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While many people think of the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) as a pesky weed, it's chock full of vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc. Dandelion leaves are used to add flavor to salads, sandwiches, and teas. The roots are used in some coffee substitutes, and the flowers are used to make wines.

In the past, dandelion roots and leaves were used to treat Liver problems. Native Americans also boiled dandelion in water and took it to treat Kidney disease, Swelling, Skin problems, Heartburn, and upset Stomach. In traditional Chinese medicine, dandelion has been used to treat Stomach problems, appendicitis, and breast problems, such as Inflammation or lack of milk flow. In Europe, dandelion was used in remedies for Fever, Boils, eye problems, Diabetes, and Diarrhea.

So far, there have not been any quality scientific studies on dandelion. Today, the roots are mainly used to stimulate the Appetite, and for Liver and gallBladder problems. Dandelion leaves are used as a Diuretic to help the body get rid of too much fluid.
Plant description

Hundreds of species of dandelion grow in the temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Dandelion is a hardy perennial that can grow to a height of nearly 12 inches. The plants have deeply notched, toothy, spatula-like leaves that are shiny and Hairless. Dandelion stems are capped by bright yellow flowers. The grooved leaves funnel rain to the root.

Dandelion flowers open with the sun in the morning and close in the evening or during gloomy weather. The dark brown roots are fleshy and brittle and are filled with a white milky substance that is bitter and slightly smelly.

Parts used: Dandelion leaves act as a Diuretic, increasing the amount of urine your body makes. The leaves are used to stimulate the Appetite and help Digestion. Dandelion flower has Antioxidant properties. Dandelion may also help improve the Immune system.

Herbalists use dandelion root to Detoxify the Liver and gallBladder, and dandelion leaves to help Kidney function.

Medicinal uses and indications: Traditionally, dandelion has been used as a Diuretic, to increase the amount of urine and get rid of too much fluid in your body. It has been used for many conditions where a Diuretic might help, such as Liver problems and high Blood Pressure. However, there is no good research on using dandelion as a Diuretic in people.

Fresh or dried dandelion herb is also used as a mild Appetite Stimulant and to improve upset Stomach. The root of the dandelion plant may act as a mild Laxative and has been used to improve Digestion. Preliminary research suggests that dandelion may help improve Liver and gallBladder function. But this study was not well designed.

Preliminary studies also suggest that dandelion may help normalize Blood Sugar levels and lower total Cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL "good" Cholesterol in diabetic mice. But not all the animal studies have found a positive effect on Blood Sugar. Researchers need to see if dandelion will work in people.

A few animal studies also suggest that dandelion might help fight Inflammation.

Available forms: You can find dandelion herbs and roots fresh or dried in a variety of forms, including tinctures, liquid extract, teas, tablets, and capsules. Dandelion can be found alone or combined with other dietary supplements.

How to take it: Pediatric - Ask your doctor before giving dandelion supplements to a child so the doctor can determine the dose.

Adult - Ask your doctor to help determine the right dose for you. Some traditional doses include:

Dried leaf infusion: 1 - 2 teaspoons, 3 times daily. Pour hot water onto dried leaf and steep for 5 - 10 minutes. Drink as directed.
Dried root decoction: 1/2 - 2 teaspoons, 3 times daily. Place root into boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes. Strain and drink as directed.
Leaf tincture (1:5) in 30% alcohol: 30 - 60 drops, 3 times daily
Standardized powdered extract (4:1) leaf: 500 mg, 1 - 3 times daily
Standardized powdered extract (4:1) root: 500 mg, 1 - 3 times daily
Root tincture (1:2) fresh root in 45% alcohol: 30 - 60 drops, 3 times daily

Precautions: The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs under the supervision of a health care provider.

Dandelion is generally considered safe. Some people may have an allergic reaction from touching dandelion. Others may get mouth Sores.

If you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine, you should avoid dandelion.

In some people, dandelion can cause increased Stomach Acid and Heartburn. It may also irritate the Skin.

People with Kidney problems, gallBladder problems, or gallStones should consult their doctors before eating dandelion.

Possible interactions: Dandelion leaf may act as a Diuretic, which can make drugs leave your body faster. It also interacts with a number of medications that are broken down by the Liver. If you are taking prescription medications, ask your doctor before taking dandelion leaf. Medications that may interact with dandelion include:

AntAcids -- Dandelion may increase the amount of Stomach Acid, so antAcids may not work as well.

Blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants and antiplatelets) It's possible that dandelion may increase the risk of Bleeding, especially if you already take blood thinners such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), or clopidogrel (Plavix).

Diuretics (water pills) Dandelion may act as a Diuretic, causing your body to produce more urine to get rid of excess fluid. If you also take prescription Diuretics or other herbs that act as Diuretics, you could be at risk for electrolyte imbalances.

Lithium -- Lithium is used to treat bipolar disorder. Animal studies suggest that dandelion may make the side effects of lithium worse.

Ciproflaxin (Cipro) -- One species of dandelion, Taraxacum mongolicum, also called Chinese dandelion, may lower the amount of the Antibiotic ciproflaxin that your body absorbs. Researchers don't know whether the common dandelion would do the same thing.

Medications for Diabetes: Theoretically, dandelion may lower Blood Sugar levels. If you take medications for Diabetes, taking dandelion may increase the risk of low Blood Sugar.

Medications broken down by the Liver: Dandelion can interact with a number of medications. To be safe, ask your doctor before taking dandelion if you take any medication

Source: Dandelion | University of Maryland Medical Center
University of Maryland Medical Center
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The Effect Of Dandelion Root Extract: Current Research
In a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Pandey explores a treatment of melanoma Skin Cancer made from a potent extract of dandelion root.

Melanoma Skin Cancer, which has become one of the leading Cancer among adults ages 25 to 29 in North America, is oddly resistant to chemotherapy. Treatment, then, is limited to surgical excision of the primary Tumor site followed by immunotherapy and mostly ineffective chemotherapy for metastasized melanoma. Not only do standard treatments often prove to be inadequate, but patients suffer harsh side effects, seemingly for nothing.
To meet the challenge of finding an effective and alternative therapy, Pandey and his colleagues recently investigated the effect of dandelion root extract (DRE) on human melanoma cell lines in vitro. Specifically, they prepared extracts of dandelion root using a variety of techniques, including filtration, lyophilization, constitution, and sterilization. After they prepared the DRE, they treated in vitro cells (A375 and G361 human melanoma cells, along with normal human fibroblasts, a common cell within the connective tissue) with the DRE, experimenting with different specific strengths and time points.

The extract they had created targets the mitochondria, the site of cellular Respiration, and generates reactive Oxygen species, molecules which damage the cell. Although it is unclear which components of the DRE were active when successfully destroying the human melanoma cells, it clearly acted as a "natural chemotherapeutic agent that may be extended to other chemo-resistant Cancer lines," write the authors.

Not surprising many would say, as a wide variety of cultures have long asserted the healing possibilities of dandelions or as they are known in Latin, Taraxacum officinale.
Dandelion Root's Use In Many Cultures
Certainly one recommendation of the dandelion as medicine is the fact that side effects are very rare. When the rare symptom does occur, it tends to come in the form of mild Gastrointestinal upset, contact Dermatitis, or Diarrhea.

Among Native American cultures, including the Iroquois, Ojibwe, and Rappahannock, the root is prepared with herbs to treat Kidney disease, upset Stomach, and Heartburn. Meanwhile in traditional Arabian medicine, the dandelion is frequently used as a treatment for those illnesses that originate in the Liver and the spleen.
Regarded as a Detoxifying herb in the East, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) combines the dandelion with other herbs for ailments ranging from Digestive disorders to serious complications, including Uterine, breast, and Lung Tumors. TCM also uses the dandelion to enhance the Immune response during upper Respiratory tract Infections, Bronchitis, and Pneumonia.

Europeans commonly use dandelions in salad and frequently brew tea with the root. They identify the plant as a natural cure for Gastrointestinal ailments, including upset Stomach and loss of Appetite. The Susan G. Komen Foundation notes that the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) recommend the root and leaves of the plant to restore Liver function. They are supported in such claims by American naturopathic physicians who frequently incorporate the dandelion into therapies aimed at treating Liver ailments. Naturopathic healers use the dandelion in a manner similar to TCM. Along with using it for general detoxification, its also used to reduce side effects from any medications that are metabolized (processed) by the Liver.