Health Benefits of Dandelion Root

Can the common weed treat diabetes and liver injury?

Dandelion dried root, tea, capsules, and tictures

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Most people think of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) as an annoying weed they should immediately remove from their lawn or garden. But the plant has long been used in herbal medicine to help with digestion and stimulate the appetite. You can safely eat the entire dandelion plant from root to blossom. It has a slightly bitter, chicory-like taste.

The root itself is sometimes roasted to create caffeine-free dandelion coffee. When used for medicine, the dried or fresh root can be made into:

  • Teas
  • Tinctures (liquid made from a plant)
  • Decoctions (infusions)
  • Poultices (a paste made from plants)
  • Capsules

In traditional Chinese and Native American medicine, dandelion root has long been used to treat stomach and liver conditions. Herbalists today believe that it can help treat many health problems, including:

Some of the claims are better supported by research than others.

This article will discuss the benefits of dandelion root. It will explain how some people use it to boost their health. The article will also describe the side effects you may experience after using it as a medicine.

Dandelion is also known as pu gong ying in traditional Chinese medicine and simhadanti in Ayurvedic medicine. Its English folk name "piss-a-bed" and French nickname "pissenlit" both refer to the root's strong diuretic effect.

Health Benefits of Dandelion Root

Despite its longstanding use throughout history in herbal remedies, there is a lack of scientific evidence supporting the use of dandelion root as a medicine. While a number of animal and laboratory studies have been conducted, there have been few human trials.

Here is what some of the current research says about dandelion root:

Blood Pressure

Diuretics, also known as "water pills," are commonly used to treat:

While valuable, the drugs may cause side effects, including:

Some scientists believe that dandelion's diuretic properties may have medical uses. They believe it can treat prediabetes or premenstrual bloating and water retention.

Dandelions act as a diuretic. They cause you to produce more urine, helping you remove excess liquid from your body. If you also take prescription diuretics or herbal supplements that make you urinate more, you could risk getting electrolyte imbalance. This means your body doesn't have the right amounts of minerals. Electrolyte imbalance can lead to serious health problems.

Skin Damage

In folk medicine, dried dandelion root is often ground into a paste and mixed with water to create a soothing medicine for skin disorders like:

There's not much evidence that dandelion can treat these conditions better or faster than leaving the skin alone. But it does seem to have mild anti-inflammatory and antipruritic (anti-itching) properties. Research also suggests that it may help prevent sun damage.

A 2015 study from Canada reported that dandelion extracts are able to block harmful ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation when applied to the skin, protecting it from sun damage while lowering the risk of skin cancer.

Dandelion is also known to cause contact dermatitis in some people, especially children. This is a type of skin reaction caused by a foreign substance. Be careful when applying any dandelion remedy to the skin.

Diabetes

Scientists think dandelion root has anti-diabetic properties due to a soluble fiber known as inulin. Inulin contains a type of complex carbohydrate known as fructooligosaccharide (FOS). This carbohydrate supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and gets rid of unhealthy ones.

As a result, it increases insulin sensitivity by slowing the flow of sugar from the intestines to the bloodstream. This prevents spikes in either your blood sugar or insulin levels.

A 2016 review of studies from Aarhus University in Denmark suggested that dandelion extract also causes the pancreas to produce insulin. This helps to control blood sugar and avoid high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).

Liver Injury

Dandelion is often taken as a tonic. Some people believe that it "cleanses" the liver. There is some evidence, although not much, to support this longstanding claim.

Cancer

Early research suggests that dandelion root may be an anti-cancer agent. It does so by causing apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death, in certain cancer cells.

Apoptosis allows new cells to replace old cells. But with cancer, apoptosis stops working. The tumor cells continue to grow. Dandelion may interfere with the growth of these cancer cells.

A 2017 study found that dandelion root was able to effectively stop the growth of gastric cancer cells. It did this without damaging the growth of noncancerous cells.

Several studies have shown that different dandelion root extracts were able to trigger apoptosis in leukemia and melanoma.

While the studies are encouraging, scientists need to conduct more research before they can recommend dandelion root for either the prevention or treatment of cancer.

