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What is Dandelion?


Many people think of Dandelions as a nuisance. This time of year, I always hear folks sharing ideas on how to get rid of those darn dandelions and which poisons work the best. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those throughout the world who welcome and embrace the dandelion as both food and medicine. The dandelion is a wild vegetable that is abundant, extremely nutritious and still free.

I also like mixing dandelion greens in with my other salad greens. They can also be cooked like any green. I wouldn’t discard the water after draining, for that’s were most of the nutrients are. My wife prefers steaming the greens in a little water or sautéing them in a little olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Medicinal Use:
The dandelion root is the part used mostly for medicinal purposes. It may be dug up, dried, cut up then made into a tea. It must be simmered for 30 minutes or so. If you would like to enjoy some of the health benefits of dandelion but are not that adventurous, dandelion tea may be purchased as well as the capsules.

The dandelion root is also used to make a tasty and nutritious coffee substitute called, dandy blend. Dandy blend had a delicious coffee-like flavor that can also be used in baking or added to vanilla ice cream to give a delicious creamy coffee flavor.

When I see dandelions, I admire their beauty and give them thanks for all their medicinal gifts…so please be kind to your dandelions.

In Germany, the herb and root of the dandelion are used as an appetite stimulant, diuretic, bile stimulator, and treatment for dyspepsia. The herb without the root is used for loss of appetite and dyspepsia involving flatulence and feelings of fullness. The dried roots are used as a coffee substitute. Dandelion is also used in salads and wines.

Traditionally, dandelion was used to treat liver, gallbladder, and spleen ailments. It's used as a mild laxative and antidiabetic. Dandelion is available as fresh greens, capsules, extract, tablets, tea, and tincture.

Reported uses:
Dandelion has a diuretic effect, probably owing to the sesquiterpenes in its composition and its high potassium content. It may help prevent and treat kidney stones because of its disinfectant and solvent actions on urinary calculi.

The enzyme taraxalisin is present in dandelion roots. The insulin component, With its hypoglycemic effects, may affect the blood glucose level. Dandelion may have some immune-modulating effects.

It may also stimulate nitric oxide production, which is involved with immune regulation and defense, and may induce tumor necrosis factor alpha secretion in peritoneal cells.

Administration:
Herb, fluid extract (1 glml of 25% ethanol): 4 to 10 ml by mouth three times a day

Fresh herb: 4 to 10 g cut herb by mouth three times a day

Infusion: 4 to 10 g in 5 to 9 oz (150 to 270 ml) water by mouth three times a day

Succus: 5 to 10 ml pressed sap from fresh plant by mouth two times a day

Tincture (I g/5 ml of 25% ethanol): 2 to 5 ml by mouth three times a day

Herb with root, fluid extract (1 glml of 25% ethanol): 3 to 4 ml by mouth three times a day

Infusion: 1 tablespoon cut roots and herb in 5 oz (150 ml) water

Tincture (1 g/5 ml of 25% ethanol): 10 to 15 gtt by mouth three times a day.

Hazards:

Adverse reactions associated with dandelion include GI discomfort, GI or biliary tract blockage, gallbladder inflammation, gallstones, contact dermatitis, and allergic reactions.

When used with drugs such as anticoagulants, or with anti-platelet drugs such as aspirin, clopidrogrel, heparin, ticlopidine, warfarin, and NSAIDs, there is an increased risk of bleeding. When dandelion is used with antidiabetics, there is a possibility for potentiated effects, leading to hypoglycemia.

Additive effects are possible when used with antihypertensives. Dandelion can also decrease blood ciprofloxacin levels. It's rich in minerals such as magnesium, which are known binders of fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

Those allergic to dandelion, those with photosensitive dermatitis and allergies to other Compositae plants, and those with bile obstruction, empyema, or ileus should avoid use.

Clinical considerations:
All parts of the dandelion plant are edible. The stems, leaves, and flowers can be harvested alone, or the whole plant-including the roots-can be used.

Tinctures may contain between 15% and 60% alcohol and may be unsuitable for children, alcoholic patients, those with liver disease, and those taking metronidazole or disulfiram.

Sesquiterpene lactones are thought to be the allergenic components, but not all people with dandelion dermatitis react to sesquiterpene patch testing.

The bitter substances contained in the leaves may cause gastric discomfort.

If patient is also taking an antidiabetic, monitor blood glucose level closely.

Advise patient not to harvest dandelions from grounds that may have been treated with weed killer or fertilizer.

Warn patient not to substitute dandelion therapy for a prescribed diuretic.

If patient is taking a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, advise him not to use dandelions because of a possible decrease in blood antibiotic level.

Advise patient to immediately report any rashes or signs of bleeding to his health care provider.

Instruct patient to contact his health care provider if symptoms don't resolve or if new symptoms develop.

Tell patient to remind pharmacist of any herbal or dietary supplement that he's taking when obtaining a new prescription.

Advise patient to consult his health care provider before using an herbal preparation because a treatment with proven efficacy may be available.

Research summary:

The scientific basis for the use of dandelion is scanty. Preliminary studies suggest that dandelion root stimulates the flow of bile. Dandelion leaves have also been found to produce a mild diuretic effect.

Herbalists recommend Dandelion root as a cleansing tonic for several conditions including jaundice and gallstones. The root is also used for constipation. The leaves are used as a diuretic, as well as a digestive aid and liver tonic.



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