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Dandelion – Let’s find out about its many properties

Dandelion – Let’s find out about its many properties

Dandelion is an herbaceous plant whose roots and leaves have been used for centuries as a natural remedy against digestive problems.

What is Dandelion?

The vegetable species taraxacum officinale is usually called wild chicory, although it is also known as dandelion.

It belongs to the compound or asteraceae family, one of the plants with more therapeutic and natural uses.

If we had to sum up the endless list of properties from dandelion, we could synthesize it in two main aspects:

  • Its ubiquity, since it is available everywhere
  • It can be used to treat many health problems

We teach you how to recognize dandelion

Taraxacum officinale, which has been usually regarded a weed, is a small herbaceous plant of annual cycle. Moreover, it has a flexible stem, although it is false.

Its most renowned name is kind of peculiar, dens leonis or lion’s teeth; it seems to come from the shape of its leaves, which are similar to sharp teeth. But in reality, its aspect varies a lot depending on the location and climate.

It is common to see it grow spontaneously in wet soils, merging with the conventional landscape of urban gardens. As well as infertile lands, ditches, and highways, sometimes even in the cracks of stone buildings.

Its showy flowers grow in the most distal parts of these false stems which have alternate leaves without petiole. Moreover, they are yellow color and hermaphrodite, like all the members of this botanical family. They close at night and during rainy days, when there is not much sunlight.

Closed dandelion flower

Their corolla, which is the most chromatic part of the flowers, is made up of five linked petals. They follow a closing and opening cycle that ends with a definitive closing. Then, they signal the onset of their transformation into the fruit (called cypsela), ready to drop the seeds thanks to the wind. Consequently, they spread and grow as new plants. There are those who describe this fruit as a winged nut, covered by little silken hairs that make it easier to fly.

Harvest

Late spring is probably the best moment to harvest the soft leaves in order to eat them raw.

You will need a hermetic bag to store them afterwards to prevent their contamination with dust.

When it comes to the roots, you can harvest them during two specific times of the year depending on their use:

  • With the increase of flowering, generally between May and June; this is due to the fact that it is the time when it is most abundant in latex.
  • In autumn, if what you are looking for is its richness in the polysaccharide inulin. The harvested root contains a 40% compared to its 2% in spring.

Dandelion crops

Origin of Dandelion

The protohistory of this plant is in the territory of today’s Greece and spontaneously distributed through the northern hemisphere.

According to the writings of a wise man, Avicena, 10th century arabian doctors discovered two of the most renowned properties of this plant. That is, its choleretic (stimulates the production of bile) and diuretic effects.

We would have to travel six hundred years back in time in order to witness the discovery of dandelion as a multi-use remedy. The doctor and botanist Leonart Duch started prescribing it among its patients as a cholagogue. He did so in order to stimulate the release of bile, improving the digestion of fat. Moreover, it also had other benefits as an astrigent, stomach analgesic and menstrual cycle regulator.

Due to unknown circumstances, this doctor created the measure of a lion’s tooth as a therapeutic dose of this plant. In fact, the expression “to take a lion’s tooth” soon spread among the population.

Most recent uses in history

Traditional medicine soon started to acknowledge the benefits of this natural remedy. Not in vain, dandelion has belonged to the catalog of preventive remedies during several centuries. This is mainly due to its effects as hepatic protector, diuretic and wart blocker.

During the 1940s, Dr Henri Leclerc pointed out at the ability of dandelion infusions to control some dermatological problems: eczema, skin rash, and dermatitis. These effects were more evident in those patients who were apparently suffering only skin problems. However, they also had a certain degree of hepatic deficiency. This was due to the close bond between the integrity of the skin and the functioning of the liver.

Dandelion bud

Properties of Dandelion

First, let’s have a look at its organic and inorganic substances that preserve and regenerate tissues and organs.

Underground organs of this plant

  • A great amount of polysaccharides that belong to the group of the glucans and mannans. Specially inulin, which is a very interesting component that has the condition of probiotic oligosaccharide as well as soluble fiber. Therefore, it stimulates the growth of intestinal bacteria that are beneficial for our health.
  • Choline, a substance that belongs to the B vitamins that protects the liver, supporting its detoxification.
  • Triterpenes (organic compounds bound to isoprene, a short chain hydrocarbon) derived from latex among with taraxasterol, taraxerol, atarxol, beta-amyrin, stigmasterol, and beta-sitosterol.
  • Residual components like caffeic acid, resins, pectin, and mucilages.

