Although most people think of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) as a pesky weed, the plant has long been used in herbal medicine to aid in digestion and help stimulate appetite. The entire dandelion plant from root to blossom is edible with a slightly bitter, chicory-like taste.
The root itself is sometimes roasted to create caffeine-free dandelion coffee. When used for medicine, the dried or fresh root can be made into teas, tinctures, decoctions (infusions), and poultices. Dandelion root is also available over the counter in capsule form.
In traditional Chinese and Native American medicine, dandelion root has long been used to treat stomach and liver conditions. Herbalists today believe that it can aid in the treatment of many ailments, including acne, eczema, high cholesterol, heartburn, gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, and even cancer. Some of the claims are better supported by research than others.
You may be most familiar with dandelion as a stubborn weed that never seems to leave your lawn or garden.
However, in traditional herbal medicine practices, dandelion are revered for their wide array of medicinal properties.
For centuries, they’ve been used to treat a myriad of physical ailments, including cancer, acne, liver disease and digestive disorders.
Here are 13 potential health benefits of dandelion, and what science has to say about them.
In terms of nutritional content, the dandelion patch in your backyard can join the rankings with the rest of your vegetable garden.
From root to flower, dandelion are highly nutritious plants, loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Dandelion greens can be eaten cooked or raw and serve as an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. They also contain vitamin E, folate and small amounts of other B vitamins (1).
What’s more, dandelion greens provide a substantial amount of several minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium (1).
The root of the dandelion is rich in the carbohydrate inulin, which is a type of soluble fiber found in plants that supports the growth and maintenance of a healthy bacterial flora in your intestinal tract.
Dandelion root is often dried and consumed as a tea but can also be eaten in its whole form.
Summary The nutritional content of dandelion extends to all parts of the plant. It’s a rich source of many vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Dandelion are full of potent antioxidants, which may explain why this plant has such broad applications for health.
Antioxidants are molecules that help neutralize or prevent the negative effects of free radicals in your body.
Free radicals are a product of normal metabolism but can be very destructive. The presence of too many free radicals contributes to disease development and accelerated aging. Therefore, antioxidants are essential for keeping your body healthy.
Dandelion contain high levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is known to provide strong protection against cellular damage and oxidative stress.
They’re also rich in another category of antioxidants called polyphenols, which are found in the highest concentration in the flower but are present in the roots, leaves and stems as well.
Summary Dandelion are a rich source of beta-carotene and polyphenolic compounds, both of which are known to have strong antioxidant capabilities that can prevent aging and certain diseases.
Dandelion may be effective in reducing inflammation caused by disease due to the presence of various bioactive compounds like polyphenols within the plant.
Inflammation is one of your body’s natural responses to injury or illness. Over time, excessive inflammation can lead to permanent damage to your body’s tissues and DNA.
Some test-tube studies have revealed significantly reduced inflammation markers in cells treated with dandelion compounds.
A study in mice with artificially induced inflammatory lung disease showed a significant reduction of lung inflammation in those animals that received dandelion.
Ultimately, more research is needed to clearly define dandelion’s role in reducing inflammation in humans.
Summary Small animal and test-tube studies suggest that dandelion have a significant anti-inflammatory capacity, though more research is needed to better understand how dandelion affect inflammation in humans.
Chicoric and chlorogenic acid are two bioactive compounds in dandelion. They’re found in all parts of the plant and may help reduce blood sugar.
Test-tube and animal studies show that these compounds can improve insulin secretion from the pancreas while simultaneously improving the absorption of glucose (sugar) in muscle tissue.
This process leads to improved insulin sensitivity and reduced blood sugar levels.
In some animal studies, chicoric and chlorogenic acid limited the digestion of starchy carbohydrate foods, which may also contribute to dandelion’s potential ability to reduce blood sugar .
While these early study results are encouraging, more research is needed to determine if dandelion work the same way in humans.
Summary The dandelion plant contains bioactive compounds that have been shown to reduce blood sugar in animal and test-tube studies. More research is needed to determine if the same effect would be seen in humans.
