Blog#52: Dandelion Root: the Liver's Helper
Depending on your perspective, dandelion, taraxacum officinale, could be a weed or an herb. It grows throughout much of the temperate world, including Europe, some of the Middle East, China, Korea, Australia, India, Southern Africa, and much of the Americas. The root has been used medicinally in China, Korea and Europe for centuries, and also has been used medicinally by Native Americans.
Dandelion leaves and stems can be used in salads, cooked in soups and stews, or dried to make tea, and contain more iron and calcium than spinach. They are reputed to have a diuretic effect and to help the kidneys to detoxify the body. Very occasionally, people are allergic to the lanolin in the stems, so if you have a lanolin allergy, this plant is not for you. The flowers are sometimes made into wine, usually combined with fruit, i.e. grape and dandelion wine.
By far the most used part of the plant is the root. Modern research on dandelion root, primarily on animals, indicates that the root helps the liver to produce bile and detoxify the body. According to animal studies, dandelion root appears to: protect against fatty liver, help ensure bowel regularity, help lower blood sugar, and act as an anti-inflammatory. The root also appears to sometimes help normalize and balance the immune system.
Dandelion root is highly respected and frequently used in Chinese herbal medicine for the above-mentioned benefits. You may experience a higher level of energy while using this herb, depending on your health issues. Although this herb may help to lower blood sugar, it also may interfere with medications used to control diabetes, and therefore should only be used with extreme caution by diabetics on medication, and then only under medical supervision.
As with any herb, it is vital to obtain dandelion that is grown organically. If harvested wild, be sure that the plants are not growing near a toxic site and that they have not been sprayed with pesticides. Leaves, stems and roots should be dried before using in teas and infusions. Herbs can be dried in the sun or in dehydrators. The easier but more costly way to obtain dried dandelion root and leaves is by purchasing them from a reputable herbal supply company, health food store or apothecary, or from an individual whom you trust.
As in the previous three blogs, instructions for making infusions remains the same. Steep up to ¼ cup of dried dandelion root in a quart of just boiled water. Cover the glass container and let cool to room temperature, then strain. The infusion can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two days. Since the root and leaves are non-toxic, you can usually drink them over several days or weeks before taking a break. Occasionally, your pets may benefit from a small amount of the root or leaves mixed in with their food. Your compost pile will also appreciate the strained dried roots, leaves and stems.
This blog’s offer: contact me with questions about dosage or source of these herbs if you have problems obtaining them or are unsure if they are appropriate for you.