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Botanical Description & Habitat

Taraxacum officianalis


Common Names

Lion's tooth
White endive
Wild endive

Abundant all over the world; found in meadows and pastures.

Dandelion has a thick, light brown perennial root which produces a rosette of basal leaves. A leafless flower stem grows from the center of the basal leaves; it is smooth, hollow, and terminates with a single large, golden flower, which opens during the day and closes at night and in the rain. The root, leaves, and stem contain a milky fluid. The flower is succeeded by a hairy puffball containing seeds, which ripen and are dispersed by the wind.

Medicinal Parts
Dried cut aerial parts and leaves; collected in May
Dried roots; collected in the autumn.

Historical Properties & Uses

Dandelion is one of the strongest cholagogues and choleretics known. Its ability to promote the flow of bile is unequaled among the common herbs. It is used specifically to promote the health of the liver and related organs and glands. Research indicates it aids recovery from many kinds of liver disease, including hepatitis and liver insufficiency. Several European proprietary liver remedies contain dandelion root. Related disorders of digestion, such as dyspepsia, have also benefited from ingestion of the herb.

Dandelion's proven diuretic action is attributable, at least in part, to the presence of potash. In addition to its content of bitters, dandelion is high in inulin, a form of carbohydrate easily assimilated by diabetics; hence, it is a potential source of nutritional support for diabetics. Recently, anti-tumor principles have been isolated from dandelion, providing partial support for a centuries-old Chinese use of the herb. It may also have hypoglycemic action.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E for loss of appetite (see appetite disorders), dyspepsia and flatulence.

The root has separate approval status as: choleretic, diuretic and appetite stimulant.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Dandelion is both a cholagogue and a choleretic
Dandelion is one of the three strongest acting cholagogues known (others being wormwood and Helichrysum arenarium). It raises secretion of bile by over 50%. In experiments with rats, dandelion affects the secretion of bile much like an injection of the animals' own bile would. Since rats do not have gall bladders, the herb must work directly on the liver.

It is postulated the active choleretic principle may be heterocyclic nitrogen-containing constituents. But experts in the area of dandelion research agree that the many properties of this herb are the result of interactions among its constituents rather than the being a case of one chemical--one effect.

Clinically, dandelion has been observed to benefit people with colitis, liver congestion, gallstones and several forms of liver insufficiency. In particular, chronic hepatitis and dyspepsia with insufficient bile secretion are susceptible to the effects of this herb.

A German drug, "Hepatichol," contains dandelion, gentian, maria thistle, nettle, belladonna, and peppermint. Clinical studies with this medicine on 19 cases of gallstones, acute and chronic bile duct and gallbladder inflammation, dyskinesia of the bile duct, and jaundice caused by complete obstruction by gallstones, showed more or less complete recovery within several days. The length of recovery depended on the severity of the symptoms. Further tests with this drug on both healthy and sick subjects using valid controls and sophisticated probes found the medicinesignificantly enhanced both the concentration and secretion of bilirubin in the duodenum just minutes after administration.

Dandelion is a good diuretic
The diuretic property of dandelion has also been observed in several studies. This property may be attributable in part to the presence of potash. In one study a fluid extract of the plant decreased body weight in a month by 30%.

The properties of Inulin
Because of its high inulin content, dandelion belongs to the class of agents used as a blood purifier by many people. It is hard to find justification for this usage from the scientific literature.

Inulin is easily assimilated by diabetics (it contains no calories and does not stress the pancreas), and can therefore be used to regulate sugar metabolism. In the plant, inulin is converted enzymatically to fructose. According to many experts, the liver has a special affinity for fructose; fructose is more rapidly burned and catabolized than glucose. The heart can only utilize glucose after it is converted into glycogen by the liver. That process requires insulin production which can stress the pancreas and produces unwanted swings in blood sugar levels. It is extremely important in cases of conditions like coronary heart disease that the liver be able to provide energy very rapidly. In this regard, fructose, and therefore inulin, appear to be especially valuable in heart therapy.

Dandelion has a high nutritional value
Dandelion contains choline and large quantity of vitamins. At least one study found the herb can cure scurvy. The herb contains more protein, fat, carbohydrates, iron and ash than many other leafy foods, but is not considered a good source of vitamin C in spite of the antiscorbutic action observed.

Dandelion has antitumor properties
Dandelion has been used for hundreds of years in China to treat cancer, especially breast cancer. Recently, antitumor properties in dandelion were discovered.

A hot water extract showed an antitumor effect in the allogeneic tumor system of ddY-Ehrlich, and syngeneic one, C-3-H/He-MM46. The extract showed cytolytic activation of macrophages in antibody-dependent macrophage mediated cytolysis and enhancement of antitumor delayed hypersensitivity reaction in the two tumor systems.

Dandelion may be hypoglycemic
Dandelion also possesses some hypoglycemic activity, perhaps because of the presence of inulin.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
The antituberculous activity of dandelion may potentiate the adverse effects of other antituberculous drugs, especially ethionamide.

Conversely, the anti-inflammatory activity of dandelion can be seriously inhibited by phenobarbital and certain other sedatives and hypnotics, such as chloral hydrate and meprobamate. This is also true of beta-adrenergic blocking agents, such as propranolol.

Dandelion's action depends on the presence of cholinergic substances, its action will be affected by the decrease in cholinergic-receptor stimulation produced by anticholinergics.

The ability of dandelion to increase insulin production and secretion may be antagonized by heparin.

The antidiabetic ability of dandelion may be decreased by the concomitant use of acetazolamide, oral contraceptives, corticosteroids, dextrothyroxine, epinephrine, ethanol, glucagon and marijuana. The antidiabetic effects of dandelion may also be decreased when used in conjunction with phenothiazines, rifampin, thiazide diuretics and thyroid hormones.

Conversely, the antidiabetic action of dandelion may be enhanced when used with allopurinol, anabolic steroids, chloramphenicol, clofibrate, fenfluramine, guanethidine, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI's), phenylbutazone, probenecid and phenyramidol.

The antidiabetic action of dandelion may also be enhanced when used in conjunction with salicylates, sulfinpyrazone, sulfonamides and tetracyclines.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Dandelion is generally regarded as safe by the FDA.

Some people are allergic to dandelion, in the form of hay fever or asthma.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Three times a day

Dried root
tea made of 2-8 grams

Fluid extract
1:1 in 30% alcohol, 2-8 ml

1:5 in 45% alcohol, 5-10 ml

Juice of fresh root
4-8 ml

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany for the herb are as follows:

4 - 10 g of herb t.i.d.
4 - 10 ml liquid extract 1:1 in 25% alcohol t.i.d.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany for the root are as follows:

1 tablespoon of cut root per cup of water as a tea.
3 - 4 g cut or powdered root per cup of water as a decoction.
10 - 15 drops t.i.d. as a tincture.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


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Taraxacum officianalis

? Southwest School of Botanical Medicine