Some of the bioactive compounds in dandelion may lower cholesterol, which may decrease heart disease risk.
One animal study resulted in dramatically reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels in mice that were treated with dandelion extract.
A rabbit study evaluated the impact of adding dandelion roots and leaves to a high-cholesterol diet. Rabbits that received dandelion had noticeably reduced cholesterol levels .
Though these outcomes are intriguing, more research is needed to determine dandelion’s potential effects on cholesterol in humans.
Summary Some animal studies have shown reduced cholesterol levels after consuming dandelion. More research is needed to understand how this plant affects levels in humans.
Some people claim that dandelion may reduce blood pressure, but supporting evidence is limited.
Traditional herbal medicine practices use dandelion for their diuretic effect based on the belief that this can detoxify certain organs.
In Western medicine, diuretic medications are used to rid the body of excess fluid, which can lead to lowered blood pressure.
One human study found dandelion to be an effective diuretic. However, this study was done over a short period and involved only 17 people.
Dandelion contain potassium, a mineral associated with lowered blood pressure in those with previously elevated levels. Thus, dandelion may have an indirect effect on blood pressure due to their potassium content.
It’s important to keep in mind that this effect is not unique to dandelion but applies to any potassium-rich food consumed as part of a healthy diet.
Summary Dandelion may lower blood pressure due to their diuretic effect and potassium content. However, very little formal research has been conducted to support this claim.
Animal studies have found that dandelion have a protective effect on liver tissue in the presence of toxic substances and stress.
One study revealed significant protection of liver tissue in mice exposed to toxic levels of acetaminophen (Tylenol). Researchers attributed this finding to dandelion’s antioxidant content .
Other animal studies have shown that dandelion extract may reduce levels of excess fat stored in the liver and protect against oxidative stress in liver tissue.
However, the same results should not be expected in humans due to differences in human and animal metabolism.
Further research is needed to determine how dandelion impact liver health in humans.
Summary Animal studies have shown that dandelion protect liver tissue from toxic substances and oxidative stress, but more research is needed to determine their effect on liver health in humans.
Some research indicates that dandelion and their bioactive components may support weight loss and maintenance, though the data is not entirely conclusive.
Some researchers theorize that dandelion’s ability to improve carbohydrate metabolism and reduce fat absorption may lead to weight loss. However, this notion has yet to be scientifically proven.
One study in mice showed weight loss associated with dandelion supplementation, though it should be noted that this was an accidental finding and not the main focus of the study.
Another study in obese mice revealed that chlorogenic acid, a compound found in dandelion, was able to reduce body weight and levels of some fat-storage hormones.
Yet again, this research did not specifically evaluate dandelion’s role in weight loss and obesity prevention.
More focused, human-based research is needed to determine a clear cause-and-effect relationship between dandelion and weight management.
Summary Some animal studies have shown that bioactive components in dandelion may support weight loss, but no human studies have evaluated this effect.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing health claims of dandelion is their potential to prevent the growth of cancerous cells in many different organ systems.
One test-tube study revealed significantly reduced growth of cancerous cells that were treated with dandelion leaf extract. However, extracts from dandelion flower or root did not lead to the same result.
Other test-tube studies have shown that dandelion root extract has the capacity to dramatically slow the growth of cancer cells in liver, colon and pancreatic tissue.
These findings are encouraging, but more research is fundamental to fully understand how dandelion may be useful in treating or preventing cancer in humans.
Summary Several test-tube studies have found that dandelion is effective in reducing the growth of cancer cells in various organ tissues. More research is needed to draw conclusions about its efficacy for preventing or treating cancer in humans.
Traditional herbal medicine utilizes dandelion to treat constipation and other symptoms of impaired digestion. Some early research seems to support these claims.
One animal study revealed a significant increase in the rates of stomach contractions and emptying of stomach contents into the small intestine in rats who were treated with dandelion extract.
Additionally, dandelion root is a rich source of the prebiotic fiber inulin. Research indicates that inulin has a strong capacity to reduce constipation and increase intestinal movement.
