Latin: Taraxacum officinalis
Chinese: Pu gong ying
WHAT IT DOES: Dandelion is bitter, slightly pungent and sweet in taste. It speeds removal of inflammation and dampness from the liver, intestines and gall bladder, and detoxifies the blood. The leaf promote urination.
SAFETY ISSUES: None known. Excessive dosage may dampen appetite in some individuals.
• Crude herb: two to six grams per day
• Tea: one cup two to four times per day
• 1:5 Tincture: 30-60 drops two to three times per day
Dandelion is receiving a bit less press than it used to, due to the publicity surrounding newer and more glamorous herbs. It has a worldwide reputation among traditional healers for its beneficial and safe effects on the liver, and its gentle nature allows it to be used safely over long periods of time. Most people are familiar with dandelion, and we know its leaves make a fine, mildly bitter salad green, delicious when tossed with sea salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Dandelion is rich in minerals like iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, boron and vitamins A, B, and C. It contains up to 25% inulin, a phyto-chemical also found in high levels in burdock root and echinacea. Research suggests inulin may improve absorption of iron from foods, making it useful for anemia. It seems to selectively nourish and increase the body’s supply of favorable intestinal bacteria such as bifidobacteria (Rao, 1999). Other components of the herb, including triperpeoid saponins, have been found to stimulate macrophage activity in animals and prevent tumor growth (Takasaki et al., 1999).
In the 1898 classic King’s American Dispensatory Felter and Lloyd tell us, “Dandelion has long been supposed to exert an influence on the biliary organs, removing torpor and engorgement of the liver as well as of the spleen…(and is useful for) chronic diseases of the skin and impairment of the digestive functions.” Because it gently improves bile flow, many people find it useful as a mild laxative. I’ve used it myself for this purpose. Its bitter components stimulate the nerves in the stomach to secrete more acid, gently stimulating appetite and improving nutrient absorption. Improvement in the clearance of bile has a general anti-inflammatory action, and this is most likely responsible for its reputation for improving skin disorders.
Dandelion is also known by Western herbalists to be a valuable non-irritating diuretic. Because it is rich in potassium, a vital mineral often lost when the kidneys are over-stimulated by drugs, it can be used safely to treat water retention even when caused by weakness of the heart. The leaf is more effective than the root as a diuretic, and at our clinic we sometimes use it as a safer alternative to the popular diuretic Lasix. Check with your doctor before making this substitution.
TCM doctors value dandelion highly, using it to reduce fire in the liver, especially when accompanied by red, swollen eyes. They also use it for detoxification, hepatitis, acute infections, flu, headache and skin ulcers. TAM doctors consider it to be an anti-poison. They use it for dysentery, fevers and vomiting.