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What Is Dandelion Used for Today?
Dandelion leaves are widely recommended as a food supplement for pregnant women because of the many nutrients they contain. The scientific basis for any other potential use of dandelion is scanty.
Dandelion leaves have been found to produce a mild diuretic effect, 1 which has led to its proposed use for people who suffer from mild fluid retention , such as may occur in premenstrual syndrome (PMS). However, no double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have been reported on the effectiveness of dandelion for this purpose. (For information on double-blind studies, and why they are so important, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies? )
In the folk medicine of many countries, dandelion root is regarded as a "liver tonic," a substance believed to support the liver in an unspecified way. This led to its use for many illnesses traditionally believed to be caused by a "sluggish" or "congested" liver, including constipation, headaches, eye problems, gout, skin problems, fatigue, and boils. Building on this traditional thinking, some modern naturopathic physicians believe that dandelion can help detoxify or clean out the liver and gallbladder. 2 This concept has led to the additional suggestion that dandelion can reduce the side effects of medications processed by the liver, as well as relieve symptoms of diseases in which impaired liver function plays a role. However, while preliminary studies do suggest that dandelion root stimulates the flow of bile, 3 there is as yet no meaningful scientific evidence that this observed effect leads to any of the benefits described above.
Dandelion root is also used like other bitter herbs to improve appetite and treat minor digestive disorders. When dried and roasted, it is sometimes used as a coffee substitute. Finally, dandelion root is sometimes recommended for mild constipation .
- Racz-Kotilla E, Racz G, Solomon A. The action of Taraxacum officinale extracts on the body weight and diureses of laboratory animals. Planta Med. 1974;26:212-217.
- Murray MT. The Healing Power of Herbs: The Enlightened Person's Guide to the Wonders of Medicinal Plants. 2nd ed. Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1995.
- Susnik F. The present state of knowledge about the medicinal plant Taraxacum officinale Weber [in Slovak; English abstract]. Med Razgl. 1982;21:323-328.