Possible Side Effects of Dandelion Root

Dandelion root is generally considered safe and well-tolerated in adults if taken in moderation. Some people may experience side effects, including:

  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Irritated skin

If you are allergic to the following plants, you should avoid dandelion root:

  • Ragweed
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Marigold
  • Chamomile
  • Feverfew
  • Yarrow
  • Plants in the Asteraceae family (such as sunflowers and daisies)

People who are allergic to dandelion root may experience rash, watery eyes, and other allergy symptoms. Dandelion also contains iodine and latex, so avoid it if you have allergies to either of these substances.

Pregnant women, nursing women, and children should avoid dandelion remedies due to the lack of research into their long-term safety. It is also possible that consuming too much dandelion may reduce fertility in women and testosterone levels in men. This may occur because of a substance in the plant called phytoestrogen, which mimics estrogen.

Drug Interactions

Dandelion can interact with certain drugs. It may affect how the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream, broken down by the liver, or cleared from the body in urine. Speak with your doctor if you are taking a dandelion remedy along with any of the following drugs:

  • Antibiotics like Cipro (ciprofloxacin) and Penetrex (enoxacin)
  • Antidepressants like Elavil (amitriptyline)
  • Antipsychotics like lithium and Haldol (haloperidol)
  • Diuretics like Lasix (furosemide)
  • Estrogen-based contraceptives
  • Statin drugs like Mevacor (lovastatin) and Lipitor (atorvastatin)

In some cases, your doctor may need to change the dosage of your medication. Never hesitate to tell your doctor about any herbal, naturopathic, homeopathic, or traditional medicine you may be taking.

Dandelion dried root

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Dosage and Preparation of Dandelion Root

There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of dandelion root in the United States. However, in Europe, the European Commission and the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia say the following dosages are considered safe for adults.

  • Fresh dandelion root: 2 to 8 grams daily
  • Dandelion root powder: 3 to 4 grams mixed with 150 milliliters of warm water
  • Dandelion tea infusion: 1 tablespoon of chopped root mixed with 150 milliliters of hot water for 20 minutes
  • Fresh root extract: 1 to 2 tablespoons daily
  • Dried dandelion extract: 0.75 to 1.0 grams daily

Dandelion root supplements are also available in drugstores and vitamin supplement stores. You can also find tinctures, teas, extracts, ointments, powders, and dried organic root in these kinds of shops.

As a rule of thumb, never take more than the manufacturer's recommended dosage. If you experience side effects of any sort, stop treatment and call your doctor.

What to Look For When Buying Dandelion

Dandelion root remedies are classified as dietary supplements by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They do not need to undergo the strict testing that pharmaceutical drugs do. Because of this, the quality of the products can vary.

To ensure the highest quality and safety standards, buy supplements that have been independently tested and certified by a recognized authority like:

  • U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP)
  • Consumer Lab
  • NSF International

For added safety, choose dandelion products that have been certified organic to avoid exposure to pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

Dandelion easily absorbs pesticides and heavy metals such as:

  • Lead
  • Nickel
  • Copper
  • Cadmium

It also absorbs other harmful substances from the environment. It's usually not a good idea to eat wild dandelion if the purity of the soil, water, and air is unknown.

When buying a supplement, don't be fooled by claims that it can cure or treat any specific disease. Under the FDA labeling laws, it is illegal to make such claims, which are rarely supported by clinical evidence.

Other Questions

When is the best time to harvest dandelion root?

Dandelion root is traditionally harvested in the fall. That is when inulin levels are at their highest. Because the root absorbs chemicals in soil, avoid harvesting roots near:

  • Roads
  • Driveways
  • Septic tanks
  • Pools
  • Air conditioning units
  • Barbecue grills

If you don't plan to use the harvested roots immediately, you can dry them in a dehydrator and store them in a glass jar for up to a year. If dried correctly, the outer flesh should have a dark color while the inner flesh should remain a creamy white.

Summary

Most people think dandelion is just an annoying weed. But it has been used in medical treatments throughout history. People who believe in its healing properties use it as a diuretic. Some research shows that it can help treat acne, eczema, and other skin issues too.

Herbalists believe dandelion can cleanse the liver and treat diabetes. Scientists are still learning whether dandelion does this and if it helps fight against cancer.

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Article Sources
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