DANDELION


By Biomedical Engineer Mark Lubin

13 Patents issued or pending with USPTO

 


Dandelion is one of the most well-known and traditional herbs for all sorts of ailments that involve toxicity within the blood, liver, kidneys, lymphatic system and urinary tract and has been listed in formularies and codexes around the world since the 10th century.  Its use was expounded by many cultures from the Greeks to the Northern American Indians, who used it for stomach ailments and infection.  It is also used for the treatment of viral and bacterial infections as well as cancer.  The milky latex has been used to heal skin wounds and protect wounds from infection, which is also its function when the plant itself is injured.  The “latex” or milky sap that comes from the stem has a mixture of polysaccharides, proteins, lipids, rubber, and metabolites such as polyphenoloxidase.


It is known to protect and help rebuild the liver and to stimulate the elimination of toxins and clear obstructions from the blood and liver.  This is thought to be the reason why dandelion helps clear stones from kidneys, gallbladder, and bladder.  It has also been used to treat stomach problems, and is thought to reduce blood pressure.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it's recommended for issues related to the imbalance between liver enzymes and pancreatic enzymes.  It has been used in traditional treatments for hypoglycemia, hypertension, urinary tract infection, skin eruptions and breast cancer.  It has also been used traditionally for appetite loss, flatulence, dyspepsia, constipation, gallstones, circulation problems, skin issues, spleen and liver complaints, hepatitis and anorexia.  These effects are consistent with dandelion’s traditional uses for rheumatism, gout, eczema, cardiac edema, dropsy and hypertension.  Dandelion is also said to increase the flow of bile. Dandelion root has also been used to heal bone infections.  Dandelion has been used to increase urine excretion, and reduce pain and inflammation.  Yet it also contains an abundance of potassium, which balances its diuretic effect (as potassium is lost during heavy urination).  Dandelion has been documented as a blood and digestive tonic, laxative, stomachic, alterative, cholagogue, diuretic, choleretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-coagulatory and prebiotic.


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  Dandelion - Research  


Taraxacum officinale (the species of dandelion used by RZN for its extracts) is listed on the FDA's GRAS list: "Part 582, Substances Generally Recognized as Safe, Sec 582.20, Essential Oils, oleoresins (solvent-free), and natural extractives"


Among 222 different medicinal extracts, dandelion was one that was often shown to regulate and inhibit the differentiation of osteocytes to osteoclasts which then become part of the resorption process involved in bone loss and bone remodeling (Youn et al 2008).  


Bevin et al (2009) showed that Dandelion is a powerful diuretic, on the order of Frusemide.  Dandelion is a good source of potassium, and therefore becomes a potassium-sparing diuretic.  This can be very desirable when digitalis heart drugs are being prescribed, because if potassium levels fall the drugs will produce irritability of the heart muscle.  This powerful diuretic action was also documented in mice in a study by Rácz-Kotilla, et al 1974.  There were no adverse side effects revealed in this study.


Tests against several types of tumor cell lines resulted in inhibition of cancer cells (Sigstedt 2008).  Anti-tumor activity in mice was revealed in another study (Hata et al 2000).    


At Sookmyung Women’s Univ. College of Pharmacy (Korea) Jeon et al (2008) found that dandelion reduced inflammation, leukocytes, vascular permeability, abdominal cramping, pain, and COX levels in exudates and in vivo.  In this study and another (Hu and Kitts 2005), nitric oxide was inhibited.  Reactive oxygen species were also significantly inhibited by dandelion, attributed to the plant’s phenolic acid content.  This in turn prevented lipid oxidation, one of the mechanisms in heightened LDL levels and inflammation.  Another of their studies showed that dandelion extract was capable of reducing copper radicals, illustrating its ability to reduce heavy metals in the body (Hu and Kitts, 2003).


Dandelion was found to stimulate fourteen different strains of bifidobacteria, which are important components of the immune system (Trojanova et al. 2004).


Studies at the Univ. of British Columbia (Hu and Kitts 2004) found that dandelion extract suppressed prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) without causing cell death.  Further tests indicated that COX-2 was inhibited by the luteolin and luteolin glucosides in dandelion.  Another study by Seo et al (2005) showed that dandelion inhibits two inflammatory cytokines, interleukin IL-6 and TNF-alpha.  


