Taraxacum officinale (Weber)
Synonyms: Taraxacum dens-lionis (Desf.), Leontodon taraxacum (L.), pise-en-lit, pee-the-bed, lion's tooth, fairy clock, blowball, cankerwort, priest's crown, puffball, swine snout, white endive, wild endive
Description: Taraxacum is a native of western Europe where it grows in meadows, fields and fallow land. It originated in Central Asia, but now grows almost anywhere in the world, preferring moist conditions. It has a rosette of characteristic 'lion's tooth' leaves, from the centre of which arises the hollow stem bearing the yellow capitulate flowerhead made up of 200 or more ligulate bisexual florets. These give way to the familiar 'fairy clock'. The long taproot arises from a short rhizome. All the underground parts are covered with a dark brown bark, but are almost white inside and, like the stem, produce a bitter-tasting white milky sap.
Parts used: leaves and root
Collection: the leaves are collected before flowering in May. The root is unearthed in autumn for a high inulin content, or in spring for a high bitter content. The root should be collected no later than the second year.
Constituents: Leaf: bitter glycosides, carotenoids (including lutein and violaxanthin), terpenoids, choline, potassium salts, iron and other minerals, Vitamins, A, B, C, D (the vitamin A content is higher than that of carrots). Root: bitter glycosides (taraxacin), tannins, triterpenes (including taraxol and taraxsterol), phytosterols, volatile oil, choline, asparagine, carbohydrates (including inulin, up to 40% in autumn, 2% in spring; sugars), pectin, phenolic acids, vitamins, potassium.
Actions: Leaf: gentle diuretic, choleretic. Root: Bitter, mild laxative, digestive and hepatic tonic, cholagogue, diuretic, antirheumatic
Indications: Leaf: oedema, oliguria. Root: cholecystitis, gall-stones, jaundice, atonic dyspepsia with constipation
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Taraxacum leaf is a very potent diuretic and is an excellent remedy for water retention and oedema, particularly when it is of cardiac origin, or hepatogenous oedema (ascites). Its action comparable to the drug Frusemide. The usual effect of a drug which stimulates kidney function is a loss of potassium from the body, which aggravates any existing cardiovascular problem. A high level of potassium is particularly desirable when digitalis heart drugs are being prescribed, because if potassium levels fall, the drugs will produce irritability of the heart muscle. Luckily, Taraxacum is one of the best natural sources of potassium and therefore is a perfectly balanced and safe diuretic. Taraxacum leaf may be applied to urinary disorders in general, especially where worsened by the presence of oliguria. It also has similar actions to the root, but to a lesser extent.
Taraxacum root is a gentle liver tonic and may be used to treat inflammation and congestion of the liver and gall bladder. It can be applied to gallstones, cholecystitis, hepatic and post-hepatic jaundice, congestive dyspepsia with constipation and other toxic conditions such as chronic joint and skin inflammations. The root contains bitter substances which are beneficial to the digestive process and also have an aperient effect. The sesquiterpene lactones may produce the choleretic action. The active principle is taraxacin, which is found in the whole herb, particularly the root, and stimulates bile secretion. The white sap may be applied directly to warts.
Caution: Taraxacum is contraindicated where there is occlusion of the bile ducts or gall bladder empyema.
Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)
Leaf: GSL, Schedule 2
Dried herb: 4-10g or by infusion
Liquid Extract: 1:1 in 25% alcohol, 4-10ml
Tincture: 1:5 in 25% alcohol, 2-5ml
Juice from fresh leaf: 5-20ml, twice daily
Root: GSL, Schedule 1
Dried root: 3-5g or by infusion or decoction
Liquid Extract (B.P.C. 1949) 1:1 in 30% alcohol, 2-8ml
Tincture: 1:5 in 45% alcohol, 5-10ml
Fresh Juice: (B.P.C. 1949) 4-8ml
Additional Comments: Dandelion was first mentioned in Chinese herbals as late as the 7th century, and in Europe it first appears in the Ortus Sanitatis of 1485. It was used by the Arabian physicians of the 10th and 11th centuries. It's common name was apparently invented by a 15th century surgeon, who compared the shape of the leaves to a lion's tooth, or dens lionis. In the West, the root and leaves are distinct remedies, but the Chinese use the whole plant, which they call pu gong ying; it is used as a galactagogue. A second oriental species, T.mongolicum, is used by the Chinese as a diuretic and liver stimulant, and to treat mastitis. Both are believed to clear heat and toxins from the blood and are also used for boils and abscesses. Dandelion leaves may be used as a salad vegetable, particularly in spring. The root, when roasted, can be used as a coffee substitute, and the flowers are often used to make wine.
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Last updated 3rd September 2013 ęPurple Sage Botanicals