Monday, February 18, 2008

Herb of the Day -- Dandelion

Despite some recent spring-like conditions it is indeed still Winter, and it might be a good time to start thinking about herbs that can help the body transition from winter to spring. Winter diets tend to be more starchy and laden with carbs and fats, and as the seasons begin to change, our bodies might naturally start craving lighter fare that has a cleansing detoxifying action. This week I'll focus on some herbs that can be useful in supporting the body as the season ends and the days gradually shift towards spring. The first one for this week is Dandelion.

Latin Name: Taraxacum officinale
Other Names: Lion's tooth
Part Used: Root, Leaf
Herb Forms: Tincture, capsule, tablet, teabag, bulk herb, powder.
Affects: Endocrine system, Liver
Cautions: The root is contraindicated in cases of bile duct or intestinal blockage and gallbladder inflammation.
Botanical Info: A common plant of the Aster family with single flowering heads full of bright yellow strap-shaped flowers on hollow, unbranched stalks with hairless, large-toothed leaves.

Medicinal Uses:

Dandelion root, ubiquitous in lawns and gardens, is widely-used for cooling and cleansing the liver; it is excellent in herbal formulas for hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver toxicity. It increases the flow of bile and has been used for a variety of liver-associated illnesses. Dandelion has anti-carcinogenic, estrogen-lowering, and blood cholesterol-lowering capabilities. It also helps with headaches, emotional swings before or during menstruation, acne, red, irritated eyes, mood swings, and other problems related to "liver heat" and is a strong diuretic. In Chinese medicine dandelion root is taken internally and applied topically for abscesses and nodules. Additionally, it is used to increase lactation and clear liver heat when there are symptoms such as painfully inflamed eyes. Dandelion root tea is also a famous specific for breast cancer but should be taken in conjunction with other blood purifying herbs, such as sarsaparilla, red clover, and burdock root, as well as appropriate immune-strengthening herbal therapy and positive dietary and lifestyle changes.

According to Chinese herbal energetics, Dandelion has a taste of BITTER, SWEET and a temperature of COOL.

Dandelion is a natural diuretic that increases urine production by promoting the excretion of salts and water from the kidney. Dandelion may be used for a wide range of conditions requiring mild diuretic treatment, such as poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure. One advantage of dandelion is that dandelion is a source of potassium, a nutrient often lost through the use of other natural and synthetic diuretics.

Fresh or dried dandelion herb is also used as a mild appetite stimulant and to improve upset stomach (such as feelings of fullness, flatulence, and constipation). The root of the dandelion plant is believed to have mild laxative effects and is often used to improve digestion. Research suggests that dandelion root may improve the health and function of natural bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Studies have also reported that dandelion root may help improve liver and gallbladder function.

Some preliminary animal studies also suggest that dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and improve lipid profiles [namely, lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol] in diabetic mice. However, not all animal studies have had the same positive effect on blood sugar. In addition, research needs to be conducted on people to know if this traditional use for diabetes (see Overview) has modern-day merit.

Dandelion may be used in a variety of available forms:
Dried leaf infusion: 1 - 2 teaspoonfuls, 3 times daily. Pour hot water onto dried leaf and steep for 5 - 10 minutes. Drink as directed.

Dried root decoction: 1/2 - 2 teaspoonfuls, 3 times daily. Place root into boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes. Strain and drink as directed.

Leaf tincture (1:5) in 30 % alcohol: 100 - 150 drops, 3 times daily

Standardized powdered extract (4:1) leaf: 500 mg, 1-3 times daily
Standardized powdered extract (4:1) root: 500 mg, 1-3 times daily

Root tincture (1:2) fresh root in 45 % alcohol: 100 - 150 drops, 3 times daily

Possible Herb-Drug Interactions:

Dandelion leaf is a diuretic and may increase the excretion of drugs from the body. If you are taking prescription medications, ask your health care provider before taking dandelion leaf. If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use dandelion preparations without first talking to your health care provider:

Lithium -- Animal studies suggest that dandelion may worsen the side effects associated with lithium, a medication used to treat bipolar disorder.

Antibiotics, quinolone -- One species of dandelion, Taraxacum mongolicum , also called Chinese dandelion, may decrease the absorption of quinolone antibiotics (such as ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, and levofloxacin) from the digestive tract. It is not known whether Taraxacum officinale , also known as common dandelion, would interact with these antibiotics in the same way. As a precaution, dandelion should not be taken at the same time as these antibiotics.


Jimbo said...

Heh, heh. You said "excreted"...

Chrysanthemama said...

We're all about real, live things around here!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I enjoyed the information.