the tPI3K-AKT pathway) [12].

Potential Health Benefits

Dandelion supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use and generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.

Insufficient Evidence For

The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of dandelion for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking dandelion supplements, and never use dandelion in place of something a doctor prescribes.

1) Diuretic Effect

Diuretics are used to flush built-up fluids from the body. They can treat hypertension, liver, and kidney disease, and are sometimes added to weight loss protocols [23].

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 [9].

2) Digestion

There are numerous anecdotal reports and traditional uses of dandelion for improving digestion, but these have not been confirmed in high-quality clinical studies [24].

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 [25].

Adding dandelion extract to the diets of fish protected against “leaky gut,” enhanced digestion, increased uptake of nutrients, and increased gut antioxidant activity [26].

Animal Research (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of dandelion for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

3) 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) [11, 27, 10, 28, 29].

The Korean dandelion (Taraxacum coreanum Nakai) blocks the production of multiple inflammation markers in mouse immune cells [30].

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% [30].

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 [13, 12, 14].

The dandelion extract can also reduce inflammation by blocking the production of TNF-a in mouse cells [11].

4) Liver Function

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 [31, 32, 33, 34, 35].

When pregnant rats exposed to toxic lead consumed a diet rich in dandelion, it protected the liver of their newborn pups [36].

In mice, dandelion extract protected against liver damage (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) related to obesity by reducing fat deposits and lowering glucose (via insulin signaling) [37].

5) Diabetes

Dandelion extract supplementation in diabetic rats improved fat burning and prevented diabetes complications [38].

However, 2 studies in mice and rats found no benefits for diabetes, possibly due to different dandelion extracts used [39, 40].

Dandelion extract boosted insulin production (low in diabetes) in pancreatic cell lines [41].

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) [2, 42].

6) Cholesterol

Rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet supplemented with dandelion extract had improved cholesterol profiles [20].

In rats, extended consumption of dandelion reduced body weight and lowered fats (triglycerides and total cholesterol) [19].

In diabetic mice, dandelion water extract reduced harmful fats (triglycerides and total cholesterol), while increasing “good” HDL [38].

7) May Fight Infections

Dandelion extract killed a broad spectrum of bacteria in cell studies (both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria) [7, 43, 44].

Dandelion may fight viruses. In cell studies, dandelion extract stopped infection and growth of influenza and the HIV-1 virus [45, 46].

The microbe-fighting properties also make dandelion a potentially useful treatment for urinary tract infections [47].

Fish and sea snails fed dandelion extract increased immune response and resistance to infection [48, 49].

8) Skin Damage

In cellular studies, dandelion extract protected human skin cells from UVB damage and aging (reduces reactive oxygen species) [50].

A less common species of dandelion (Taraxacum platycarpum) extract hydrated the skin in mice. It increased an important compound for preventing skin dryness (filaggrin) [51].

In cellular studies, dandelion (Taraxacum platycarpum) increased the production of collagen and decreased enzymes that promote skin damage [51].

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 [52].

9) Energy

Dandelion may help with fatigue. Mice fed dandelion for 10 days had increased glucose levels (the body’s main energy source) and decreased muscle damage after exercise [53].

Additionally, treating immune cells with dandelion increased immune-boosting proteins (TNF-a, IL-10, and IL-12P70), which could be related to energy levels [53].

10) Kidney Function

Common dandelion protected the kidneys in rats with kidney damage [54].

11) Ulcers

The Korean dandelion protected the stomach and prevented ulcers in rats with gastritis. It reduced damage (oxidative stress), inflammation, and acid production [55].

12) 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 [56].

13) Depression

One study in mice found that dandelion extract acted as an antidepressant by decreasing hormones that act on the brain and contribute to low mood (decreased corticosterone and CRF) [57].

14) 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 [11].

Treatment of a mastitis mouse cell model with dandelion extract also blocked key inflammatory proteins [11].

15) Bone Health

Dandelion extract stopped the activity of cells that cause bone disease in a study on mouse bone marrow cells [58].

16) Weight Management

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 [9].

Supplementation with dandelion leaf extract reduced body weight in obese mice fed a high-fat diet. A long-term diet with dandelion also decreased body weight in rats [37, 19].

17) 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 [59].

Cancer Research

Mice consuming dandelion extract had significantly slowed the growth of tumors [16].

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 [17, 60, 61, 62].

Dandelion extract killed cancer cells (and increased autophagy) in pancreatic cancer cell lines while leaving healthy cells unaffected [63].

Dandelion extract killed colon cancer in cell studies [16].

In human liver cancer cell lines, dandelion increased cell death (by increasing TNF-a and IL-1a production) [18].

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) [4].

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.

Side Effects & Precautions

Dandelion is considered safe to eat as food.

Its extract had minimal side effects in studies on rabbits, mice, and rats, and it did not cause damage to healthy cells in human cell studies [64, 62].

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 [65].

There is a documented case of low blood sugar in a 58-year-old woman with type 2 diabetes [66].

Contrary to traditional use, dandelion decreased fertility in male rats, when given orally for 2 months [67].

The safety of long-term use has not been established, and it is not recommended to ingest amounts greater than those found in food. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children should be especially cautious [5].

When in doubt, talk to your doctor before using dandelion.

Drug Interactions

  • Dandelion can dangerously raise levels of drugs that suppress the immune response (cyclosporine and sirolimus) (by blocking CYP3A4) [68].
  • 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 [69].
  • Dandelions contain coumarins, which could theoretically increase the risk of bleeding if taken with other supplements that affect blood clotting [70].
  • Dandelion has high amounts of vitamin A, so caution should be taken if supplementing to avoid toxicity [5].

Supplementation

Preparations

Dandelion can be eaten as food or taken as a 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% [71].

Other preparations include:

  • Capsules
  • Tinctures
  • Tea

Dosage

There is no safe and effective dose of dandelion because no sufficiently powered study has been conducted to find one. That being said, clinical trials have found benefits associated with certain doses, including [5]:

  • 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

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 [72].

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 [24].

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About the Author

Chelsea Paresi

PhD (biomedical science)
Chelsea has PhD from Cornell University and a BS in Chemistry from Westminster College.
Chelsea spent more than 8 years in the laboratory researching a wide range of topics including small molecule discovery for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and cancer. She also has experience as a clinical scientist working in an embryology lab. She is passionate about using food as medicine and feels that the future of treating disease will rely on a better understanding of personalized medicine based on genetics.

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