12 Benefits of Dandelion Tea, How to Make It and a Word of Warning

12 Benefits of Dandelion Tea, How to Make It and a Word of Warning
December 31, 2015 7:52 AM

Dandelion tea has lots of benefits and helps in dealing with various liver and inflammation problems. This post describes 12 health benefits of dandelion tea, its nutritional values and side effects. You will also learn a little something about how to make dandelion tea, about its history and where the word “dandelion” actually comes from.

Dandelion tea is obtained from dandelion plant. The scientific name for dandelion is taraxacum. It is a flowering and herbaceous perennial flowering plant of the family Asteraceae (1).

It is found in different temperate regions of the world like in lawns and roadsides or shores of the rivers. It can be grown on any moist soil.

It is considered as a weed grown especially in lawns and along roadsides but it is also used as a medical herb to cure different diseases. Dandelion is well known for its yellow flowers that turn into silver fruits which spread in the wind called “blowballs” or “clocks”.

Description

Dandelions are perennial, herbaceous and tap-rooted plants present in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. There are many species in the genus which reproduce by apomixes which results in many local populations. There are about 234 microspecies found in the British Isles (1).

Dandelion meadow

The dandelion leaves are about 5-25 cm or longer, lobed, simple and basal above the central taproot. The flower heads are yellow to orange in color and open during the day time but close at night time. The heads are present on a single hollow stem which is leafless and rise from 1-10 cm above the leaves.

The stems and leaves discharge a white and milky latex when they are broken. A rosette can produce many flowering plants at one time. The diameter of flower heads is about 2-5 cm and consists of ray florets. The flower heads later mature into spherical seed heads known as blowballs which contain many single-seeded fruits known as achenes.

Each achene is connected to a pappus of fine hairs which allows the wind dispersal over long areas.

The flower is surrounded by bracts (commonly mistaken as sepals) in two series. The inner bracts remain erect until the seeds mature and then move downwards to allow the dispersal of seeds. The outer bracts often move in the downward direction but remain pressed in plants of sections Palustria and Spectabilia. Some species have hair like parachutes known as pappus which are modified form of sepals. A stalk is present between the pappus and the achene which is known as beak which becomes long as the fruit matures.

Origin of the Name “Dandelion”

The scientific ‘taraxacum’ for dandelion originated from the medieval Persian writings on pharmacy. A famous Persian scientist wrote in 900 AD that “the tarashaquq is like chicory”. The Persian scientist and philosopher Ibn Sina wrote a book about taraxacum around 1000 AD.

The English name dandelion is derived from the French name ‘dent de lion’ which means lion’s tooth; it refers to the rough toothed leaves. The plant is known by many other names like blow ball, witch’s gown, lion’s tooth, Irish Daisy, puff ball, priest head and monks-head. Some other common names for the plant include swine’s snout, white endive, wet-a-bed and pee-a-bed (2).

The English name “piss-a-bed” refers to the strong diuretic effect of the roots of the plant. The plant is known as pisacan (dog pisses) in various northeastern Italian dialects because they are found at the pavement sides.

The Swedish people call the plant as maskros (worm rose) which is named after the small insects found inside the flowers. The names for the plant in Estonia and Finnish is ‘voikukka’ and ‘voilill’ which translates to the butter flower due to the color of the flower.

False dandelions

Many similar plants from Astraceae family are known which have yellow flowers; they are called false dandelions (3).

Dandelions are similar in shape to catsears. Similar flowers are present in both the plants which develop into windborne seeds.

But dandelion flowers are present on singly unbranched, hairless and hollow stems whereas catsear flowering stems are branched and carry bracts.

Both plants have a basal rosette of leaves. But the leaves of dandelion are smoother but those of catsears are hairy.

Some other plants with similar flowers include hawksbeards and hawkweeds. They are distinguished by branched flowering stems which are hairy and full of leaves.

History of dandelions

Dandelion was considered as the most loved and “esteemed plant of the herbalist”.

This drug was called as the blessed medicine in the 18th Century in Europe. It has been used medicinally throughout the world but it is mostly popular in England, China and Germany.

A famous herbalist Rosemary Gladstar is convinced that it is “the greatest herb of all time”.