Green parts of dandelion

When it comes to the green parts, they are rich in: flavonoids (lutein and zeaxanthin), coumarins (such as cichorine and aesculin), carotenoids, vitamin A, C, and D, thiamine, nicotinic acid. Moreover, they have a great mineral content, including mainlu potassium (5%), but also iron, phosphorus, copper, and magnesium.

Field and flowers

Roots and Leaves

Finally, both the roots and the leaves share two compounds that give them a bitter flavor, taraxicin and taraxacerin. They have a feature that has nothing to do with medicinal properties but which has a nutritional interest. That is its ability to stimulate the appetite and to improve the digestion.

Benefits of Dandelion

Without any doubt, medicinal plants are an excellent alternative as natural treatments and remedies to combat diseases. Their side effects are minimal and they are ideal for those who reject the use of synthetic substances due to allergies or toxicity.

Now, we will quote official institutions of the pharmacology field, a valid source of classification for this plant. We do this to focus objectively on the biological functions of dandelion:

  • European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP): recommends the dandelion root to regulate the hepatic function and the production of acids and bile salts. Moreover, it stimulates the renal function and prevents dyspepsia or bad digestions.
  • The Spanish Medicines and Sanitary Products Agency (AEMPS) and its European equivalent the European Medicines Agency: both catalog dandelion as a “traditional medicine for the treatment of mild digestive disorders, such as the feeling of abdominal fullness, flatulence, and slow digestion”. In addition, it can “increase the amount of urine and clean the urinary conducts and kidneys”.

The organ that benefits the most from dandelion

However, if there is an organ that benefits from the therapeutic use of dandelion, it is the liver. This is due to the fact that it helps to eliminate toxins that circulate in the bloodstream. Moreover, it improves the transit through bile conducts.

It is highly recommended for those who need to stimulate their liver due to sluggish liver syndrome. Also, it could be beneficial for those who suffer from fatty liver (abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver parenchyma).

Eye health

Better ocular health

Taking 12 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin flavonoids daily can reduce the development of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Drinking a cup of root infusion already meets the requirements. This infusion supplies 15 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin, which will help to preserve the health of these organs.

Like we said before, it combats night blindness: dandelion corrects sight deficiencies in poor lighting conditions due to its vitamin A and helenine content, two active ingredients that stimulate the production of rhodopsin. This protein is fundamental to act on specialized cells from the retina called rods.

Benefits for the skin

It has a relevant use at a topical level, since it combats both acne and eczema. In the case of acne, its cause seems to be related to some toxins produced by a hormone maladjustment which is common in puberty. This is why dandelion and its detoxifying power can become an important support, since we can use its sap topically. In addition, it is a highly alkaline liquid with bactericide effects.

This feature can also help with acne, since some microorganisms also intervene in this process. But, in general, dandelion helps to handle dermatological alterations that are relatively common, like pruritus and eczema associated to dermatitis.

Against constipation

Its root extract is a great remedy against constipation if we want to avoid pharmacological laxatives. In addition, it will stimulate the intestinal transit without causing irritation or any other problem.

Running and sports

Antioxidant enzymes enhancer

Experimentally, dandelion enhances antioxidant enzymes. Moreover, it balances the profiles of different current lipids, mainly: triglycerides, HDL and LDL cholesterol. At the same time, the experts have assessed the possibility that it can protect against oxidative stress related to certain cardiovascular disorders.

Diuretic effect of dandelion

To conclude, the most outstanding function of Taraxacum officinale: its diuretic effect which does not entail any risks or side effects. It allows a smooth elimination of toxins accumulated and produced by the metabolism. It is quite advisable to do a preventive treatment with dandelion with each season change.

Dandelion to lose weight

This ingredient is very useful for weight loss diets. However, this is not only due to its low calorie supply, but also to its outstanding diuretic effect. In fact, it contributes to excreting water excess through the urine naturally.

Due to its scarce energy supply due to its low fat and carbohydrates content, it is ideal for any weight loss diet. How? One of the most common formats is infusions, which barely has any calories (only 25 per cup) although it is very nutritious.

You can eat its raw leaves in salads. In order to avoid the bitter taste, the young leaves must be harvested a few days after they start growing. Actually, you can also eat them as a condiment for dishes with mushrooms, onions or vegetables.

Another option is to soak them for thirty minutes in brine, then boil them like any other vegetable.

