Common Names

  • Blowball
  • Puffball
  • Lion's tooth
  • Pu gong ying
  • Swine snout
  • Wild endive

For Patients & Caregivers

How It Works

Dandelion has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer.

Dandelion is used in traditional medicine to treat many ailments. Laboratory studies have shown that dandelion can kill certain bacteria and other microbes. It was also found to have anticancer properties in colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, leukemia, and melanoma cells, but studies have not been conducted in humans. Dandelion has estrogenic activity. It may increase the growth of hormone-sensitive cancer cells. Dandelion can also promote urination.

Purported Uses

  • To treat cancer
    Laboratory studies have shown dandelion to have anticancer properties, but clinical studies have not shown this effect in humans.
  • To treat diabetes
    Laboratory studies have shown dandelion to lower blood sugar, however no clinical studies have evaluated its effects in diabetic humans.
  • To stimulate lactation
    Dandelion is used in Chinese medicine to promote lactation. Scientific evidence to support this use is lacking.
  • To treat jaundice and other liver diseases
    There are no studies to evaluate this use.
  • To promote urination
    Extracts of dandelion may increase the frequency of urination.

Do Not Take If

  • You are taking lithium: Dandelion may increase sodium depletion.
  • You are taking diuretic drugs: Dandelion may increase diuretic effects.
  • You are taking hypoglycemic drugs: Theoretically, dandelion may lower blood sugar levels.
  • You are taking Cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 substrate drugs: Dandelion inhibits CYP3A4 activities and may result in changes in blood levels of substrate drugs.
  • You have hormone-sensitive cancers: Dandelion may increase the growth of these cancer cells.
  • You have chronic kidney disease: Dandelion tea contains high level of oxalates which can accumulate in patients with compromised kidney function leading to toxicity.

Side Effects

  • Heartburn
  • Stomach inflammation
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Low blood sugar

Case reports

  • Bladder inflammation: In a 33-year-old woman who used a slimming product containing dandelion. Symptoms resolved after product discontinuation.
  • Gangrene of the fingers: In a 56-year-old man with chronic kidney disease after intake of large quantities of dandelion tea due to accumulation of oxalates.
  • Rare allergic reactions: Including red, itchy bumps; children may be more prone to allergies with dandelion.
  • Toxic blood levels of immune suppressant drugs: In a kidney transplant recipient, that occurred after consumption of a tea that contained dandelion, which inhibits an enzyme used in the metabolism of these drugs.

Special Point

Dandelion was determined to be an important allergen in children.

Back to top

For Healthcare Professionals

Scientific Name

Taraxacum mongolicum, Taraxacum officinale

Clinical Summary

Dandelion is related to the daisy family and commonly found worldwide. The flower, leaf and root of this plant are used in traditional medicine for their diuretic, cholagogic, antirheumatic and appetite-stimulating properties (23). In Chinese Medicine, the herb has been used to promote lactation and reduce abscesses especially in the breast and intestines (2).

In vitro and in vivo studies suggest that dandelion has lipid-lowering (13), hepatoprotective (14), and antiviral (15) (16) properties. It also has anticoagulant (5), diuretic (10), anti-inflammatory (14), and antioxidant (4) activities. Dandelion root extract has anticancer effects against melanoma (3), leukemia (8) (26), pancreatic cancer (17), and colorectal cancer (25) cell lines. However, human studies are limited.

Dandelion has estrogenic activity. It may increase the proliferation of hormone-sensitive breast cancer cells <sup>(24)</sup>. It can also cause allergic reactions and may interact with some prescription drugs.

Purported Uses

  • Cancer treatment
  • Diabetes
  • Lactation stimulation
  • Liver disease
  • Promote urination

Mechanism of Action

The diuretic activity of dandelion may be a result of its high potassium content (23). In murine models of diet-induced fatty liver disease, dandelion leaf extract exihibited hepatoprotective effects with decreased serum levels of ALT, hepatic TG, and MDA, as well as TNF-alpha and IL-6 expression (14). At the post-transcriptional level, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties were exihibited via decreased activation of procaspase-3 to active caspase-3, and JNK phosphorylation (14). Linoleic acid, phytol and tetracosanol have been identified as bioactive compounds, with hypolipidemic effects occurring via AMP-activated protein kinase activation in human HepG2 cells (13).