Koo et al (2004) found that dandelion extract significantly prevented cell death in Hep G2 cells while stimulating TNF and IL-1 levels illustrating its ability to arrest or slow liver disease and stimulate healing.  It was also shown to stimulate the liver’s production of glutathione (GST), an important antioxidant (Petlevski et al. 2003).  Cho et al (2001) showed dandelion increased the liver’s production of superoxide dismutase and catalase, increasing the liver’s ability to purify the blood of toxins.  Another important detoxifying liver enzyme, UDP-glucuronosyl transferase was increased 244% from controls in vivo by dandelion extract (Maliakal and Wanwimolruk 2001).  


Leukotriene production was decreased with an extract of dandelion by Kashiwada et al (2001).  The lupeol triterpenes in dandelion illustrated antitumor effects in mice (Hata et al. 2000).  Dandelion showed its ability to inhibit IL-1 and inflammation in Kim et al (2000) and Takasaki et al (1999).  In a study of 96 chronic hepatitis B cases at the Beijing TCM Hospital (Chen 1990), 46 controls were compared to 51 patients given a mix of herbs that included a dandelion species.  After five months of use, the medicinal herb group had a total effective rate of 74.5% compared to 24.4% in the control group.  This study also shows Dandelion's safety when consumed at recommended (or lower) dosages.  Zheng (1990) screened 472 traditional medicinal herbs were screened against the type 1 herpes simplex virus.  After repeated screens, the ten “most highly effective herbs” included dandelion.


Dandelion – Safety & Toxicity


Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, the species used by RZN for its extracts) is listed on the FDA's GRAS list: "Part 582, Substances Generally Recognized as Safe, Sec 582.20, Essential Oils, oleoresins (solvent-free), and natural extractives".  Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is contraindicated where there is occlusion of the bile ducts, gall bladder empyema, obstructive ileus.  


Chinese dandelion (Taraxacum mongolicum) may be linked to alterations in the absorption of quinolone antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin from the digestive tract. There is no evidence that common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), the species of extract used by RZN, interacts with antibiotics in the same way and there are no reports linking the plant to this activity.


The herb may potentiate the action of diuretics, insulin, or other diabetes control prescriptions.  Use with caution when lithium drugs are involved as serum lithium may increase and yield a stronger effect than intended.  Allergy to dandelion pollen occurs in about 2-3% of the population, and allergic reactions to the extracts have not been reported.


Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is recommended for cholecystitis, loss of appetite, and dyspepsia (Blumenthal et al, 2000).  Because of its known diuretic effects it should be used cautiously in patients taking lithium drugs.  Dandelion exhibits no known toxicity, carcinogenicity (Hirono et al 1978), or drug interaction, and except as indicated above, is generally considered safe when used in recommended dosages.


Some prescription drugs are modified or broken down by the liver.  Theoretically dandelion might alter how quickly these changes occur, thus altering the drug's concentration profile over time.  Drug types that are modified by the liver (Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) substrates) include amitriptyline, propranolol, verapamil, atorvastatin, diazepam, lorazepam, and morphine.  This list is not intended to be all-inclusive.  


The cautionary note regarding these drugs interacting with dandelion is a) theoretical, and b) based on consumption of the commonly recommended therapeutic dosage of the herb.  


Herbal liquid extracts are expressed as [1:1 (g/ml)], meaning that each ml is 50% pure extract, or 500mg.  Typical recommended therapeutic dosage of dandelion liquid extract is 4-10ml (Blumenthal et al, 2000, Barnes et al, 2002), 3 t.i.d. or 12,000-30,000mg), equivalent to 6,000-15,000mg pure extract.  For the purpose of this discussion assume the recommended dose is the mean value of 9,000mg pure dandelion extract.

  

Each 2-capsule dose of Arthri Comfort contains less than 0.7mg pure dandelion extract, approximately 0.008% of the standard dose.


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Duke, JA.  CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, 1985


Duke, JA.  CRC Handbook (and Database) of Biological Activities of Phytochemicals, CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, 1992.


Database http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke


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