Active lifestyle

How to take Dandelion

Topical administration

Its root is used as a raw material in order to obtain an oil with which to give ideal massages. This will help to treat rheumatism and arthritis, thanks to its excellent anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, it also helps with the absorption of clots produced by hematomas.

Esthetic purposes

  • Against cellulitis or orange skin: in order to avoid fluid retention, dandelion helps to remove the toxins that predispose its formation. In fact, it is one of the most beneficial remedies for this problem.
  • You can also use it to get rid of under eye circles, which tend to be caused by liquid retention.
  • In order to prevent the development of freckles and spots on our skin that are mostly related to aging.
  • Washing your hair often with dandelion infusion can combat different hair problems: including fragile, dry or greasy hair.
  • A topical use contributes to reducing the fat layer of the skin.

Capsules

This is the perfect format if you are looking for a simple and quick way of taking dandelion. They are available in herbalist’s shops and, of course, in the HSN online store.

When it comes to the dose, you have to follow the product instructions. It will depend on the amount of dry extract, but it is usually two capsules with each one of the three main meals.

Tincture

It is another option as comfortable as the capsules. It is available in plenty of herbalist’s shops and you just have to add a few drops to a glass with plenty of water or juice. You can also take 30 drops of tincture with water as a detoxifying element three times a day.

Like almost any tincture, it has a lot of alcohol. This is the reason way it is not recommended during pregnancy or lactation.

Dandelion infusion

Infusion

You can take dandelion infusions and combine them with other natural ingredients. This will support the treatment of some health problems and help you lose weight too.

Contraindications of Dandelion

As long as you take the recommended dose, dandelion barely triggers any side effects and it is practically innocuous.

The little risk that it entails is mainly caused by its leaves. If we eat them raw they can supply many oxalates and trigger serious health problems. These elements steal the atoms of certain essential minerals such as magnesium, iron, and calcium, inhibiting their absorption.

The stem can also produce certain toxicity, specially in children, due to its abundant latex content.

Allergy

  • Flatulence, diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • Dermatitis
  • Eye irritation, mouth dryness or shivering
  • Headaches, back or muscle soreness

In any case, we would be dealing with an allergic reaction to one of its components. Therefore, we would have to stop taking it.

Be careful. All those who are allergic to ambrosia and composite plants, such as marigold, daisy, or chrysanthemum, may also be allergic to dandelion.

Open dandelion flower

How to take Dandelion properly?

Dandelion enhances the production of bile considerably. That is why those who suffer from gallstones should avoid its consumption since it can produce strong colics.

Something similar happens to the excreting apparatus: the oxalates from the dandelion leaves can increase the development of kidney stones because they are mainly made of these salts.

Similarly, it is not recommended to those who suffer from acid or stomach ulcers. This is due to the fact that it can stimulate the production of gastric juices. In fact, this can be applied to other digestive disorders from the colon or ulcerous colitis.

The case of diabetic people deserves a special mention. This plant can lower the blood glucose levels if we combine it with the appropriate medicines to control diabetes. Otherwise, it can result in hypoglycemia with blurry vision, sweating, shaking, vertigo, a tingling sensation, and tachycardia…

We should be careful when it comes to children and pregnant or lactating women, because some of the products can also have alcohol. Moreover, we should also consider the fact that dandelion also has certain hormonal properties.

Combination with medicines

  • Lithium: dandelion inhibits the excretion of this metal, whose accumulation in the blood can trigger intoxication.
  • Potassium: dandelion can sharply increase the serum potassium levels when we follow a treatment with this substance due to hypertension.
  • Antibiotics: dandelion may inhibit the intestinal absorption of antibiotics. This effect mostly happens with the so called quinolones such as: norfloxacin, ciprofloxacin, enoxacin, sparfloxacin and trovafloxacin.
  • Similarly, it is not recommended to combine it with diuretic medicines due to its diuretic effect. Otherwise, it could produce dehydration due to an excessive fluid loss.
  • Anti-coagulants (like aspirin) and neuro-muscle action blockers (such as the botulinum toxin or succinylcholine): if you wake any of these medicines, it is extremely important to consult your doctor before taking dandelion.

Dandelion and fruit juice

Uses of Dandelion

Let’s try to review some of the uses of dandelion.

The root is used as a substitute for coffee, but without the complications of that drink. How? You have to toast and grind its roots. It can be easily elaborated by toasting the roots in an oven until they become brownish, which is the moment where they are ready to be consumed.

As appetizers or, in the case of anorexia, you can put the buds of the flowers in vinegar.