Dandelion has been shown to decrease human hepatoma cell line viability by increasing tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1alpha production (9). Other research 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). An isolated compound identical to lupeol, a lupane-type triterpene, inhibited cell growth and induced melanogenesis in a mouse melanoma cell line (3). Taraxinic acid, derived from dandelion, induced differentiation in a promyelocytic leukemia cell line (8).

Sesquiterpene lactones are thought to be the allergenic compounds in dandelion (7).

Adverse Reactions

Oral: Heartburn, stomach inflammation, dyspepsia; mild diarrhea with overdosage (2); hypoglycemia (11).
Contact dermatitis: Can be more common in children from exposure to dandelion (22).

Case reports
Hemorrhagic cystitis: In a 33-year-old woman following use of a slimming product containing dandelion. Symptoms resolved after product discontinuation (12).
Toxic blood levels of immunosuppressive agents: In a kidney transplant recipient, that occurred after consumption of a tea that contained dandelion, which inhibits CYP3A4 used in the metabolism of these drugs (19) (20).
Digital necrosis: In a 56-year-old man with chronic kidney disease, cutaneous manifestations of hyperoxaluria related to high intake of dandelion tea (10–15 cups daily for 6 months) (21).
Contact dermatitis: In a 7-year-old boy, which improved by avoidance of handling plants (7).

Herb-Drug Interactions

  • Diuretics: Dandelion may have additive effects due to its diuretic activity (10) (23).
  • Hypoglycemics: Dandelion may have additive effects due to its hypoglycemic property (23).
  • Cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 substrates: Dandelion inhibits CYP3A4 activities (19) (20) and may result in changes in blood levels of substrate drugs.

Dosage (OneMSK Only)


  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. Yun SI, Cho HR, Choi HS. Anticoagulant from Taraxacum platycarpum. Biosci.Biotechnol.Biochem. 2002;66:1859-64.

  4. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications And Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 2001.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Catania MA, Oteri A, Caiello P, et al. Hemorrhagic cystitis induced by an herbal mixture. South Med J. 2010 Jan;103(1):90-2.

  10. Liu J, Zhang N, Liu M. A new inositol triester from Taraxacum mongolicum. Nat Prod Res. 2014;28(7):420-423.

  11. Mingarro DM, Plaza A, Galan A, et al. The effect of five Taraxacum species on in vitro and in vivo antioxidant and antiproliferative activity. Food Funct. Aug 2015;6(8):2787-2793.

  12. Kwan LP, Mok MM, Ma MK, et al. Acute drug toxicity related to drinking herbal tea in a kidney transplant recipient. Ren Fail. Mar 2014;36(2):309-312.

  13. Dufay S, Worsley A, Monteillier A, et al. Herbal tea extracts inhibit Cytochrome P450 3A4 in vitro. J Pharm Pharmacol. Oct 2014;66(10):1478-1490.

  14. Moriarty B, Pinney JH, Owen-Casey MP, et al. Digital necrosis from dandelion tea. Br J Dermatol. Jul 2013;169(1):227-230.

  15. Paulsen E, Andersen KE. Sensitization patterns in Compositae-allergic patients with current or past atopic dermatitis. Contact Dermatitis. May 2013;68(5):277-285.

  16. Martinez M, Poirrier P, Chamy R, et al. Taraxacum officinale and related species-An ethnopharmacological review and its potential as a commercial medicinal plant. J Ethnopharmacol. Jul 1 2015;169:244-262.

  17. Oh SM, Kim HR, Park YJ, et al. Ethanolic extract of dandelion (Taraxacum mongolicum) induces estrogenic activity in MCF-7 cells and immature rats. Chin J Nat Med. 2015 Nov;13(11):808-14. doi: 10.1016/S1875-5364(15)30084-4.

  18. Ovadje P, Ammar S, Guerrero JA, et al. Dandelion root extract affects colorectal cancer proliferation and survival through the activation of multiple death signalling pathways. Oncotarget. 2016 Aug 22. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.11485.

  19. Ovadje P, Hamm C, Pandey S. Efficient induction of extrinsic cell death by dandelion root extract in human chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) cells. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e30604. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030604.

  20. Ovadje P, Chatterjee S, Griffin C. et al. Selective induction of apoptosis through activation of caspase-8 in human leukemia cells (Jurkat) by dandelion root extract. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jan 7;133(1):86-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.09.005.

Back to top
Back to top
Email your questions and comments to aboutherbs@mskcc.org.

Last Updated