What Is Dandelion Root Extract?
“What is dandelion root extract?” When I get asked this question, I can usually tell that the person asking me really wants to know “what the heck is a common garden weed doing in a superfood supplement?”
Answering this question gives me a great deal of satisfaction. What is dandelion root extract? Well for a start, yes, it’s true that it’s a common weed. In fact, it’s probably growing in the cracks of your driveway right now!
However, despite its ubiquitous presence beside roads, in lawns and throughout every temperate region of the world, dandelion is uncommonly helpful for human health.
What Is Dandelion Root Extract’s Origin?
Dandelion has a very official botanical name: Taraxacum officinale.
Fun fact: ‘officinale’ or ‘officinalis’ is derived from the word officina, which means a workshop or pharmacy, referring to dandelion’s medicinal value!
While the plant’s name sounds very official, the dandelion itself is a small and innocuous-looking green plant with spear-shaped leaves and a bright yellow flower. Better still, the flower becomes a ball of soft silvery seeds, the kind children blow into the wind with a wish. (Well okay not just kids, try it next time you see one, it’s fun!).
Traditional herbalists have prescribed dandelion (both the root and the leaves) for thousands of years as a ‘cooling digestive tonic’. It’s been used to help with feelings of fullness, indigestion, nausea, poor appetite and as a gentle laxative. Other uses include for liver and skin problems, bladder and kidney dysfunction, obesity and general inflammation.
Dandelion benefits from top-to-toe
I’m a fan of plants that provide nutritional value from the entire plant, and the humble dandelion is one of these.
There are two popular uses for dandelion: the leaves (whether in loose leaf form as a tea, a freeze dried version as a tea, or as a capsule) are commonly used as a supplement to help with water retention. The root, again either as a tea or a supplement (usually in capsule form due to the bitter taste as a powder) is used to help with digestion and liver.
People often confuse these two forms and think that all parts of the dandelion plant do the same thing, however this isn’t the case.
For a start the leaves provide ample potassium and have traditionally been added to salads and entrees. They lend a bitter flavour that stimulates stomach acids and enzymes, preparing the digestive system for heavier foods, such as meats and fatty dishes.
But it’s dandelion root that we’re particularly interested in for Athletic Greens. Dandelion root has long been used as a medicinal tea, decoction or tincture, and most recently as a health-promoting coffee substitute when dried and roasted.
So let’s go into more detail and answer the question: what is dandelion root extract actually good for?
What Is Dandelion Root Extract Good For?
Dandelion contains flavonoids like luteolin, apigenin, isoquercitrin (similar to quercetin), caffeic acid, and chlorogenic acid. It also contains terpenoids, triterpenes, and sesquiterpenes - plant chemicals that contribute to its bitter taste and therapeutic action.
That’s a pretty huge list, I know, so I’ll break down the potential benefits for you.
→ For digestion
Dandelion is most famous for its ability to ease digestive discomfort, with reported benefits ranging from gallbladder support to increased gastric emptying (the speed at which food leaves the stomach).
It’s classed as a ‘bitter tonic’ which, in herbal medicine, refers to a bitter-tasting herb that stimulates digestive secretions. It was traditionally prescribed for feelings of fullness, indigestion, nausea and loss of appetite.
Scientific research has highlighted a number of ways that dandelion may support digestion, including:
→ For liver health
Compounds in dandelion appear to protect the liver from toxins, though this has so far only been tested in mice. Dandelion may also help combat fatty liver disease and inflammation.
→ For gallbladder health
May increase the flow of bile from the gallbladder - more bile, better emulsification of fats, better digestion! (especially of fats). It’s also reported to dissolve gallstones, though evidence is lacking.
→ For urinary complaints
Traditionally, dandelion leaf is more strongly associated with urinary, kidney and diuretic effects, probably due to higher potassium content. However, dandelion root may still offer benefits and has also been traditionally used for complaints of the bladder and kidneys.
→ For cardiovascular health
Limited animal studies have shown that dandelion may
reduce high cholesterol, block fat absorption and increase red blood cell count, however, these effects are mild and require further research.
→ For weight loss
While studies haven’t yet been conducted in humans, dandelion shows promise for treating obesity. It may inhibit the formation of new fat cells and the accumulation of fat in general.
Dandelion has also been reported to protect the pancreas, decrease general inflammation and improve physical performance, although evidence is currently limited.
There are also exciting preliminary studies suggesting dandelion root extract may kill cancer cells in Melanoma without killing healthy cells.
How To Enjoy The Benefits Of Dandelion Root Extract
There isn’t a scientifically validated dosage of dandelion root yet, however, most sources cite between 6 - 12 grams per day of the dried extract as a tea, or in dropperful doses as required, with meals, as a tincture.
No known toxic dose has been identified, however, dandelion is cautioned for people with a known allergy to plants in the Asteraceae family, and with known gallbladder and liver disorders.
Like many herbal medicines, dandelion may act on the liver and affect the speed at which pharmaceutical drugs are detoxified.
It’s always best to check for interactions with a healthcare professional.
Summing up what dandelion root extract can do you for you
When people ask me “What is dandelion root extract good for?” I’m tempted to say “What isn’t it good for!?” But I like to encourage people to try it and see for themselves.
The thing is, most people could do with a boost to their digestive powers and liver health, and this is a gentle way to do that.
So when they try dandelion root extract they’re likely to notice that their digestion improves (the extract works hard to target multiple organs and bodily functions).
They might also find that it’s effective for fullness, indigestion, nausea and low appetite. And finally they might note other benefits such as weight loss and improved cardiovascular health.
And why not superboost the benefits of dandelion root by enjoying it in Athletic Greens?
Due to dandelion root’s ability to help with digestion, it works well with ginger and the digestive enzymes found in Athletic Greens: Papain (from Papaya) and Bromelain (from Pineapple). It also complements the Milk Thistle and Globe Artichoke when it comes to improving liver health.
While there’s still work to be done on fully understanding the therapeutic benefits of dandelion root, thousands of years of therapeutic use can say a thousand words about the uncommon benefits of this humble weed!