Herb In Focus: Dandelion Root - Taraxacum officinale
Posted on 03 January 2017 by Leonie Satori
Dandelion root has been revered as a wonderful rejuvenative herb, beneficial for the liver, gall bladder and digestive system. In this article we look at the historical use of dandelion root and the modern application of this herb today.Originating from Europe, Taraxacum officinale or dandelion is a common weed in Australia. With it's often easily identifiable lion's tooth leaves and bright yellow flowers, dandelion can easily be overlooked as a beneficial medicinal herb. While the leaves of dandelion are known for their diuretic and kidney supporting qualities, this article aims to discuss the root of this herb, which is primarily used to support the liver and digestive system.
Most commonly prepared as a decocotion, dandelion root is an excellent alternative to coffee, especially for those with liver or digestive complaints. While the root of this herb has quite a sweet flavour, it's effect on digestion is associated with the bitter principles, sesquiterpene lactones. These natural constituents within dandelion root stimulate the digestive system by reflex of the taste receptors on the tongue. This reflex action helps the liver in the production of bile, aiding digestive processes and detoxification.
By activating the production of bile and stimulating the release through the gall bladder, dandelion is beneficial for those with difficulty digesting fats. Along with improving fat digestion, fat soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D, E and K may be easier to absorb with regular use of dandelion root.
This action of stimulating the digestive system through the liver, confirms dandelion root's laxative quality and historical use with constipation and indigestion. This duel action of liver cleansing and bowel emptying enhances the body's waste management and excretion of metabolic wastes. Anecdotal evidence suggests that dandelion root is of benefit for those with chronic conditions identified in naturopathy as associated with toxin accumulation, including arthritis and gout.
Dandelion root has a history of use for many types of skin conditions, taking a load off the integumentary system by enhancing the elimination of toxins through the bile and bowel. This enhancement of elimination and throughput of wastes supports blood cleansing, hence confirming dandelion root as an suitable herb for all kind of skin conditions including eczema, rashes and pimples.
An herb that is valuable in the home herbal dispensary, dandelion root is suitable for daily use and prevention of health issues. Blurring the line between food and medicine, dandelion root is rich in inulin, a fermentable fibre that provides nourishment for the bacteria or microbiotia in the gut. Inulin is a prebiotic substance found in certain foods that helps to support liver function and is especially good for those who have experienced prolonged use of antibiotics or digestive imbalances. Read more about prebiotics in our article: Probiotic v's Prebiotic What Are The Differences?
Dandelion root not only helps with the production of digestive secretions from the liver, but is also said to have a similar effect on the pancreas. Purportedly increasing the production of insulin, dandelion root used regularly may also help those with blood sugar imbalances.
With an alphabet of vitamins, including A, B, C and D, plus minerals including potassium, calcium and sodium, dandelion root is considered to be both nutritive and detoxifying for the body. Due to the high mineral content, dandelion root is typically considered an alkalising herb, its nutritional profile making it a wonderful herb to add to a cleansing routine to accompany a whole food plant based diet.
While dandelion is readily available in your own back yard, as always I suggest that you must accurately identify your plants before consuming them as herbs or food. In our herbal dispensary, our Organic Dandelion Root is grown and harvested in beautiful Poland, one of the original locations for this lovely herb. I prefer to use natural, un-roasted dandelion root in tea, as the nutrients and medicinal components are unaffected by the roasting process and the flavour is so much more uplifting.
About the Author
Leonie is a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist with a passion for good food, healthy living and of course, herbal medicine. When she is not consulting in her Naturopathic clinic in Lismore or blogging about nutrition, Ayurvedic Medicine or natural health, she is studying yoga, growing her own herbs and vegetables or quietly walking in the natural bush land in Northern Rivers NSW.
Contact our health centre in Lismore to book an appointment with Leonie in our naturopathic clinic.
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