| What is it?
In herbal medicine we use the leaves and roots of Dandelion, a herb which everyone knows. Surely Dandelion is the most maligned of herbs; cursed by lawn-owners all over the world. Many of those same Dandelion digger-outers will be labouring under a liver congestion that the weed under their noses could help more than anything they could find in an arsenal of drugs!
How has it been used?
Not surprisingly, Dandelion has been highly regarded everywhere in the world where people have used herbs as medicines. Dandelion root and its greens (the whole plant is medicinal) were used as tonics and liver medicines in European folk medicine from at least the time of the ancient Greeks.
In the ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda, Dandelion is used to treat various liver disorders such as jaundice, cirrhosis of the liver and enlargement of the liver.
Traditional Chinese medicine records Dandelion in use for at least 5 thousand years for a variety of conditions including diabetes, cancers, infections, fevers, snakebites and, of course, liver and digestive disorders.
Native American Indians used Dandelion for treating digestive and kidney disorders and for skin problems such as eczema and hives.
Rudolph Weiss writes 'Dandelion is one of our oldest medicinal plants. It therefore comes as no surprise that it is recommended in a large number of diseases. Chronic disease of the metabolism and internal organs, especially gout and liver disease are some of the most consistent, long-standing indications for Dandelion and it is a fact that it is one of the best agents with which to intervene in chronic rheumatic disease'.
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Science on Dandelion
My apologies if you are a person who needs to 'see the science' to be assured of the value of something because, unlike pretty much every other of my herbal articles on this site, the science section on Dandelion is empty because what few science papers there are on Dandelion don't get even close to the heart of what this great herb can do for us. Like jaundiced lawn-owners the all the grass growing world over, they are looking at it the wrong way!
Safety of Dandelion
I use Dandelion confidently for all ages, right down to very young infants and likewise for pregnant or breastfeeding women without hesitation if needed. However, as usual, the art is in the dose. Especially in those who are young or sensitive I am careful to not give too much for too long; a little Dandelion can go a long way...
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One of the first books I ever read on herbal medicine was by an old English herbalist. He spoke about his experiences working in poor rural Britain in the early 20th century and how he would go to some very squalid homes with children who were failing to thrive and then show the mothers how to dig up and prepare a daily dose of dandelion extract from the plants that were growing right outside their back door. These people had no money for medicine but what they needed was right there, and it was free. The stories of how those children would regain their energy and sparkle by the time he revisited were compelling and obviously written by an honest man with nothing to gain by exaggeration.
My first herbal teacher, Dennis Stewart, always used to say “Dandelion rinses the renal filter and squeezes the hepatic sponge” (renal means the kidneys and hepatic means the liver) Few adult people in the modern world do not benefit from some kidney rinsing and some liver flushing.
I find that using some Dandelion in the formula helps everything else to work better and I use a very great deal of it in my work for the young or old, weak or strong who have chronic health problems that are being contributed to by a less than clean blood stream and a less than healthy liver!
Dandelion is the first herb I think of for little infants who are having troubles getting their digestion working and so can be suffering from the agonies of colic or the terrible disruption of food allergies when, instead of starting to restrict a whole heap of healthy foods all the little person needs is some help getting their liver and therefore their digestion into gear and they will often stop reacting adversely to their foods in a matter of days!
Likewise I almost always think of Dandelion when I meet teenagers and young adults whose skin is exploding with embarrassing acne. In these cases it may take a treatment that needs a few months and but I can honestly say that this has been a life-changing curative to a condition that can be frankly devastating to a person who is at one of the most vulnerable times in their life (note that I pretty much always combine it with Burdock root for this purpose)
I also very often give Dandelion root to the people I meet who have not been eating well, are drinking too much or who are overworking. The liver takes an enormous amount of the brunt of the stress of such lifestyles and, whilst of course they still have to address where they are doing harm, Dandelion does a tremendous amount to help knit them back together in the meanwhile!
Anyone reading this who is studying herbal medicine or who simply wants to understand these great plant allies at a much deeper level would do well to follow the old learning practice of taking a small dose of the tincture or decoction of Dandelion and then, with a quiet and attentive mind, closely observing how their body reacts to the herb. From doing this exercise myself on many occasions as well as with colleagues and students I think there is a rather good chance you yourself will become intrigued with this herb by how you feel what it does within. Perhaps this is the reason I didn't feel any of the scientific papers on Dandelion did it justice; it is a herb that changes things at a deeper level than you can measure or even easily describe. Try for yourself and see! Way back in the 1980s when I was first studying herbs this was the first medicine I made myself; from Dandelions dug out of our lawn and dried in the oven! I will never forget brewing it up and drinking the strong tea. It was like drinking in some kind of elemental energy; exotic, earthy and life-changing.
Dandelion root is very effective in decoction or equally as a tincture. Only small amounts are necessary to achieve all the benefits so long as it is kept up for long enough. For example for a baby I might use just 4 or 4 drops of the tincture or 20mls of the tea. For a child perhaps around 1-2 mls of the tincture or half a cup of tea. For an adult a good tsp of tincture a day or one strong cup a day. Dandelion leaf needs to be given in high doses (at least 8 grams a day) to achieve a diuretic effect and so it is best taken in a tea.
Dandelion combines perfectly with Burdock for deep body cleansing. It works powerfully with Golden Seal or Barberry for a congested liver and for infants or children a small amount of Licorice root softens its bitterness and helps it to be absorbed.
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Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Dandelion is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another -- why is this?
The reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are more hot or cool and at the same time more dry or damp; more info about this here.
There is an old wisdom in treating the person first and the condition second and in this light Dandelion can particularly offer its benefits when a cleansing action is needed in the 'cycle of healing' - something that is discussed here and shown in a chart here.
Excerpt from Felter & Lloyd's Kings Dispensatory from 1898
Dandelion root is a stomachic and tonic with slightly diuretic and aperient actions. It has long been known to exert an influence upon the biliary organs, removing torpor and engorgement of the liver as well as of the spleen.
It is also beneficial in dropsies, owing to want of action of the abdominal organs, in uterine obstructions, chronic diseases of the skin, and impairment of the digestive functions, it is a slow, but efficient agent when properly prepared for use.
The great herbalist Culpeper wrote, over 400 years ago, 'Dandelion has an opening and cleansing quality and therefore very effective for removing obstructions of the liver, gall-bladder and spleen and diseases rising from them. It openeth the passage or urine both in young and old and will cleanse ulcers. It is of wonderful help in cachexia'. (the wasting condition in severe illness).
Please understand that I cannot personally advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in my clinic but ideas
on how you might find a good herbalist in your area are here.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!
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