There is no other herb in the United States which is so well-known and easily identified and most hated as dandelion.

The first records of the medical use of dandelion come from the Egyptians which wasusedby a Greek scholar 300 years before Christ. But it was the Arabian physicians in the Middle ages who officially identified the medicinal properties of the plant and called it ‘Taraxacon’ which was derived from Greek words “taraxos” and “akos” meaning “disorder remedy”.

There are strong diuretic properties in dandelion and was used in the 18th century by the French squires for treating gout (4).

The Chinese people have been using dandelion herb for over 1000 years for the treatment of a wide range of health problems like breast cancer and the obstructions of the liver, spleen and gall. A famous herbalist in the 19th and 20th centuries Maude Grieve said that “dandelion is efficacious in bilious affections.”.

Substances present in dandelion tea

The following are the substances present in the dandelion tea:

  • Main constituents – the main constituents of dandelion are Taraxacin, acrystalline, and Taraxacerin. Tarxacin is a bitter substance which varies during different seasons. Tarxacerin is an acrid resin which has insulin, gum, potash and gluten.
  • Starch – there isn’t any starch present in the dandelion tea but there is a bit of uncrystallizable sugar and laevulin in it which differ from insulin because they are soluble in water.
  • Spices - the main spices used in the dandelion tea are sugar and pepper. Sometimes chilli can also be added to the tea for taste.

Nutritional value of dandelion tea

Dandelion tea is quite a versatile tea which contains a large amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients like proteins, calories, fats and carbohydrates. The following table will give you a better idea of the nutritional value of dandelion tea (4):


Vitamins (mg/100g) - fresh leaves
A 14,000
Thiamin 0.19
Riboflavin 0.26
Niacin 0
C 35
Minerals (mg/100g)
Calcium 187
Iron 3.1
Sodium 76
Phosphorus 66
Potassium 397
Other nutrients (mg/100g)
Calories 45
Protein 2.7
Fat 0.7
Carbohydrates 9.2


Health benefits of dandelion tea

There are a wide range of benefits of the intake of dandelion tea. Some main health benefits include relief from diabetes, urinary disorders, jaundice, cancer, acne, liver disorders and anemia. It facilitates in maintaining skin care, bone health, and is beneficial for different weight loss programs.

A number of international institutions recommend the use of dandelion tea (5, 6).

Dandelions have a number of health benefits but dandelion flowers are generally used for decoration rather than medicine because they are brilliant in look and are commonly found in gardens.

There are a number of known varieties of dandelion but the most common type is known as Taraxacum Officinale. It is believed that the plant evolved about 300 million years ago.

Some major health benefits of dandelion tea are described below:

1. Bone health

Dandelions have a high calcium content in them which is quite important for the strength and growth of the bones and they have high amount of antioxidants like luteolin and vitamin C which keeps the bones safe from bone related damage.

Skull and skeleton

Dandelions are also quite beneficial for pregnant woman and her baby because they are high in calcium content (7, 8). Most of the damage is usually caused due to free radicals and is mostly seen as bone weakness and decreased density.

2. Liver disorders

Dandelion tea is beneficial for liver in a number of ways. The antioxidants like luteolin and vitamin C help in the proper functioning of the liver and protect it from aging (9, 10). But other compounds are also present in the liver to treat the hemorrhaging in the liver. Dandelions also help in maintaining the proper flow of bile and stimulates the liver and thus aid in digestion. This promotes proper digestion and results in significant reduction of constipation risk as well as in reduction of risk of more serious gastrointestinal issues.

3. Urinary disorders

Dandelions are quite diuretic in nature and that is why they eliminate the toxic substances in urinary tract and the kidneys (11, 12). Dandelion tea has disinfectant properties which stop the microbial growth in the urinary system. The diuretic properties of dandelions are so strong that they have been called as “pissenlit” in France which means “urinating in bed”.

4. Proper skin care

The dandelion sap is quite helpful in treating different skin disease caused by fungal and microbial infections. The treatment is done because the dandelion sap is high alkaline in nature and has fungicidal, germicidal and insecticidal properties (13). But you should be careful while using this sap and avoid any kind of eye contact. This sap can be used on eczema, ringworm and itches and no side effects or hormonal disturbances are caused during the skin treatments.

