Dandelion

Taraxacum officinale is a perennial shrub native of Europe, Asia and N Africa closely related to chicory and known by another dozen names. The principal therapeutic agents are taraxacin, inulin, various terpenoids, but also resin, pectin, the carotenoid pigment taraxanthin, fatty acids and flavonoids. Dandelion is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals. It has the highest vitamin A content of any greens, ample amounts of vitamins B complex, C and D, the minerals copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, sodium, zinc, and high amounts of choline. Dandelion is one of the herbs often eaten by the Greeks as a side dish, and included under the overall name of horta.

  • Anticancer. Japanese scientists isolated a glucose polymer from the root extract of dandelion, which was shown to have antitumor properties. At the same time, the Chinese have regularly used the herb against breast cancer.
  • Antidiabetic. Both dandelion and inulin have shown experimentally hypoglycemic activity in animals. Inulin, composed of fructose chains, may act as a buffer to blood glucose levels through fructose’s well known passive absorption, preventing sudden and severe fluctuations.
  • Diuretic. The herb has confirmed and effective diuretic activity. But it is better than most diuretics, which eliminate potassium and other electrolytes from the body that may result in hepatic coma or circulatory collapse. Dandelion’s rich content of potassium and other minerals and vitamins tends to make up for the losses.
  • Immune support. Inulin, a polysaccharide abundant in the herb, is one of nature’s most powerful immune stimulants. Inulin’s immune activity is further supported by the other antioxidants in the herb, such as the carotenoids, vitamin C, etc. Further, some evidence shows dandelion to possess anti-bacterial properties as well.
  • Liver tonic. The herb has been shown to stimulate the production and release of bile by the liver and gall bladder, acting as a lipotropic factor to reduce cholesterol and fat accumulations on these two organs. In addition, choline is known to enhance liver function. The absence of side effects warrants the use of dandelion against hepatitis, jaundice, congested liver and gallstones.
  • Nutritive. It requires no emphasis that a herb that possesses all the compounds enumerated at the beginning, is bound to have excellent nutritive value. Further, the slightly bitter taste of taraxacin, makes the cooked herb an excellent accompaniment of fish dishes and of the resinated Greek wine known as retsina.
  • Weight control. The effectiveness of dandelion for weight control is its influence on fat metabolism and the fact that a better functioning liver is itself a lipotropic factor (see Liver tonic above). An additional effect is the elimination of excess body fluids but without side effects (see Diuretic above).