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Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale [Latin]), also known as lionís tooth and wild endive, is a perennial herb native to the northern hemisphere. Dandelions dot the lawns of most North Americans and Europeans, and are more often thought of as a weed and a nuisance to those striving for a well-manicured lawn. Most people donít know about dandelionís long history of use in traditional herbal medicineóNative Americans used it to treat kidney disease, indigestion, and heartburn; traditional Arabian medicine prescribed it to treat liver disease; and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses dandelion in combination with other medicines to treat hepatitis and upper respiratory tract infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia.

The medicinal properties of dandelion root and leaf are well known and commonly accepted throughout Europeóthe European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) recommends dandelion root for indigestion and loss of appetite, and in Germany the expert panel known as Commission E recommends products containing dandelion for treatment of liver disorders, appetite loss, indigestion, and fluid retention.

Women that suffer from premenstrual syndrome may find that the diuretic action of dandelion helps relieve symptoms of bloating and water weight gain.

Dandelion flowers also have medicinal properties. They are an excellent source of lecithin, a nutrient that elevates the brainís acetylcholine, a substance that helps maintain brain function and may play a role in slowing or even stopping the progression of Alzheimerís disease. Lecithin also helps the body maintain good liver function, so it is no surprise that dandelion is widely recommended by herbalists and naturopathic physicians for liver detoxification.

Recent research supports the traditional use of dandelion for treatment of liver disorders; one Japanese study showed that taking jiedu yanggan gao, an herbal preparation containing dandelion root in combination with other herbs, improved liver function in people with hepatitis B.

Preliminary studies indicate that dandelion may have other health benefits as well. One study found that dandelion inhibits the growth of Candida albicans, the fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections, and another study showed that eating dandelion root may help decrease glucose levels.

Dandelion leaves are an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin C, nutrients that act as antioxidants in the body. Laboratory studies have shown that dandelion flower extract has antioxidant properties, and may even help inhibit tumor growth.

Dandelion is found just about everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Use the leaves (the younger the better) in salads or sautťed in butter with garlic for even more antioxidant protection. Or you can put those pesky dandelionís in the yard to good useódry the flowers and leaves yourself and use them in the bath to treat yeast infections, or to make your own dandelion tea (steep about 1 tablespoon of dried leaves in 1 cup hot water). Dandelion is also available at most health food stores in capsules, tinctures, and powdered form.

Dandelion is generally regarded as safe, but some people report allergic or asthmatic reaction to this herb. Dandelion is a member of the Asteraceae/Compositae family, and people that are allergic to chamomile, chrysanthemums, yarrow, feverfew, ragweed, sunflower, daisies, or other members of the Asteraceae family, may be allergic to dandelion as well. Dandelion is not recommended for patients with liver or gallbladder disease because of the traditional belief that dandelion stimulates bile secretion, although there are no studies of animals or humans that support this belief.

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