- Alternative & Natural Medicine
Healing Herbs: Dandelion
How to Use Medicinal Herbs: Dandelion
- How to Use Medicinal Herbs: Dandelion
Find out how to use dandelions medicinally.
What is Dandelion?
Although the dandelion flower comes from the extensive Taraxacum genus, the best known plant is referred to as Taraxacum officinale, or the common dandelion. The common dandelion flower is a perennial herbaceous plant that belongs to the Asteraceae, or daisy, family. Though this plant is native to Eurasia, it is now widely grown throughout the United States and Canada, southern Africa and South America, India, Australia and New Zealand.
It is pretty safe to say that no matter where you live you will be able to identify this incredibly prolific flower. Dandelions are most easily recognized by their bright yellow inflorescences, which later turn into distinctive balls of fluff. These cheerfully hued inflorescences sit atop a hallow green or slightly purple stem, which is surrounded by basal, oblong, indented leaves that may feel mildly hairy to the touch.
The name dandelion first came about in medieval France, and, meaning "tooth of the lion," it was a clear reference to the plant's jagged foliage. Although this plant got its name in France, it had actually been in use for quite some time in the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, its first reported usage dates back to the tenth century, when it was used by Arab physicians who, over time, had spread the word of the dandelion's uses so far that by the 13th century it had become a staple in many Welsh medicinal concoctions. In the United States, this plant was virtually unknown. In 1620, however, European settlers began to cultivate the plant in order to utilize its many medicinal properties. Since then, dandelions have blossomed to such an extent, they are now widely considered an invasive weed.
Unfortunately, many people have forgotten how useful this bright little plant is, and it is only recently that both traditional herbalists and modern scientists have begun to seriously investigate its true potential. The nutritional benefits of the dandelion are really rather remarkable. These plants are packed with such dietary essentials as fiber, minerals like calcium, iron and potassium, and vitamins like vitamin A, C, B-6 and K. Additionally, dandelions contain numerous healthful compounds like Taraxacerin and levulin, natural latex, and flavonoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
What Are the Benefits of Dandelion?
Although the dandelion is widely seen as a potent diuretic, it has many additional uses. For instance, it can be used for:
Stomach Complaints and Constipation:
In addition to having diuretic properties, which can be beneficial in treating and preventing urinary tract infections, dandelions are also thought to be a mild laxative, which may be useful to those suffering from acute or infrequent bouts of constipation. Certain bitterly flavored compounds which abound in the dandelion roots are thought to aid in relieving indigestion. As an added bonus, these plants are also thought to encourage the proper digestion of food if taken directly after eating, and also help to increase the appetite of those suffering from an unrelated illness.
Broken Skin and Warts:
The resin sap that can be found inside the inner portion of the dandelion root is thought to not only sooth broken or burned skin, but also prevent it from becoming infected. Although the exact mechanism is unclear, this same sap has been used for ages to help warts dissolve from the skin.
Bones Disorders and Rheumatism:
Considering that the entire dandelion plant contains a decent helping of both calcium and magnesium, it is no surprise to find that herbalists throughout the centuries have used this herb to help those suffering from a variety of bone-related issues – from osteoporosis, to a simple broken bone. For those battling the effects of rheumatism, the dandelion flower may offer some relief, as some animal testing has shown that it also contains a fairly effective amount of anti-inflammatory properties.
Other Potential Uses:
The dandelion plant may also be useful in treating allergies, asthma and colds. Additionally, this plant has been utilized in the treatment of high cholesterol and low blood pressure, diabetes and ulcers, premenstrual syndrome and hot flashes associated with menopause.
Side Effects and Warnings:
Dandelions were once thought to be toxic if consumed; however, it has recently been established that you would have to eat a lot of this plant for it to be considered deadly. Despite this, the dandelion plant may still cause a few adverse reactions. For instance, in some, this plant may lower blood sugar, which can cause such symptoms as dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, and a tingling sensation in the hands or feet. Those who have a known allergy to other plants in the Asteraceae family, such as daisies, safflowers or chrysanthemums, should not use this plant either internally or externally, as it may cause a severe allergic reaction. Some of the more general and mild side effects can include an upset stomach, contact dermatitis, and heartburn. Dandelions may also interfere with or alter certain medications, so it is important to speak with a doctor or pharmacist prior to consuming this plant if you are taking antibiotics, potassium-sparing diuretics, lithium, or any drug that is altered by the liver.