In order to prepare a toning salad for the liver you can use some fresh leaves combined with lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, basil and parsley. If you usually eat this kind of salads, you will need to prevent the deterioration of the dandelion leaves, which is the reason why it is quite convenient to store them hermetically with cooking paper that will absorb the excess of humidity so that they can be edible during 4 days. The petals of the flowers and the buds can serve as flavor enhancers and to color salads.

We can make juices, by mixing it with some fruit. It is recommended to drink a glass of juice daily.

Its jam is a very popular ingredient in certain European regions and it is frequently referred to as dandelion honey. This is due to the fact that it has a similar texture to real honey. The best raw ingredient to prepare it are the flowers that are harvested at the central hours of the day during the months of April or May. To make it, you will need two handfuls of flowers combined with a liter of water, half a kilo of sugar, and half a lemon.

The most popular formats

But maybe, the most common way to consume dandelion are infusions made from its flowers and dry leaves. Other popular formats are liquid extracts (or drops) and capsules. Both can be made from powder or dry extract; the latter, at the same time, can be made from:

  • Root, a dose from 3-5 grams, it can be consumed up to three times a day.
  • Leaves, between 4 and 10 grams, also a maximum of three times a day.
  • Blend of root and leaves,, between 3.5 and 5 grams, same as before.

Dandelion flowers

Remedies with dandelion

Infusion against acne

We can treat acne and boils with a decoction made of 5 grams of burdock root and another ten of dandelion root in three quarters of water.

Boil this blend for ten minutes more or less and another ten to let it settle so that the active ingredients diffuse well. From it we can drink around a hundred milliliters three times a day.

Against prostate inflammation

It is an infusion made with five grams of nettle and another five of dandelion in half a liter of water that you just have to boil and let settle for a few minutes. By stimulating the production of urine, dandelion contributes to relieve the inflammation of this gland due to its diuretic capacity.

A few years ago, it was published in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” a study that proved that dandelion causes a remarkable increase in the amount of urine throughout the five following hours to its consumption.

Another study, this one about the cultivation of tissues which was published in the “Journal of Medicinal Food”, proved that dandelion triggers a significant inhibition of nitric oxide, prostaglandins, interleukins, and cytokines, all of them substances that intervene in the process of inflammation.

For fluid retention

Take a spoonful of dry horsetail herb, and another of dandelion, then dissolve them in half a liter of water and boil them, you can consume up to three cups a day. Those who suffer from hypertension should take precautions and should consult their doctor who will be the one that will consider if its consumption can trigger any adverse reaction.

Flower bracelet

Perfect infusion against hepatic cirrhosis

In order to treat cirrhosis, we can provide a good help for the liver in the form of a cocktail made with 20 grams of dandelion, 30 of passionflower and 50 of milk thistle. In order to adjust the dose, of this blend we have to take just a teaspoon that will be added to boiling water in a cup, and you just have to let it settle. You can drink five cups a day, and it is advisable to drink a minimum of 3 per day.

Dandelion to get rid of warts

When we uproot and cut the dandelion plant, a milky matter comes from its root, which has the curious ability to eliminate warts. In order to obtain a maximum efficiency, we need to use a fresh root and we have to apply this liquid quickly on the wart. Then, cover it with a plaster. Do this at least twice a day.

Remedy for ovarian cysts

The aim is to reduce the volume of these cysts by changing the hormone balance that caused its formation. Its composition is extremely simple: prepare an infusion by mixing a teaspoon of dandelion dry leaves in a cup of water of a hundred milliliters.

For the accumulation of uric acid in blood

An excess of animal protein and alcohol will often produce a lot of waste substances. One of the most common clinical manifestations is gout, which produces an intense pain in the thumb of the feet, but it can also frequently cause acute pain in the joints due to their inflammation, which in the worst cases can produce episodes of renal or hepatic deficiency.

The infusion is achieved through an identical combination of dandelion, chives, and green anise. Drink three glasses a day at most.

The polyphenols from dandelion are the ones in charge of its efficiency in the elimination of uric acid, which also contribute to purify the lymphatic system.

Horsetail stems

Infusion with horsetail

With these two plants you can prepare an excellent infusion, who will act on disorders such as arterial hypertension, renal lithiasis and gout, among others. In order to elaborate it, you have two mix both spoonfuls of dry horsetail and dandelion and soak them in a liter and a half of boiling water. Once it boils, leave it for a few minutes and let it settle for a quarter of an hour. You can drink up to three cups a day, cold or hot, make sure to strain the preparation.

Bibliography

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