The bitter truth about Dandelion


Dandelion is quite a symbol of summer in sight, as its bright yellow flowers are shining through the grass. It’s today’s name, dandelion, came a long way from French dent-de-leon, which comes from the medieval Latin version of dens leonis, meaning the tooth of a lion.


Even though is perceived as a weed, thanks to the way its seeds easily spread, Dandelion has been used for its general medicinal purposes. If you decide to pick it yourself, avoid the ones close to the roads due to their exposure to the fumes coming out of motor vehicles.


Dandelions contain a variety of bioactive compounds, which have a beneficial effect on good health, along with their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. The whole plant is edible and can be used for different types of preparation for both food and drinks, as different parts of dandelion have specific properties.


The flowers can be used as an edible decoration for foods such as cakes or salad, as well as used to make different beverages ranging from dandelion syrups to fermented drinks such as dandelion wine. The stems and leaves tend to be usually used as a part of a salad, whilst the roots, after being ground and roasted are used as a coffee alternative for those who avoid caffeine.


The potential of dandelion can be separated into a few categories, based on health benefits.




General health

Dandelion has blood glucose and cholesterol balancing properties, which can contribute to the prevention of diseases such as type II Diabetes and cardio-vascular complications. Dandelion is also a good source of nutrients such as vitamins A, C, D, E and B vitamins including β carotene (Jeppesen et al., 2016), as well as micronutrients such as Calcium, Selenium, Copper, Magnesium, Sodium, Iron, Potassium, Manganese and Phosphorus (González-Castejón et al., 2012).







Digestion


The bitter taste of dandelion has a beneficial effect on the digestive system overall and its related conditions such as dyspepsia (also known as indigestion), thanks to its stimulating effect due to its bitter taste (Jeppesen et al., 2016), (McMullen et al., 2015). However, some parts of the dandelion are more bitter than the others; with stems and stalks being the most bitter, the root being slightly bitter and the flowers being the least bitter part of the plant (Autio et al., 1985), therefore a dandelion side salad with your meal can improve your digestive issues.


For those who associate coffee consumption with promoting bowel movement but want to cut down on their caffeine consumption, using ground dandelion root alternative won’t spare them of the digestive and bowel stimulation thanks to its slightly bitter taste.

Dandelion has also been proven to be an effective part of managing IBS, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, as well as relieving the intestinal cramping and relieving constipation and diarrhoea (González-Castejón et al., 2012).




PMS and Period symptoms


Dandelion can bring benefits related to PMS symptoms relief such as bloating and cramping. As women suffering from PMS or are near their period suffer from being uncomfortable due high water retention, using dandelion prior period can reduce the bloating thanks to its diuretic properties (Clare at al., 2009) – but remember, it is still important to drink enough water.


Dandelions are also high in potassium (González-Castejón et al., 2012), which is an important nutrient in terms of reducing menstrual cramping and spasms (Avidon et al., 2013), causing a great pain discomfort to many women.


Lastly, consuming dandelion prior and during period is a good way to replenish Iron in the diet (Ata et al., 2011), which is being lost due to menstrual bleeding. This could be beneficial to those who especially suffer from heavy bleeds or have generally low intake of Iron-rich foods, as menstrual bleeding increases the risk of Iron depletion, which can negatively affect growth in adolescent females (Chrousos et al., 2013), but also cause conditions such as anaemia or negative effect on cognition and immune system (Abbaspour et al., 2014).



Weight management


I am no advocate for “magical weight loss” teas or other products, however, thanks to its digestion stimulating (McMullen et al., 2015) and diuretic properties (Clare at al., 2009), dandelions can be a part of a balanced diet to manage symptoms such as bloating or digestive issues causing discomfort, as it can aid to relieve from diarrhoea, constipation and water retention (González-Castejón et al., 2012). Thanks to its bitterness, it can be also used as an aperitif, which is in many cultures still consumed prior to meal to induce appetite (Depoortere et al., 2011).

Sources


Abbaspour, N., Hurrell, R. and Kelishadi, R., 2014. Review on iron and its importance for human health. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 19(2), pp.164–74.


Ata, S., Farooq, F. and Javed, S., 2011. Elemental profile of 24 common medicinal plants of Pakistan and its direct link with traditional uses. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 5(26), pp.6164-68.


Autio, K., Kuusi, T. and Pyysalo, H., 1985. Bitterness properties of dandelion: II. Chemical investigations. Lebensm Wiss Technol, 18, pp.347–49.


Avidon, I., Baker, F. and Iacovides, S., 2013. The 24-h progression of menstrual pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea when given diclofenac potassium: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled crossover study. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 289(5), pp.993-1002.


Chrousos, G., Damianidi, L., Giannopoulou, A., Lionis, C., Manios, Y., Malindretos, P., Mavrogianni, C., Moschonis, G. and Papandreou, D., 2013. Association of Iron Depletion with Menstruation and Dietary Intake Indices in Pubertal Girls: The Healthy Growth Study. BioMed Research International, 2013, pp.1-8.


Clare, B., Conroy, R. and Spelman, K., 2009. The Diuretic Effect in Human Subjects of an Extract of Taraxacum officinale Folium over a Single Day. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(8), pp.929-34.


Depoortere, I., Janssen, S., Laermans, J., Tack, J., Thijs, T. and Verhulst, P., 2011. Bitter taste receptors and α-gustducin regulate the secretion of ghrelin with functional effects on food intake and gastric emptying. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(5), pp.2094-2099.


González-Castejón, M., Rodriguez-Casado, A. and Visioli, F., 2012. Diverse biological activities of dandelion. Nutrition Reviews, 70(9), pp.534-47.


Jeppesen, P., Lambert, M. and Wirngo, F., 2016. The Physiological Effects of Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) in Type 2 Diabetes. The Review of Diabetic Studies, 13(2-3), pp.113-31.


McMullen, M., Towell, A. and Whitehouse, J., 2015. Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, pp.1-8.