5. Diabetes

Dandelion tea can be used in the treatment of diabetes (14, 15). The tea stimulates the production of insulin from pancreas and thus keeps the blood sugar levels low. But the side effect is that this tea can increase the urination in diabetic patients because of their diuretic properties.

Diabetes equipment, needle, measuring device

Diabetics are prone to renal problems, therefore, the diuretic properties of dandelion can help in removing sugar in kidneys through excessive urination. Dandelion tea is somewhat bitter in taste and therefore, the blood sugar level is lowered effectively. When the blood sugar levels are consistently low then dangerous spikes in the blood pressure are avoided which makes dandelion tea a good alternative to diabetic medications.

6. Weight loss

There is about 4% of fat present in the urine and thus more fats and water is lost from the body when we urinate more. Dandelions promote urination because they are diuretic in nature and helps to lose the excessive weight without any side effects. Research also supports that dandelions and other similar herbs promote weight loss (16, 17). Dandelions are also low in calories like leafy green vegetables. But leafy green vegetables have more side effects as compared to dandelion tea.

7. Treatment of cancer

You might be surprised to know that dandelions are quite beneficial in treating cancer (18). Dandelions have high amount of antioxidants in them like luteolin and vitamin C which reduce the free radicals in the body and thus reduce the risk of cancer.

This tea also helps in detoxification of the body which protects from the development of tumors and various other types of cancers. Luteolin is poisonous for the cancerous cells and they become ineffective and unable to reproduce. This makes dandelion tea quite beneficial against prostate cancer but more studies are currently being done.

8. Gall bladder disorders

Dandelion tea is quite beneficial for liver and gall bladder because it improves the general functioning and also protects the body from the infections and ill effects of antioxidants and regulates the secretions from these organs (19).

9. Constipation

Dandelion tea has high levels of dietary fiber in it which makes it quite beneficial for digestion and proper intestinal health (20). Dietary fibers helps in healthy bowel movements because they add bulk to the stool and thus reduce the chances of diarrhea and constipation. Serious gastrointestinal issues can be avoided due to this. Dandelions are perfect for children who are suffering from constipation because it helps to soothe the stomach.

10. High blood pressure

Urination is one way of lowering blood pressure. Most modern medicines make use of this aspect. Dandelion tea increases urine in frequency and quantity. Thus the overall blood pressure is lowered (21). The fiber is quite helpful in reducing cholesterol and helps in lowering blood pressure because cholesterol is an important factor which increases blood pressure. The potassium content in dandelion is also high which is also helpful in lowering blood pressure.

11. Acne

Dandelion tea functions as a good detoxifier, antioxidant and stimulant. This makes it a great drink for the treatment of acne. But we should know about the causes acne before knowing how dandelion tea is beneficial for acne treatment. Acne happens during the teenage years when there are many hormonal and psychological changes occurring in the body. The amount of new hormones coming into the body should be regulated but toxic substances are deposited into the body when they don’t remain within a healthy ratio. These toxins get out of the body in the form of sweat through the sebaceous glands (22).

12. Jaundice

Dandelion tea is quite beneficial in the treatment of jaundice (23). Jaundice is a liver disorder in which the liver starts overproducing bile which enters into the blood stream and cause different health problems. The excessive bile is shown through the color of eyes and skin and they develop a faint yellow color. The treatment of jaundice occurs in three steps which are given below:

  • First there is need to curb the production of bile in the liver.
  • The excess bile needs to be removed from the body.
  • Lastly you have to develop a mechanism to fight the viral infections.

Dandelion tea is quite helpful in all these steps. It regulates the production of bile. It is diuretic in nature and promotes urination through which the excess bile is eliminated from the body. It also fights the viral infections due to the presence of luteolin and vitamin C in it. It is quite beneficial to take it with sugar cane juice because it replaces the sugar in the body.

Lack of sugar can cause extreme fatigue and so dandelions increase the energy levels after infection.