Summary Research indicates that dandelion may increase contractions and movement of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, acting as a treatment for constipation and indigestion. This effect is likely due to the prebiotic fiber inulin.
Some research indicates that dandelion may have antimicrobial and antiviral properties, which could support your body’s ability to fight infection.
Several test-tube studies found that dandelion extract significantly reduced the ability of viruses to replicate.
Research also indicates that some of the active compounds in dandelion protect against various harmful bacteria.
Ultimately, more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions about dandelion’s ability to fight viral and bacterial infection in humans.
Summary Early research indicates that dandelion have antiviral and antimicrobial properties, though clear applications for medicinal use have yet to be determined.
Animal and test-tube research indicate that dandelion may protect against skin damage from sunlight, aging and acne.
In one study, dandelion leaf and flower extracts protected against skin damage when applied just prior to or immediately after exposure to UVB radiation (sunlight). Interestingly, dandelion root was not effective in the same way.
One of the characteristics of aging skin is a decrease in the production of healthy, new skin cells.
One test-tube study showed that dandelion root extract increased the generation of new skin cells, which could slow the aging process.
Additional research indicates that dandelion extract may reduce skin inflammation and irritation while also increasing hydration and collagen production. This may be useful in preventing and treating certain types of acne.
Reliable human research is still needed to better understand how dandelion may support skin health.
Summary Animal and test-tube studies indicate that dandelion may protect against harmful sun rays, aging and skin irritations, such as acne. Currently, reliable human studies are unavailable.
Very little research has been conducted on dandelion’s effect on bone health, though some of its individual nutritional components contribute to the maintenance of strong, healthy bones.
Dandelion greens are a good source of calcium and vitamin K — both of which are associated with the prevention of bone loss (30, 31).
Inulin, a fiber found in dandelion root, may also support healthy bones through improved digestion and the promotion of healthy gut bacteria.
Summary Research directly relating dandelion to bone health is lacking, though some nutritional components of the plant are known to support the maintenance of strong bones.
Dandelion leaves, stems and flowers are often consumed in their natural state and can be eaten cooked or raw. The root is usually dried, ground and consumed as a tea or coffee substitute.
Dandelion is also available in supplemental forms, such as capsules, extracts and tinctures.
Currently, there are no clear dosage guidelines, as very little human research has been conducted on dandelion as a supplement.
According to some available data, suggested dosages for different forms of dandelion are:
- Fresh leaves: 4–10 grams, daily.
- Dried leaves: 4–10 grams, daily.
- Leaf tincture: 0.4–1 teaspoon (2–5 ml), three times a day.
- Fresh leaf juice: 1 teaspoon (5 ml), twice daily.
- Fluid extract: 1–2 teaspoon (5–10 ml), daily.
- Fresh roots: 2–8 grams, daily.
- Dried powder: 250–1,000 mg, four times a day.
Summary There are currently no clear dosage guidelines for dandelion supplements, as research is limited. Different forms of dandelion require different suggested doses.
Dandelion have low toxicity and are likely safe for most people, especially when consumed as a food in its whole form.
However, keep in mind that research is still very limited and its use is not 100% risk-free.
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Dandelion can cause allergic reactions, particularly in people with allergies to related plants like ragweed. Contact dermatitis can also occur in people with sensitive skin.
Dandelion may interact unfavorably with some medications, especially certain diuretics and antibiotics.
If you’re taking any prescription medications, always consult your healthcare provider prior to taking dandelion.
Summary Dandelion have low toxicity and are likely safe for most people. They can cause allergic reactions in some and may interact negatively with certain medications, particularly diuretics and antibiotics.
Dandelion are not a replacement for a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, especially with regard to disease prevention and treatment.
Yet, they could be a unique and nutritious addition to your wellness routine.
Dandelion have the potential to provide some therapeutic health benefits — but don’t count on it. Research on specific applications for dandelion is lacking, especially in human studies.
Dandelion are unlikely to cause harm, as long as you’re not allergic or taking certain medications.
Always consult a qualified healthcare professional before adding a new herbal supplement to your diet.