Dandelion roots seem to go down forever. Every time you turn around, it seems as though a dozen new sprouts have already appeared. However, this remarkably valuable herb has a long folk medical history in many cultures throughout the world. Its versatility stems from a wide variety of natural ingredients that affect our metabolism in various ways. It is more than a great addition to salads. Indeed, dandelion is a top detox herb for internal use as well as for herbal skin care.
Dandelion in Herbal Medicine
The common dandelion ( Taraxacum officinale ) has been a worldwide weed for centuries. It is well-known in many cultures. People in every culture have adopted it for a number of medicinal applications. The dandelion root has been particularly important as a digestive remedy and for liver function. The leaf has been used as a diuretic and bitter digestive stimulant.
Native Americans used the whole boiled plant for treating kidney disease, upset stomach, and skin disorders. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it has long been known for helping with digestive problems and for boosting milk production in breast-feeding women. Even today, European herbalists continue the traditional use dandelion as a treatment for fever, diabetes, and diarrhea.
In addition to its folk medical history, dandelion has traditionally been consumed as a tasty leafy green vegetable. It is often added as a bitter flavoring for mixed-leaf salads.
Dandelion in Modern Herbal Medicine
The folk medical history of dandelion has attracted much scientific attention. A substantial amount of scientific research on this herb documents a variety of health benefits. The German Commission E monographs, a modern compendium of herbal medicine based on scientific research, cites dandelion as one of its 380 recommended herbs. The Commission E approved this herb for use as a diuretic and as a treatment for indigestion, anorexia, and problems in bile secretion.
In addition, a recent search on Taraxacum officinale in PubMed, the US medical database at the National Institutes of Health, came up with 230 published research articles. This body of research has been reviewed for most of the key uses of dandelion in human health. The review was published in the journal, Integrative Medicine , in 2009 by Dr. Eric Yarnell of Bastyr University in Seattle and herbalist Kathy Abascal of the nearby Botanical Medicine Academy.
According to Yarnell and Abascal, dandelion leaf and root have been especially well-studied regarding their digestive benefits, as so-called bitter stimulants. Root extracts have also been found to relay infection, to regulate the immune system, and to fight bacterial growth. Moreover, research at Columbia University in 2007 discovered a relatively new detox action by dandelion. Scientists there found the herb's potential role in boosting the detoxification of androgenic (testosterone-generating) hormones in premenopausal women.
Dandelion in Herbal Skin Care
In addition to its importance internally, dandelion is often added to herbal formulas for skin care. It seems to synergize with other herbs such as burdock root, licorice, inulae, and ginseng, in particular for application to acupressure points of the feet.
Who would have thought that a common weed, and popular salad ingredient, could be so useful for our health, too?