Side effects of dandelion tea

Dandelion tea has a number of health benefits but it still it does have some side effects which have been mentioned below (24, 25):

1. Allergic reaction
 

People allergic to ragweed shouldn’t take dandelion tea because they will also be allergic to it. The allergic reactions can vary from irritation in the skin to breathing difficulties. You should stay away from any form of dandelion if you are allergic to ragweed. So drinking dandelion tea can be harmful to you. You can develop sores along the sides of your mouth or experience breathing difficulties like shortness of breath and tightness of chest.

2. Water retention

Some symptoms of bloating are relieved by taking dandelion tea due to its diuretic properties but there isn’t any scientific evidence which suggests that dandelions help in weight loss. There are many reasons through which water retention can occur, so you should consult your doctor to know the exact cause of water retention. You should also consult your dietician and come up with a better weight loss alternative than dandelion tea.

3. Gastrointestinal side effects

The researchers at U.S. National Institute claim that dandelion tea can cause some unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects. Some people may suffer from increased heartburn and stomach upsets. There have also been many reports that dandelion tea can cause diarrhea (26). You shouldn’t take dandelion tea if you are taking antacids to decrease stomach acid.

4. Increased bleeding

Coumarins are present in dandelions which increase the risk of bleeding. The MedlinePlus website (25) states that dandelion tea can increase bleeding when taken with other substances. Some drugs which can cause bleeding when taken with dandelion tea are ibuprofen, anticoagulants like warfarin and antiplatelet drugs.

5. Low blood sugar

Research on animals has shown mixed results on whether dandelions can lower blood sugar levels and still the effect of dandelions on human blood sugar levels isn’t known. People who already have low blood sugar levels should avoid drinking dandelion tea.

6. Interaction with other drugs

Dandelion tea can cause interaction with other drugs (25). So you should consult your doctor before using dandelion extracts. The diuretic effects of dandelion can cause increased excretion of specific medicines. Animal research has shown that dandelion can worsen the side effects of lithium which is used to treat bipolar disorder.

SOS medical drugs and pills

A species of dandelion can reduce the absorption of quinolone antibiotics like levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin.

How to make dandelion tea

Dandelion root tea is the most popular among all the dandelion tea types because of its benefits.

You can use fresh dandelion roots for it or you can also use dried roots. White dandelion root is the safest option.

You should consult a doctor before taking dandelion tea or any other herbal tea. The following steps are involved in making dandelion tea:

  • First of all locate a dandelion plant and dig as much of a dandelion plant as you can with deep fork. The tap root of the plant is quite deep so it will take some effort to get it out.
  • Now separate the root from the leaves, flowers and stems and wash the root under cold water. You can save the leaves and flowers for other uses.
  • Boil 1 quart of water in a saucepan.
  • Now chop the dandelion root. Add 2 teaspoons of chopped root in a saucepan. Now cover the pan and adjust the heat.
  • Now mix the dandelion root in pan for about 1 minute.
  • Remove heat from the pan. Leave the dandelion root in the pan for 40 minutes.
  • Now put a strainer over teapot and pour the liquid into the pot. The tea is now ready to drink.

Practical advice

You should never bring the dandelion plants from an unfamiliar park. You should only use take dandelion from the fields which have been treated with pesticides. Dried dandelion root is a bit woodier than fresh root. So you should boil it for five minutes more in boiling water.

You can also add chopped leaves to dandelion root tea to get additional nutrients. When you remove the dandelion roots from heat inside a saucepan then add dandelion leaves to it and again replace the lid.

The bottom line

While dandelion tea has lots of benefits and may help fight hepatic (liver) diseases, skin disorders, inflammation and cancer (thanks to high content in antioxidants like vitamin C and luteolin) you should also bear in mind its potential side effects. Its diuretic properties can be risky for people with excessive water weight and it may also cause bleeding and lower sugar in blood (which makes it a no-good choice for patients suffering from low blood sugar levels). Dandelion tea may also interact with various medical drugs and antibiotics (such as ciprofloxacin or lithium). Therefore you may only drink it with prior consent of your physician.

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Written by: Michal Vilímovský (EN)
Education: Medical student, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Article resources: See numbered scientific references within the article.
Image resources: Dollarphotoclub.com and Pixabay.com
Published: December 31, 2015 7:52 AM
Next scheduled update: December 31, 2017 7:52 AM
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