Health Care Professional Information

Scientific Name
Taraxacum mongolicum, Taraxacum officinale
Common Name

Blowball, cankerwort, dent de lion, lion’s tooth, priest’s crown, pu gong ying, puffball, swine snout, white endive, wild endive

Clinical Summary

Derived from the whole plant of the Taraxacaum officinale and other related species. Historically the beta-carotene and potassium-rich herb is said to possess diuretic, laxative, cholagogic, antirheumatic and appetite stimulant properties (1). In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the herb has been used to promote lactation and to reduce abscesses especially in the breast and intestines (2). In vitro antitumor (1) (3) (8), antioxidant (4) and anticoagulant (5) properties have been documented.
Animal studies show moderate anti-inflammatory, cholagogic and hypoglycemic activities.
Dandelion was shown to have diuretic properties in a small study (10). More research is needed.
Reported adverse reactions include heartburn, dyspepsia and mild diarrhea (2) (6). A case report of chronic hand dermatitis has also been presented (7).

Food Sources

Dandelion

Purported Uses
  • Appetite
  • Cancer treatment
  • Diabetes
  • Eczema
  • GI disorders
  • Lactation stimulation
  • Liver disease
  • Promote urination
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
Constituents
  • Acids: Caffeic, p-hydroxyphenylacetic, chlorogenic, cichoric, monocaffeyl tartaric, linoleic, linolenic, oleic and palmitric.
  • Coumarins: Cichoriin and aesculin.
  • Flavonoids: Luteolin-7-glucoside and luteolin-7-diglucoside.
  • Minerals: Potassium.
  • Resin
  • Terpenoids: Sesquiterpene lactones, taraxinic acid esterified with glucose and eudesmanolides.
  • Vitamins: Vitamin A.
  • Other: Carotenoids, choline, inulin, pectin, phytosterols, sugars, triterpenes.
    (1)
Mechanism of Action

Extracts of dandelion have been shown to have antimicrobial and bactericidal effects in vitro (2). Dandelion's antitumor activities are thought to be similar to that of tumor polysaccharides such as lentinan (1). Dandelion has been shown to decrease human hepatoma cell line viability by increasing tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1alpha production (9). Other research, however, has shown that the presence of luteolin and luteolin 7-glucoside in dandelion flower extract exhibits cytotoxic activities against the colon adenocarcinoma cell line (Caco-2) (4). Still other studies have isolated an active compound identical to lupeol, a lupane-type triterpene, that inhibited cell growth and induced melanogenesis of a mouse melanoma cell line (B16 2F2) (3). Another study has demonstrated that taraxinic acid induces differentiation in a promyelocytic leukemia cell line (HL-60) (8). Because studies of the diuretic properties of dandelion have had mixed results, researchers have proposed that the diuretic activity may merely be a result of the high potassium content of the leaf and root (1). Sesquiterpene lactones are thought to be the allergenic principles in dandelion (7).

Contraindications

Patients with obstruction of the bile duct or gall bladder should not take dandelion (1).

Adverse Reactions

Rare (Intravenous): Allergic reactions (2).
Reported (Oral):

  • Heartburn, stomach inflammation, dyspepsia. Overdosage can cause mild diarrhea (2) (6).
  • Hypoglycemia (11).
  • Contact dermatitis (7).
  • Hemorrhagic cystitis was reported in a 33-year-old woman following use of a slimming product containing a herbal mixture with dandelion as one of the components. The symptoms resolved after discontinuing intake of the product (12).
Herb-Drug Interactions

Lithium: Toxicity to lithium may be worsened due to sodium depletion (6).
Diuretics: Dandelion may have additive effects due to its diuretic activity.
Hypoglycemics: Dandelion may have additive effects due to its hypoglycemic property (1).

Literature Summary and Critique

Well-designed clinical trials have not yet been conducted.

