Taraxacum officinale

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-3-18 (EDT)

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Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is well known because it grows virtually everywhere worldwide and is a very hardy perennial herb. It grows to a height of about 12 inches, with oblong, deeply toothed, hairless green leaves and distinctive yellow flowers that bloom year-round. The thick taproot is dark brown on the outside, white on the inside and may exude a milky substance, the latex, which is present in the whole plant. The flower stem arises from the middle of the rosette giving rise to a single composite head of smaller ligulate ray flowers. The flowers develop into pappus after blooming, which is scattered by the wind. 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.[1]

To explore the characteristics, medicinal uses and prescribing considerations of this herb in more detail, check out the references indicated.[2], [3]

Contents

Characteristics

  • Common Names: Chinese: Pu Gong Ying, English: Dandelion, doonhead clock, Finnish: Maitiainen, French: Pissenlit, Diente de leon, Arabic: Khas Berri, German: Kuhblume, Butterblume, Lowenzahn, Turkish: Kara Hindiba
  • Family: Asteraceae/Compositae
  • Habitat: North temperate zones in pastures, meadows and lawns.
  • Parts Used: Roots, young leaves and flowers.
  • Constituents: terpenes/terpenoids, bitter principle, phytosterols, carbohydrates (inulin), minerals (potassium)
  • Medicinal Actions:
Leaf is used as a diuretic, choleretic, anti-inflammatory
Root as a cholagogue, tonic, antirheumatic, bitter, alterative, mild laxative, hepatic

Uses

Historical Uses:

Dandelion is native to Europe especially in the area of Asia minor. The first mention of dandelion was in the 10th and 11th centuries in Arabian medical texts.

Medicinal Uses:

  • Known to relieve the symptoms associated with liver disease and to decrease the side effects of medications metabolized by the liver. Often used for liver detoxification.
  • Gallstones: Stimulates the production of bile, restoring biliary function and aiding in the removal of gallstones
  • Diuretic properties (increases urine flow) and may lower blood potassium levels.
  • Contains bitter elements that may stimulate appetite and digestion by the stimulation of gastric and salivary juices. Used for symptoms associated with indigestion (dyspepsia) and heartburn. By increasing the flow of bile, combined with the action of the triterpenes it may increase the solubility of the bile, makes Dandelion a good herb for cleansing and removing of toxins from the digestive tract. Because of its effect on the flow of bile, it acts as a mild laxative.
  • Atopic Dermatitis: Dandelion is indicated in a number of conditions that point to liver congestion, for example, poor absorption of nutrients and skin conditions. Its inulin properties may assist in restoring bactericidal activity and increasing cAMP.
  • Other Conditions]]
  • Dandelion may lower blood sugar readings.

Prescribing Considerations

Dandelion is considered a safe herb. The appropriate formulation depends on the desired effect, a person's state of health and the medications or supplements that are being taken. For advice on what formulation of Dandelion is appropriate and the dosage work with a naturopathic doctor or other properly trained health care provider.

  • Dried root - roasted as a coffee substitute, used as a tonic for the liver and aid with hepatitis, jaundice, and gallbladder function.
  • Leaves - used in salads for its bitter, chicory-like taste. Stimulates digestion and acts as a diuretic.
  • Flowers - often used to flavour beer and wines
  • Fluid extract - common form therapeutically. Alcoholic tinctures are not recommended for some conditions such as eczema because of the extremely high dosage recommended.[4]
  • Solid extract - used therapeutically in some countries.

The information provided is intended to augment the treatment from a naturopathic doctor or other trained medical professional. Although most herbs are generally safe, it is recommended that you avoid self-prescribing especially when there is an underlying ongoing medical condition, if you are on any prescription medications or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Formulations and Preparation

Leaf

  • Infusion - 1-2 tsp/cup three times daily
  • Fresh leaf juice - 5-10mL twice daily
  • Tincture - 5-10mL (1:5, 40%) three times daily

Root

  • Decoction - 2-3 tsp/cup three times daily
  • Tincture - 2.5-5mL (1:5, 60%) three times daily
  • Dried root - 0.5-2g daily

Safety

The safety and prescribing considerations for this herb include:[5], [6]

  • Generally regarded as safe.[7]
  • Side-effects are rare and can include: contact dermatitis, diarrhea, gastrointestinal upset. Dandelion should be avoided by people with known allergies to dandelion, honey, chamomile, chrysanthemums, yarrow, feverfew, or any members of the Asteraceae/Compositae plant family (e.g., ragweed, sunflower, daisies).
  • Pregnancy. As a food in normal amounts, is typically deemed as safe. Avoid alcoholic-based tinctures.
  • Contraindications: acute stomach inflammation, irritable bowel or duodenal ulcers (empirical); digestive weakness (empirical, though traditionally used to treat dyspepsia); bile duct obstruction - impacted gallstones, cholangitis, bile duct cancer, pancreatic cancer (cholagogue, empirical); gallstones without physician consult (speculative, though traditionally used to treat gallstones); septic gallbladder inflammation if risk of peritonitis (cholagogue, empirical); intestinal obstruction (laxative, empirical); allergic hypersensitivity to lactones in latex (topical, case report) or Asteraceae (empirical); unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia - hemolytic anemia, Gilbert's syndrome, Crigler-Najjar Syndrome (liver stimulant, speculative); acute or severe liver disease - hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer (liver stimulant, empirical); intestinal spasm (cholagogue, empirical)
  • Drug-Herb Interactions are rare. Considerations should be taken if on medication for any of the uses of Dandelion.[5], [3]
  • Lithium - May worsen toxicity (speculative)
  • Hypoglycemic Agents - Herb has independent hypoglycemic effects
  • Gastrointestinal Tract Drugs - Herb is a stomach acid secretion stimulant

References

  1. Bastyr University Herbal Monographs
  2. Boon Heather, Smith Michael (2009) 55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs: The Complete Natural Medicine GuideSecond Edition Institute of Naturopathic Education and Research, CCNM Toronto.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul, Barlow Kerry, Gowan Matt (2011) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Advanced Botanical Medicine. V3 CCNM Press, Toronto.
  4. Pizzorno Joseph, Murray Michael, Joiner-Bey Herb (2002) The Clinician's Handbook of Natural Medicine Churchill Livingstone.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Stargrove Mitchell Bebell, Treasure Jonathan, McKee Dwight L (2008) Herb, Nutrient and Drug Interactions: Clinical Implications and Therapeutic Strategies.
  6. Brinker Francis (1997) Herbal Contraindications and Drug Interactions: Plus Herbal Adjuncts With Medicines, 4th Edition Eclectic Medical Publications.
  7. Basch Ethan, Ulbricht Catherine (2005) Natural Standard, Herb & Supplement Handbook Elsevier.
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