As a young child in Philadelphia, each Spring, I would go with my uncle and his friends from the Department of Public Works to Cobbs Creek Park on the western reserve of the over-crowded city. Even then, the term “public works” was becoming an oxymoron. Case in point: The task at hand? To rid the park of dandelions. But these workers knew better than to toss the weeds in the trash. Instead, they saved the leaves and used them to make fresh salads for their families.
Of course, as far as history goes, my boyhood wasn’t all that long ago. But the men who brought home these tasty leaves knew something people have known for centuries, in countries across the world.
Dandelions can do far more good in our bodies than they can in a landfill.
In fact, recently, researchers have been investigating a novel use for the lowly dandelion. This line of research is so new it hasn’t been picked up yet by either mainstream medical researchers or the “natural know-it-alls”. More on this brand new breakthrough in just a minute. But first, let me give you a little insight into dandelion’s remarkable healing potential.
More reasons to ditch the weed killer
Dandelion gets its name from the serrated shape of its leaves. The french called it dent de lion, literally “tooth of lion.” But its other French name is more indicative of its medicinal use: pis-en-lit (“wet the bed”) to describe its diuretic effects. Indeed dandelion has been used as a folk remedy in Europe, Asia, and the Americas to improve urine production.
As a traditional folk remedy, dandelion was also used to detoxify the blood, support liver health and treat various dermatologic disorders and systemic illnesses. Today, scientific studies substantiate the ability of dandelion to induce liver enzymes that metabolize and detoxify blood and tissues.[i]
As early as 1931, research demonstrated that dandelion was also a “cholegogue,” meaning it stimulates release of bile from the liver’s biliary system and gall bladder into the intestines. This is a critical step in the body’s process of digesting and absorbing essential fatty acids and fat-soluble nutrients into the blood. That’s probably why many traditional European digestive drinks contain “bitters” (herbs like dandelion)—to stimulate the liver and the bile ducts for better digestion and metabolism.
Modern research points to new uses
Modern science shows a number of other health benefits of dandelion. Here are a few of the most notable.
- Heart health. Dandelion reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, a cause of many cardiovascular diseases. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are thought responsible for this effect. In addition, dandelion reduces several risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity and hyperlipidemia.[ii]
- Blood sugar control. People with blood sugar issues may find relief in dandelion, which appears to decrease insulin resistance in tissues.[iii] It also may stimulate the pancreas to make more insulin.[iv] That would help the pancreas avoid a condition known as “beta-cell burn-out.” This condition causes constant stimulation of pancreatic cells, which may be a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
- Gastrointestinal health. Dandelion, together with other herbs, has been shown to drastically improve the symptoms of chronic colitis.[v]
Dandelion in cancer care
Some research also suggests dandelion may be able to stop breast and prostate cancer cells, though exactly how is unclear.[vi] But perhaps more importantly, dandelion may fight angiogenesis, the process that creates new blood vessels in the body.[vii] It’s what allows cancerous tumors to survive and grow. And as I’ve said before, stopping angiogenesis in its tracks is the future of cancer care.
This approach prevents cancer cells from robbing the body’s blood supply to become cancer tumors. It is a much less toxic way of stopping cancer than are typical chemotherapeutic agents. Those treatments poison your normal cells together with cancer cells, which is what makes them so damaging to the body.
As you can see, dandelion already has an impressive roster of benefits associated with it. But recently, this lowly weed has caught the eye of cutting-edge botanical chemists because it appears dandelion phytosterols can improve prostate health in men. But that’s actually just the start of how dandelion benefits men’s health.
Breakthrough combination gives aging men a vitality boost
A recent Korean study found that an extract of dandelion—together with red bush or rooibos (with which you’re familiar from some past articles here in Insiders’ Cures)—supports a man’s innate ability to produce testosterone.[viii]
Testosterone production can falter with age. Which is why you see ads for dangerous and useless drugs to fix “Low T” everywhere you look these days. But this dandelion–red bush combination was able to boost testosterone production naturally. It also improves vitality in cells, both in lab animal experiments and in human clinical trials.
In fact, men taking a dandelion–red bush supplement showed marked improvements in physical activity, vitality, and measures of longevity after just 3 to 4 months!
Unfortunately you won’t find such as supplement on the open market…not just yet, at least. But I will keep you updated regarding more developments about a real “anti-aging” supplement in coming issues of Insiders’ Cures.
In the meantime, you can start incorporating dandelion into your daily diet starting today.
And this advice goes for both men and women. After all, dandelion is one of the richest sources of carotenoids, which are important for the brain, nerves, and the eyes. This versatile plant also provides loads of fiber, minerals, protein, vitamins, and trace elements—more than either lettuce or spinach.
Not sure how to use dandelions? Well, all parts of the dandelion plant are edible—flower, leaves, stems, and roots. So try tossing them in salads—alone or with lettuces, shallots (another French favorite), or chives. The leaves may also be boiled and drained, seasoned with pepper and other spices, and moistened with butter or olive oil. Or try adding a handful of the leaves to soups.
But for the men’s health benefits I described earlier, use the recipe bellow. It’s an easy—and delicious—way to replicate the combination studied by those cutting-edge Korean researchers.
You can find dandelion greens in specialty stores and farmers markets. But you might want to ask your grocer to carry them. Many supermarkets have started sections for local produce and requests.
And of course, this Spring when dandelions start poking up from the ground, feel free to put them to good use. Just make sure you avoid picking and eating dandelions from areas where you aren’t sure about pesticide use. Your best bet is to avoid using pesticides on your own lawn, and stick to the dandelions that grow there. That way you can eat your dandelions and help protect a healthy environment at the same time.
Make your own healthy “anti-aging” tea
1 ounce dandelion root, roasted and ground
1 ounce leaves and stems, roasted and ground
2/3 ounce fennel seeds
2/3 ounce mint leaves
1 packet Red Joe red bush (or rooibos) powder
Steep mixture in one cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy.
[i] “Alternation of hepatic antioxidant enzyme activities and lipid profile in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats by supplementation of dandelion water extract,” Clin Chim Acta. 2002;317(1-2):109-117.
[ii] “Hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) root and leaf on cholesterol-fed rabbits,” Int J Mol Sci. 2010;11(1):67-78.
[iii] “Taraxacum official (dandelion) leaf extract alleviates high-fat diet-induced nonalcoholic fatty liver,” Food Chem Toxicol. 2013;58:30-36.
[iv] “The effect of medicinal plants of Islamabad and Murree region of Pakistan on insulin secretion from INS-1 cells,” Phytother Res. 2004;18(1):73-77.
[vi] “Evaluation of aqueous extracts of Taraxacum officinale on growth and invasion of breast and prostate cancer cells,” Int J Oncol. 2008;32(5):1085-1090.
[vii] “Anti-inflammatory activity of Taraxacum officinale,” J Ethnopharmacol. 2008;115(1):82-88.
[viii] “Improvement of andropause symptoms by dandelion and rooibos extract complex CRS-10 in aging male,” Nutr Res Pract 2012; 6(6): 505–512