Supplements & Herbs

Taraxacum (dandelion) medicinal effects

Taraxacum officinale / Taraxacum japonicum / Taraxacum coreanum / Taraxacum mongolicum / Taraxacum platycarpum: scientific research studies show wide-ranging therapeutic potential

Part 1

by copyright © 2015 Healing Cancer Naturally

The following condensed presentation of a number of scientific studies into the medicinal activities of dandelion - a wild herb widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere's temperate zones and habitually consumed and employed in phytotherapy in several areas of the world - has been compiled from the US National Library of Medicine's PubMed database which currently (July 2015) returns some 600 search results for the terms Dandelion or Taraxacum.

This compilation has been included in HealingCancerNaturally to help lift yet another humble weed out of the obscurity and contemptuous relegation to the domain of old-wives tales is has been languishing in, to its rightful place as a powerful medicinal plant available to near-everyone and backed by modern research (for additional reasons and background, also see the introductory remarks to the research studies published on this site regarding the Stinging nettle and its medicinal effects which equally apply to the dandelion).

Reviewing the plethora of scientific studies involving Taraxacum, it is astounding that even in its revised third edition of 2009, the acclaimed reference work for science-based herbology "Tyler's Herbs of Choice-The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals" maintains that dandelion "lacks any significant documented pharmacological activity".

As you may notice, much of the research suggesting or demonstrating cancer and many other therapeutic benefits of dandelion comes from the (Far) East.

This page summarizes some of the following Taraxacum research studies:

  • general reviews
  • toxicity studies
  • studies into immune-enhancing effects
  • studies into antitumor and cancer-related activity

As usual, a goodly amount of this research is based on animal experimentation, see Footnote 1, or on in-vitro studies. Even if just half of these results were to be confirmed to equally apply to humans, Taraxacum would have clearly been shown to have enormous healing potential.

Dandelion (Taraxacum): general reviews

  • Taraxacum--a review on its phytochemical and pharmacological profile.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16950583

    This study, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2006), endeavoured to assemble the available evidence for the weed's time-honoured use in the treatment of ailments such as digestive and liver issues. It furnishes a comprehensive review of studies into dandelion's known pharmacologically active compounds, particularly those with diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, choleretic, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic, anti-coagulatory, prebiotic as well as anti-hyperglycemic effects.
  • Diverse biological activities of dandelion.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22946853

    A similar review as the foregoing but published six years later (in 2012) in Nutrition Reviews. It provides a comprehensive analysis of the wide array of constituent phytochemicals found in dandelion that show biological activities and pharmacological properties, particularly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Taraxacum officinale and related species-An ethnopharmacological review and its potential as a commercial medicinal plant.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25858507

    This most recent study, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2015, aimed to provide a current review of the research into the Taraxacum species' pharmacological properties to highlight its medicinal potential.
    Between 1930 and 1950, intense research into Taraxacum focused on agriculture and genetics - dandelions are a source of latex, hence can be used for rubber production, and also boast a great number of other compounds of industrial interest (if in small amounts in the untampered-with plant). Modern taraxacum research mainly focuses on dandelion's value as a herbal medicine, due inter alia to the presence of saponins, phenolic compounds, sesquiterpenes, flavonoids, and sugars. While over 2500 species have been identified to date, less than 1% of these have actually been studied. Their known biochemical and cultivation profiles however point to huge yet untapped potentials for qualitative improvements in composition via biotechnological means, to enable humans to take fuller advantage of the entire range of Taraxacum's medicinal potential. To increase the recovery of bioactive compounds from the plant, greenhouse cultivation is discussed. Once pure and highly reactive dandelion compounds can be obtained on an economically viable scale, human clinical trials - so far sorely neglected - would become of interest to prove efficacy and safety and position the herb as an important source of nature-derived drugs.

Dandelion (Taraxacum): toxicity

  • Toxicological assessment of P-9801091 plant mixture extract after chronic administration in CBA/HZg mice--a biochemical and histological study.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18756913

    This animal[1] study, published in Collegium Antropologicum (2008) tested the toxic effects of an antihyperglycemic plant mixture extract on healthy mice. Potential acute, subchronic and chronic toxicity was assessed by monitoring urea, creatinine, alanine aminotransferase, cholesterol and aspartate aminotransferase values plus the histopathological examination of several organs. The plant preparation contained dandelion, chicory root, stinging nettle as well as other herbs. The experimental group, as compared with the control group, showed no statistically significant differences at 24 hours, seven days, three and six months of treatment, apart from the significantly increased catalytic concentration of aspartate aminotransferase in the experimental group on day 7 . Pathohistological examination revealed no major pathologic changes.