Dosage (Inside MSKCC Only)
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References
  1. Barnes J, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 2002.
  2. Bensky D, Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine, Materia Medica. Seattle: Eastland Press, Inc, 1993.
  3. Hata K, Ishikawa K, Hori K, Konishi T. Differentiation-inducing activity of lupeol, a lupane-type triterpene from Chinese dandelion root (Hokouei-kon), on a mouse melanoma cell line. Biol Pharm.Bull. 2000;23:962-7.
  4. Hu C,.Kitts DD. Antioxidant, prooxidant, and cytotoxic activities of solvent-fractionated dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) flower extracts in vitro. J Agric.Food Chem. 2003;51:301-10.
  5. Yun SI, Cho HR, Choi HS. Anticoagulant from Taraxacum platycarpum. Biosci.Biotechnol.Biochem. 2002;66:1859-64.
  6. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications And Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 2001.
  7. Wakelin SH, Marren P, Young E, Shaw S. Compositae sensitivity and chronic hand dermatitis in a seven-year-old boy. Br J Dermatol 1997;137:289-91.
  8. Choi JH, Shin KM, Kim NY, Hong JP, Lee YS, Kim HJ et al. Taraxinic acid, a hydrolysate of sesquiterpene lactone glycoside from the Taraxacum coreanum NAKAI, induces the differentiation of human acute promyelocytic leukemia HL-60 cells. Biol Pharm.Bull. 2002;25:1446-50.
  9. Koo HN, Hong SH, Song BK, Kim CH, Yoo YH, Kim HM. Taraxacum officinale induces cytotoxicity through TNF-alpha and IL-1alpha secretion in Hep G2 cells. Life Sci. 2004 Jan 16;74(9):1149-57.
  10. Clare BA, Conroy RS, Spelman K. The diuretic effect in human subjects of an extract of Taraxacum officinale folium over a single day. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Aug;15(8):929-34.
  11. Goksu E, Eken C, Karadeniz O, Kucukyilmaz O. First report of hypoglycemia secondary to dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) ingestion. Am J Emerg Med. 2010 Jan;28(1):111.e1-2.
  12. Catania MA, Oteri A, Caiello P, et al. Hemorrhagic cystitis induced by an herbal mixture. South Med J. 2010 Jan;103(1):90-2.

Consumer Information

How It Works

Bottom Line: Dandelion has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer.
Dandelion contains polysaccharides similar to those found in certain species of mushrooms which are thought to have antitumor properties. Laboratory studies have shown that dandelion can kill certain bacteria and other microbes. It was also found effective against colon cancer, leukemia and melanoma cells. Dandelion has high potassium content which may lead to diuretic (“promoting urination”) effects. Few well-designed clinical studies have investigated the use of dandelion in humans.

Purported Uses
  • To treat cancer
    Laboratory studies have shown dandelion to have anticancer properties, but not clinical studies have shown this effect in humans.
  • To treat diabetes
    Laboratory studies have shown dandelion to lower blood sugar, however no clinical studies have studied its effects in diabetic humans.
  • To treat eczema
    There are no studies to determine if this is true.
  • As a laxative
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat gall stones or other gastrointestinal disorders
    Dandelion has not been studied for this use.
  • To stimulate lactation
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat jaundice and other liver diseases
    There are no studies to evaluate this use.
  • To promote urination
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat rheumatoid arthritis
    Dandelion has not been studied for this use.
Research Evidence

Well-designed studies have not been conducted with dandelion.

Patient Warnings
  • This product is regulated by the FDA as a dietary supplement. Unlike approved drugs, supplements are not required to be manufactured under specific standardized conditions. The product may not contain the labeled amount or may be contaminated. In addition, it may not have been tested for safety or effectiveness.
Do Not Take If
  • You are taking lithium (dandelion may increase sodium depletion).
  • You are taking diuretic drugs (theoretically, dandelion may increase diuretic effects).
  • You are taking hypoglycemic drugs (theoretically, dandelion may lower blood sugar levels).
  • You have obstruction of the bile duct or gall bladder.
Side Effects
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach inflammation
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Allergic reactions including red, itchy bumps (rare)
  • Hemorrhagic cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder) was reported in a 33-year-old woman following use of a slimming product containing a herbal mixture with dandelion as one of the components. The symptoms resolved after discontinuing intake of the product.
E-mail your questions and comments to aboutherbs@mskcc.org.