Other Names: Pissenlit, dent de lion (French); Gemeiner Löwenzahn (German); taraxaco (Italian); diente de leon (Spanish).
Description: Dandelion is a leafy perennial herb with a fleshy taproot and a rosette of markedly toothed leaves. Solitary yellow flower heads are borne on hollow, unbranched stalks. The small brown fruits (achenes) each has a hairy "parachute" for wind dispersal. All parts of the plant exude a bitter, milky juice when cut or broken. The common dandelion is actually a complicated mixture of microspecies and races that are difficult to identify (the name T. officinale is loosely applied to the species complex as a whole). Dandelion is a corruption of dent de lion (lion's tooth) in reference to the sharp teeth on the leaves.
Origin: All parts of the northern hemisphere (now a cosmopolitan weeds); widely cultivated for salad, but health product comes mainly from eastern Europe.
Parts Used: The fresh or dried leaves, roots, or both (Taraxaci radix cum herba). The young leaves are eaten as a salad (traditionally a "spring salad" in Europe), while roots collected in autumn (when rich in inulin) are dried and roasted as a coffee substitute.
Therapeutic Category: Diuretic, bitter tonic.
Uses and Properties: Dandelion is mainly used as a diuretic but it is also an appetite-stimulating bitter tonic, thought to be useful to help support stomach, liver, gallbladder and rheumatic complaints; it is applied externally for skin irritations and other skin complaints. Because of the high inulin content dandelion tea can useful for patients with blood sugar level concerns.
Preparation and Dosage: A dose of 4 - 10 g of the herb is taken as infusion or liquid extract three times per-day.
Active Ingredients: The main constituents are sesquiterpene lactones (tetrahydroridentin B, taraxacolide beta-D-glucoside, and others), aphenolic acid derivative (taraxacoside) and triterpenoids (taraxasterol and derivatives). Also present are high levels of potassium (up to 4.5%) and inulin (up to 40% in autumn).
Health Effects: There is some experimental evidence for the diuretic (reflected in the French common name!) and cholagogic activities (linked to the bitter sesqui- and triterpenoids). Extracts showed moderate anti-inflammatory activity.
Warning: Repeated exposure to the milky latex may cause contact dermatitis.
Status: Traditional health; Pharm.; Comm. E+; ESCOP 2.
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