Dandelion (Taraxacum): immune-enhancing effects

  • Taraxacum officinale restores inhibition of nitric oxide production by cadmium in mouse peritoneal macrophages.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9653673

    Nitric oxide is an important molecule involved in immune regulation and defense while cadmium inhibits the production of nitric oxide by mouse[1] peritoneal macrophages primed with recombinant interferon-gamma. This study found that an aqueous dandelion extract induced tumor necrosis factor-alpha secretion and restored, in a dose-dependent manner, the nitric oxide production of primed mouse peritoneal macrophages that had been pretreated with cadmium. (published in Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology, 1998)
  • Activation of inducible nitric oxide synthase by Taraxacum officinale in mouse peritoneal macrophages.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10401993

    Similar to the foregoing (but sans the cadmium pretreatment), this study (General Pharmacology, 1999) aimed to determine the effect of dandelion on the production of nitric oxide. Mouse[1] peritoneal macrophages pretreated with recombinant interferon-gamma were stimulated with dandelion, which, in a dose-dependent manner, induced tumor necrosis factor-alpha secretion and resulted in increased synthesis of nitric oxide (by itself, dandelion had no effect on nitric oxide production).
  • Anticoagulant from Taraxacum platycarpum.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12400684

    Inter alia, the protein under study (isolated from dandelion) caused a murine[1] macrophage cell line to produce nitric oxide and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Printed in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry in 2002, with free full text available at www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1271/bbb.66.1859
  • Effects of Taraxacum officinale on fatigue and immunological parameters in mice.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23135630

    In Korean herbal medicine, dandelion has a long tradition for improving health and energy levels. This study, published in Molecules in 2012, sought to establish the anti-fatigue and immune-enhancing effects of dandelion in two groups of mice[1] fed dandelion (10 or 100 mg/kg) on a daily basis which were subjected to forced swimming tests. Compared to the control group which in lieu of dandelion received distilled water, the dandelion-treated groups inter alia exhibited a significant increase in glucose levels (acting as an energy source), a significant decrease in immobility time and blood urea nitrogen levels and a tendency of lactic dehydrogenase levels (an accurate indicator of muscle damage) to go down, i.e. an improvement in fatigue-related indicators.
    Additional in-vitro tests on mouse peritoneal macrophages examined the effect of dandelion in combination with recombinant interferon-gamma on immunological parameters (production of cytokines and nitric oxide). Similarly to the earlier studies quoted above, findings included induction of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin, and IL-10 production and a significant increase in nitric oxide production..
    Free full text of this study is available at www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/17/11/13253 .

Dandelion (Taraxacum): antitumor and cancer-related activity

  • Selective induction of apoptosis and autophagy through treatment with dandelion root extract in human pancreatic cancer cells.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22647733

    This study, published in Pancreas (2012), demonstrated that dandelion root extract can induce selective apoptosis and autophagy in aggressive and resistant human pancreatic cancer cells. Dandelion root extract shows a dose and time-dependent effect on malignant but no significant effect on healthy cells.
  • Efficient induction of extrinsic cell death by dandelion root extract in human chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) cells.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22363452

    This study (published in PLoS One in 2012) concluded "that natural products, in particular Dandelion Root Extract, have great potential as non-toxic and effective alternatives to conventional modes of chemotherapy available today."
    (free full text available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3281857)
  • Anti-carcinogenic activity of Taraxacum plant. I.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10408234

    This animal study[1] (which appeared in Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin in 1999) demonstrated powerful anti-tumor effects exerted by Taraxacum japonicum root extract when applied to mouse skin tumors that had been artificially created by the introduction of certain chemicals. It concluded that the root extract "could be a valuable chemopreventive agent against chemical carcinogenesis".
  • Anti-carcinogenic activity of Taraxacum plant. II.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10408235

    This second animal study[1] by the same researchers (also printed in Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 1999) arrived at the conclusion that taraxasterol, one of the eleven triterpenoids from the roots of Taraxacum japonicum tested, could be a valuable chemopreventive agent.
  • The efficacy of dandelion root extract in inducing apoptosis in drug-resistant human melanoma cells.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21234313

    Printed in Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (2011), this study showed that a "simple" extract of the common dandelion plant was able to effectively trigger apoptosis in human chemoresistant melanoma cells, specifically targeting the melanoma cells while leaving noncancerous, healthy cells untouched.
    Free full text of this study available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018636/.
  • Suppression of growth and invasive behavior of human prostate cancer cells by ProstaCaid™: mechanism of activity.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21468543

    This study (printed in International Journal of Oncology, 2011) evaluated the anti-cancer effects of a dietary supplement containing 30+ "alternative" well-known food and plant-based medicinal substances (including mushrooms, saw palmetto, pomegranate, pumpkin, green tea, turmeric, grape skin, astragalus root, certain vitamins and trace elements, as well as dandelion and stinging nettle). The supplement inhibited proliferation of human hormone refractory PC-3 prostate cancer cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner via modulation of gene expression.
  • Taraxasterol and beta-sitosterol: new naturally compounds with chemoprotective/chemopreventive effects.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640948

