When you hear about dandelions, you immediately picture the beautiful flowering plants that grow in many parts of the world. The scientific name of the dandelions plant is Taraxacum officinale, belonging to the Taraxacum species. Dandelion is generally known as a weed that somehow never seems to leave your garden. However, it may surprise you to know that there are many health benefits to this stubborn weed. In fact, in many parts of the world, dandelions are used in traditional herbal medicine practices and are highly valued for their medicinal properties. For many years now, dandelions have been used to treat a variety of diseases including acne, liver disease, cancer, and even digestive disorders. Today we look at some of the potential health benefits of dandelion.
6 Health Benefits of Dandelion
The popular herb dandelion has been in use for many years to make medicine and for treating various types of ailments. While there is not sufficient scientific evidence to prove whether or not dandelion is actually effective in treating these conditions, nevertheless, people continue to trust the medicinal properties of dandelion.
Dandelion is used for treating conditions such as an upset stomach, loss of appetite, intestinal gas, joint pain, eczema, gallbladder stones, bruises, muscle aches, and even bruises. Dandelion is also used for increasing the output of urine and also as a laxative for boosting bowel movements. Some people also use this herb as a digestive tonic, a skin toner and a blood purifier tonic. Dandelion is also used sometimes for treating viral infections and even cancer.
In this article, we take a look at what are the potential health benefits of dandelion and what is the science behind this.
#1. Dandelion is a Diuretic
One of the biggest health benefits of dandelion is that it acts as a diuretic. The diuretic effect of the dandelion helps the body to flush out the built-up fluids and also help in the treatment of kidney and liver diseases as well as in the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure). Another potential health benefit of dandelion is that in some instances, dandelion can also be used to lose weight.
Dandelion has been used in France for centuries as a diuretic. But is there any scientific evidence behind this? A clinical trial that included 17 participants found that extract of dandelion can boost the volume and frequency of urination for up to 6 hours.
#2. Dandelion Has a High Nutrition Value
Though dandelion is regarded as a common weed of your garden, the fact is that it is rich in its nutritional content. In fact, dandelions have similar nutritional content as many green vegetables. Right from its roots to the flower part, dandelions are highly rich in nutrients, having high levels of minerals, vitamins and fiber and thus imparting many health benefits. The green part of the dandelion plant contains high levels of the vitamins A, C, and K, as well as rich amounts of folate, vitamin E, and other B vitamins. Dandelion greens can be eaten raw or cooked in order to get your daily intake of vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, and even potassium. Even the dandelion roots are rich in the carbohydrate inulin, which is a soluble fiber known to be beneficial to the growth of healthy bacteria in your intestines. The roots of dandelion are often dried and taken in the form of tea. Dandelion tea can be found across drug stores to avail its health benefits.
#3. Dandelion Functions as Antioxidant
A study conducted on rabbits who were fed a diet of dandelion root found that these rabbits had an increased antioxidant enzyme activity. Antioxidants are known to protect the body against the negative effects of free radicals. Studies have also found that even the petals and leaves of dandelions have phenolic compounds that show antioxidant properties in our blood. Even the roots of a dandelion plant are known to increase antioxidant activity in the fat cells of mice. Further studies on mice who suffered from leukemia, found that dandelion extract acted as an antioxidant, protecting the mice cells from cancer. So you can see that preventing cancer is a great potential health benefit of dandelion.
What protection can dandelions offer in humans? Well, dandelions are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which provides protection against oxidative stress and cellular damage as well.
#4. Dandelion Benefits by Fighting Against Inflammation
Dandelion is known to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the body’s response to an illness or injury, but over a period of time, if there is excessive inflammation in the body, then it can cause permanent damage to your DNA or to the body’s tissues. There are many types of bioactive compounds, such as polyphenols present within a dandelion plant, which are known to be effective in reducing the body’s inflammation. Studies have shown that these dandelion compounds can significantly reduce the presence of inflammation markers in the body’s cells. In fact, a study done on mice suffering from artificially-induced inflammatory lung disease demonstrated that the mice which were treated with dandelion, showed a substantial reduction in inflammation.
While these studies are positive, nevertheless, more research is still required to clearly prove the role of dandelion in reducing inflammation in the human body.
#5. Dandelion May Control Blood Sugar
As mentioned above, dandelion contains several types of bioactive compounds. Chlorogenic acid and chicoric are the two types of bioactive compounds present in dandelions that are known to help in lowering the levels of blood sugar in the body. These bioactive compounds are found throughout all the parts of the plant and various studies have shown that these compounds help the pancreas produce more insulin, while at the same time improving the absorption of sugar, or glucose, in the muscles.
Helping to control blood sugar is a great potential health benefit of dandelion. Dandelion not only lowers the blood sugar levels but also improves insulin sensitivity.
#6. Dandelion Benefits by Improving Bone Health
Being rich in vitamin K and calcium, dandelion is known to improve bone health as both calcium and vitamin K are required for growing strong bones. Apart from this, the fact that dandelions are rich in vitamin C and luteolin, which are known antioxidants, the herb also protects the bones from many age-related bone disorders such as arthritis and osteoporosis. Dandelion also benefits by preventing a decrease in bone density.
While dandelions are known to have many potential health benefits, it is recommended that you do not begin any medication without the consultation of your doctor.
Furthermore, if you are using dandelion in its natural form, then you should know that the milky sap of dandelion is known to cause side effects, such as allergic reactions, skin irritation or even itchiness. It should be kept away from the eyes. Also, pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding should not start taking dandelion without consulting their doctor as it may cause an adverse reaction.