Dandelion is not the "dandelion" usually referred to in western herbal systems. This shrub is native to South America but now grows in many tropical parts of the world. Dandelion grows up to 5m high with large compound leaves. It bears clusters of small yellow flowers and thin pods which contain small seeds.
Dandelion has a good reputation as a healing herb wherever it grows. In Jamaica, it is mainly used for colds, kidney and bladder problems, back pain, as a liver tonic and for shortness of breath. The leaves are used externally for ringworm and other skin disorders. The seeds are parched and ground and used as a coffee substitute which is said to be useful for jaundice, kidney and bladder problems. Hence one of the common names for the plant, "piss-a-bed".
The roots are used for treating jaundice and liver disorders. Dandelion is used for similar purposes in Africa. In Indian medicine, dandelion is used for skin ailments, to normalise digestion, as a mild laxative and for respiratory tract infections.
In the Eastern Caribbean, the flowers and roots are used for colds and stomach disorders. The roots are soaked in warm water for skin disorders and swelling in legs. In South America it is valued for its liver toning activity and is used to detoxify, to cleanse the blood and enhance immune function. Dandelion is used in Brazil to treat menstrual and urinary tract disorders and as a general tonic for weakness. The leaves are either crushed or made into a tea to treat many types of skin problems.
In Indian traditional medicine dandelion is used widely for liver problems, either alone or in combination with other herbs. It is also regarded as effective for treating digestive disorders and for respiratory problems as it has expectorant properties.
Modern Research & Uses
Most of the research that has been undertaken on dandelion has focused on the effects of the herb on the liver and on the immune system. These studies have confirmed that the active plant chemicals in dandelion are effective in cases of hepatitis and other liver disorders. These active plant chemicals also show beneficial effects on the immune system and protect cells from mutation.
Other lab trials on animals, have shown anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and hypotensive activity. Dandelion also has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-malarial properties. Modern research has confirmed many of the traditional uses of dandelion in different cultures.
Plant Chemicals in dandelion include: anthraquinones, achrosine, cassiolin, chrysobarin, sitosterols, quercitin, chrysophanic, linoleic and oleic acids, essential oils, kaemferol, tannins, emodin and xanthorin.