    A summary (printed in Neoplasma, 2004) of the many biological activities of the above phytosterols with special focus on their anti-tumor and chemopreventive activity: inhibiting colon and breast cancer development / tumorigenesis, tumor promotion, invasion of tumor cells and metastasis, and inducing cell differentiation. No side effects known to date (except in cases of phytosterolemia, a rare metabolic disorder).
  • Inhibitory effect of taraxastane-type triterpenes on tumor promotion by 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate in two-stage carcinogenesis in mouse skin.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8692541

    Two hydroxy triterpenes, taraxasterol and faradiol, isolated from two plants of the Asteraceae (Compositae) family (artichoke and chrysanthemum) - Taraxacum belongs to the same plant family - showed strong inhibitory activity in the formation of skin tumors in mice[1]. (printed in Oncology, 1996)
  • Taraxacum officinale induces cytotoxicity through TNF-alpha and IL-1alpha secretion in Hep G2 cells.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14687655

    Taraxacum officinale has been frequently used for breast and uterus cancer. This study examined dandelion's effect on cytotoxicity and cytokine production in a human hepatoma cell line and found inter alia that dandelion decreased the malignant cells' viability by 26% while significantly increasing the production of tumor necrosis factor and interleukin. (Life Sciences, 2004)
  • Evaluation of aqueous extracts of Taraxacum officinale on growth and invasion of breast and prostate cancer cells.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18425335

    Published in the International Journal of Oncology (2008), this study examined the effect of several water extracts of dandelion (made from leaves, flowers and roots, respectively) on tumor-progression-related processes. Taraxacum officinale extracts or components thereof are proposed as potential new anti-cancer agents.
  • Selective induction of apoptosis through activation of caspase-8 in human leukemia cells (Jurkat) by dandelion root extract.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20849941

    The results of this study from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2011) indicate that components of aqueous dandelion root extract are able to selectively induce apoptosis in cultured leukemia cells, and thus offer a novel non-toxic alternative to conventional leukemia treatment.
  • Studies on immunopotentiating activities of antitumor polysaccharide from aerial parts of Taraxacum platycarpum.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10319124

    This animal[1] study showed dandelion components to have potent antitumor effects, inhibiting inter alia the growth of solid tumors in mice .(printed in Archives of Pharmacal Research, 1991)
  • Taraxinic acid, a hydrolysate of sesquiterpene lactone glycoside from the Taraxacum coreanum NAKAI, induces the differentiation of human acute promyelocytic leukemia HL-60 cells.
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12419957

    In this study (Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 2002), taraxinic acid derived from Korean dandelion was shown to have potential in human leukemia treatment. Free full text available at www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bpb/25/11/25_11_1446/_article
  • [Treatment of intestinal metaplasia and atypical hyperplasia of gastric mucosa with xiao wei yan powder].
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1302542

    138 patients diagnosed with intestinal metaplasia and 104 patients diagnosed with atypical hyperplasia of the gastric mucosa (chronic gastritis) were treated either with a herbal powder mix containing several herbs including Taraxacum mongolicum, or used as the control group. After two to four months of oral administration of the herbal mix, the intestinal metaplasia patients showed an effectiveness rate of 91.3% and the atypical hyperplasia patients one of 92.16%. The numbers for the control group were 21.3% and 14.46% respectively, denoting a marked therapeutic effect of the herbal powder mix. Animal experiments showed no toxic effect. (published in Chinese in Zhongguo Zhongxiyi jiehe zazhi [Chinese journal of integrated traditional and Western medicine] in 1992)
  • [Antitumor activity of hot water extract of dandelion, Taraxacum officinale-correlation between antitumor activity and timing of administration (author's transl)].
    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7310635

    Printed in Japanese in Yakugaku zasshi [Journal of the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan], 1981.

Dandelion root & chronic myelomonocytic leukemia

Adding more clinical evidence to the above study results, Dr. Carolyn Hamm from the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre (Ontario, Canada) found that dandelion root extract was one of the only treatments to be helpful with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia patients (see "Dandelion tea touted as possible cancer killer" found at www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/02/16/wdr-dandelion-tea-cancer-killer.html). Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials were planned in 2012 but may not have materialized due to lack of approval of the corresponding application to Health Canada, the national public health authority.

Continue to Dandelion medicinal effects: Part 3: effects on liver health, diabetes, physical energy levels (stamina), obesity, allergy, skin elasticity and hydration, osteoclastogenesis, plus tissue engineering applications, and anecdotal and folkloric observations, as well as Part 2 (upcoming): antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiinflammatory, antibiotic, antimutagenic, and hypolipidemic effects.

Footnotes

1 Both for ethical and scientific reasons, Healing Cancer Naturally does not support animal experimentation. For details see Cancer Research, Toxicity Testing & Animal Experimentation: an Unholy Union?.

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