Other Name: lion's tooth
BOTANICAL NAME: Taraxacum officinale Weber ex F.H. Wigg.1
Plant Family: Asteraceae
Taraxacum dens-leonis, Taraxacum vulgare 1
Dandelion is a sunny, subtle, yet incredibly healing plant used for thousands of years in China and mentioned in traditional Arabian medicine in the tenth century C.E. It has been used for centuries, in traditional medicine practices all over the world, as a restorative tonic, edible food, and in herbal wines and beers. The root is a favorite amongst traditional herbalists as it supports the healthy functioning of the liver, kidneys, spleen, and gallbladder9-13 and is considered to be a reliable detoxifying agent. The powdered and roasted root has been enjoyed as a coffee substitute and the roots and leaves are both used in brewing dandelion wines, beer, and in digestive bitter cordials and liqueurs.
Dandelion bears a sun-yellow flower head (which is actually composed of hundreds of tiny flowers)3 typical of the Asteraceae family, that closes in the evening or during cloudy weather and opens back up in the morning, much like its cousin calendula (Calendula officinale). When the flower is closed, to some, it looks like a pig's nose, hence one of its names, 'swine's snout.'2 It is a perennial herb with deeply cut leaves that form a basal rosette4 somewhat similar to another family member, the wild lettuce (Lactuca sp.), and has a thick tap root which is dark brown on the outside and white on the inside.2 It is native to most of Europe, Asia, and northern Africa, naturalized all over the world, and commonly found growing alongside roads and in lawns as a common weed.1
The Taraxacum genus is vast, having over 60 species3 many of which have very similar healing properties. Taraxacum mongolicum, which is used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is one such example. Hawkbitroot (Leontodon hispidus), in the same family yet a different genus, has been substituted for dandelion in the past.2
Taraxacum is derived from the Greek words 'taraxos' meaning disorder and 'akos' meaning remedy, the name referring to dandelion's myriad healing properties. Further, the word 'dandelion' originated from the Greek genus name 'leontodon' or 'lion's teeth' which is thought to be related to the tooth-like shape of the leaves.2
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
Dandelion is produced commercially in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, the former Yugoslavia, and the United Kingdom.4 However, dandelion grows practically everywhere, and is wild collected in a variety of climates, even in the Himalayas up to about 12,000 feet, where it is often gathered for use in Ayurvedic medicine (the traditional healing system of India).5 Dandelion will grow anywhere, but will produce more substantial roots in moist, rich, deep soil.3Pharmacopeial grade dandelion leaf is composed of the dried leaves collected before flowering and the root collected in autumn or whenever its inulin content is the highest.5
HISTORY AND FOLKLORE
Medicinal use of dandelion was first recorded in writing in the Tang Materia Medica (659 B.C.E.),6 and then later noted by Arab physicians in the 10th century. In the 13th century, it was mentioned in Welsh medicine, and has been used all over the world since. The root was enjoyed by pharmacists in Europe as a fresh juice (said to be less bitter tasting) and referred to by its pharmaceutical name Succus Taraxaci. Young dandelion leaves were traditionally eaten frequently in Europe, particularly France.2 In folk medicine all over Europe it was considered a reliable tonic which supported the digestive and urinary systems.3
In the United States, various Native American tribes considered dandelion to be a prized edible, a gastrointestinal aid, a cleansing alterative, and a helpful healing poultice or compress. The Bella Coola from Canada made a decoction of the roots to assuage stomach pain; the Algonquian ate the leaves for their alterative properties and also used them externally as a poultice.7 Additionally, the Aleut steamed leaves and applied them topically to sore throats. The Cherokee believed the root to be an alterative as well and made a tea of the plant (leaves and flowers) to calm the nerves. Further, they chewed the root to allay tooth pain.8 It is interesting to note that dandelion was used for pain relief by the Iroquois as well. They made a tea of the whole plant administering it for this purpose and also considered it be an alterative tonic.7 In the southwestern U.S., in Spanish speaking communities practicing herbalism, dandelion called 'chicoria' or 'diente de leon' was also considered a reliable blood purifier.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is referred to as 'Xin Xiu Ben Cao' or 'Pu Gong Ying' and considered to be energetically sweet, drying, and cooling. According to TCM, dandelion clears heat from the liver and has a beneficial effect on the stomach and lungs. It can uplift the mood and promote lactation.
