Parts Used & Where Grown
Closely related to chicory, dandelion is a common plant worldwide and the bane of those looking for the perfect lawn. The plant grows to a height of about 12 inches, producing spatula-like leaves and yellow flowers that bloom year-round. Upon maturation, the flower turns into the characteristic puffball containing seeds that are dispersed in the wind. Dandelion is grown commercially in the United States and Europe. The leaves and root are used in herbal supplements.
How It Works
The primary constituents responsible for dandelion’s action on the digestive system and liver are the bitter principles. Previously referred to as taraxacin, these constituents are sesquiterpene lactones of the eudesmanolide and germacranolide type, and are unique to dandelion.1 Dandelion is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals. The leaves have a high content of vitamin A as well as moderate amounts of vitamin D, vitamin C, various B vitamins, iron, silicon, magnesium, zinc, and manganese.2
An animal study found that at high amounts (2 grams per 2.2 pounds [1 kg] of body weight), the leaves possess diuretic effects comparable to the prescription diuretic furosemide (Lasix®).3 However, to date, these results have not been demonstrated in human clinical trials. Since edema, or water retention, may be a sign of a more serious disease, people should seek the guidance of a physician before using dandelion leaves for either of these conditions.
The bitter compounds in the leaves and root help stimulate digestion and are mild laxatives.4 These bitter principles also increase bile production in the gallbladder and bile flow from the liver.5 For this reason dandelion is recommended by some herbalists for people with sluggish liver function due to alcohol abuse or poor diet. The increase in bile flow may help improve fat (including cholesterol) metabolism in the body.