The dandelion is a troublesome weed to gardeners, but for centuries it has been a valued herb to many cultures around the world. The root of the plant is especially important for its vitamins, minerals and health benefits. With so many forms available for purchase today and very few side effects, dandelion root is a justifiable alternative medicine for many everyday health problems.
For centuries, dandelion root has been used as a medicinal herb by cultures all over the world. In Europe, where the dandelion is still strongly considered a medicinal and nutritional source, dandelion roots are used for weight loss, fever, diabetes and diarrhoea. Chinese herbalists traditionally used dandelion root to treat digestive disorders, inflammation of the breast in women, milk flow in lactating women and appendicitis. Native Americans used dandelion root in a boiled version to treat swelling, skin problems, stomach upset and kidney disease.
There are hundreds of species of dandelion that grow in many areas of North America, Asia and Europe. In France and Germany, the dandelion is cultivated primarily for its medicinal value. All parts of the dandelion--flower, leaves and roots--are used for medicinal and nutritional purposes. In Europe, the leaves of the dandelion are eaten in salads, sandwiches or other ways that greens are eaten for their nutritional value. The leaves are best when harvested in the spring; roots are most functional if harvested in the fall. Dandelion roots are dark brown, fleshy and brittle and filled with a milky substance that is bitter to the taste with a slight odour.
The root of the dandelion contains beneficial sources of vitamins A, C and D as well as B-complex. The root also contains the minerals zinc, iron and potassium. When eaten as a food, dandelion root offers a high antioxidant value to the diet which, according to the National Cancer Institute, studies show can be effective in preventing cancer and fighting tumours. The high iron and zinc content makes dandelion roots a beneficial treatment for anaemia.
According to the University of Maryland's Medical Center in its online article, "Dandelion," dandelion roots are used today mainly for liver and gallbladder function, as an appetite stimulant and a digestive aid. However, there are many other health benefits of dandelion root, including:
Treating anaemia. Because of the high content of iron in dandelion root, it is beneficial for building red blood cells in the body to treat anaemia. Treating diabetes. Dandelion root has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in patients. In Europe, it's used to treat diabetes. Detoxification of vital organs. Because of the diuretic abilities of dandelion root, it is beneficial for flushing out the liver, kidneys and gallbladder. This also makes it a good herb for fighting infections. Laxative. Dandelion root is also a mild laxative and is used to help with regularity. Digestive system. Dandelion root, when made into a tea, is beneficial for relieving constipation, flatulence and fullness. Treating high blood pressure. Dandelion root is a natural diuretic. When combined with its high potassium content, it is an effective treatment to lower blood pressure. High nutritional value. Dandelion root contains vitamins A, B-complex, C and D as well as the minerals iron, zinc and potassium. This combination of vitamins and minerals also makes dandelion root a high antioxidant food. Mood enhancer. Due to the high amount of vitamin B-complex, dandelion root can help to stabilise mood and treat depression.
In addition to these benefits, dandelion root is also used to treat skin disorders such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. It is also used for arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout. Ongoing studies are working to link the benefits of dandelion root to treatment of cancer and as a medicine for lowering cholesterol.
There are very few side effects linked to using dandelion root. Allergic reactions to the herb have been reported. People taking prescription lithium, a diuretic, medication to lower blood pressure or medication to lower blood sugar should not take dandelion root. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult their doctor before taking this herb.
Dandelion root is available in several forms that can be bought in chemists or herbal shops. Capsules, root juice, power or liquid extract and tincture are available, as well as a tea form. Dandelion root is also available in a salve for skin irritations. You can also grow and harvest your own dandelions to make your own products from the root.