The root was listed as official in the United States National Formulary, in the pharmacopeias of Austria and the Czech Republic, in the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia, and the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia amongst others.5 It is an herb that is highly effective in strengthening and supporting the liver. It helps to balance the menstrual cycle as well. Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar strongly suggests this herb for bloating, pre-menstrual irritation, and for breast tenderness and says that it is "invaluable to women going through menopause."11 The leaf can alleviate bloating by removing excess fluid from the system.10 The leaf contains potassium,12 which is often lost through frequent urination. Dandelion root's benefit to the digestive tract is twofold as it contains inulin.6,12,14 (which may support healthy bacteria in the intestines), and is also a bitter digestive tonic which tones the digestive system and stimulates the appetite. It calms heat and also hot emotions, and is thus helpful in those that are irritated or nervous.14
The young dandelion greens (rather than the older ones which become too bitter) are wonderful in salads. These leaves can also be steamed like spinach (although they take a little longer to cook than spinach) and spiced with salt, pepper, and butter. Other savory spices such as nutmeg, garlic, onion or lemon peel can be added as well.2
FLAVOR NOTES AND ENERGETICS
Bitter, drying, and cooling
Choleretic, appetite stimulant, digestive bitter, cholagogue, and mild laxative actions, mild purgative, hepatic,13 tonic, lymphatic,14 alterative, demulcent6
USES AND PREPARATIONS
Dried root or leaf as tea or tincture, powdered dried root encapsulated, or powdered and roasted and made into a coffee substitute beverage.
Fresh leaf as an edible food or tincture
Leaf and Flower: flavonoid glycosides such as luteolin and free luteolin, chrysoeriol coumarins, cichoriin, aesculin,15bitter principles such as lactucopicrin (taraxacin), triterpenoids, and phytosterol.5
Root: sesquiterpene lactones, triterpenes (b-amyrin, taraxol, and taraxerol), carbohydrates such as inulin (ranging from 2% in spring to 40% in the fall), carotenoids such as lutein, fatty acids, flavonoids including apigenin and luteolin, minerals such as potassium (up to 5%), phenolic acids (caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid), phytosterols including sitosterol, stigmasterol, and taraxasterol, sugars, vitamin A, choline, mucilage and pectin.5
Specific: No known precautions.
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
- United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Accessed at http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?40944#synon June 9, 2014.
- Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. Accessed at http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/n/nettle03.html on July 10, 2014.
- Foster, S. Herbal Renaissance. Utah: Peregine Smith Books; 1984.
- Leung AY, Foster S, eds. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc; 1996.
- Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
- Yarnell E, Abascal K. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale and T. mongolicum). IntegrativeMed. April-May 2009;8(2):34-38.
- Moerman, D.E. 1998. Native American Ethnobotany. Accessed at http://herb.umd.umich.edu/ on June 9, 2014.
- Hamel, Paul B. and Mary U. Chiltoskey. Cherokee Plants and Their Uses – A 400 Year History. Sylva, N.C.: Herald Publishing Co; 1975.
- TCM Wiki is a wiki site of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Copyright © 2009 - 2012 by http://www.tcmwiki.com/wiki/herba-taraxaci
- Herbs for PMS, Hobbs 1998 Accessed at: http://www.christopherhobbs.com/website/library/articles/article_files/herbs_for_pms.html on July 10, 2014.
- Gladstar, R. Herbal Healing for Woman. New York: Fireside Publishing; 1993.
- Duke J. A. Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Accessed at http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/ on July 5, 2014.
- Hoffmann, D. (1998). The Herbal Handbook: A User's Guide to Medical Herbalism. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co.
- Becker M. Materia Medica Intensive Seminar. Boulder, CO: North American Institute of Medical Herbalism, Inc; 2005.
- Williams, C. A., Goldstone, F., & Greenham, J. (1996). Flavonoids, cinnamic acids and coumarins from the different tissues and medicinal preparations of_ Taraxacum officinale_. Phytochemistry, 42(1), 121-127.