This common garden weed (Latin name Taraxacum officinale) is one of the first to pop up in the spring and is considered by many lawn owners to be their #1 enemy.
But instead of spraying these flowers with pesticides, they would be better served by gently pulling them out by the root and eating them.
Because every part of this weed, from the flower to the leaves to the root, is edible. And not only edible, but all parts pack some serious nutritional value; they have a lot of vitamin K, more beta carotene than carrots and more protein than spinach.
In fact, the whole reason it shows up in US lawns is because Europeans brought it over to use its leaves as a salad green.
In a previous issue I touched on the medicinal properties of this herb, and how it’s showing promise as a chemopreventive therapy in certain kinds of cancers.
Read on to discover how it’s progressing through the ranks of viable cancer treatment options…
Did you guess that this detested yet valuable weed is the humble dandelion?
While many folks spray these yard invaders with pesticides as soon as possible, many others eat dandelion leaves in salads and stir fries, fry the flowers and eat them for snacks, and even make and enjoy dandelion wine.
Medicinal properties of dandelions
Beyond healthy eating, various parts of the dandelion have been used medicinally all over the world for centuries to aid digestion, cleanse the liver and kidneys, calm upset stomachs, soothe heartburn, and stimulate lactation in new mothers, among other uses.
They’re also rich in antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and chew up free radicals for better overall health.
In modern medicine, the flowers and leaves of the dandelion have been shown to protect skin from damage caused by UVB radiation, which comes from too much sun exposure and plays a key role in the development of skin cancer. These extracts also stimulate glutathione, an important antioxidant used in cell generation.(1)
And, as mentioned in Issue #350, dandelion root has been showing incredible promise as a potential cancer treatment.
Dandelion root is most commonly taken as a tea, which you can make yourself by drying and pulverizing the root, or purchase at a health food store.
In 2011, a study published in the International Journal of Oncology showed that dandelion root helped to suppress the growth of breast cancer cells, prostate cancer cells and melanomas in vitro.(2)
And previous research at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada found the root to be a safe and non-toxic treatment that induced apoptosis (cell death) in leukemia cells.(3)
Although not scientifically validated, there is also a lot of anecdotal evidence available from cancer patients who report feeling better taking dandelion root tea.
New research on dandelions and blood cancer underway
Most recently, a unique, Phase One human trial has been approved that could yield a game-changer in alternative and complementary cancer treatments.
At the University of Windsor, which has a history of testing the chemopreventive properties of dandelion root, 30 people with end-stage blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, who have had no success with conventional treatments, will take a dandelion root tea formulated by Calgary-based natural health products company AOR Inc.
AOR spent about 18 months creating this potent therapeutic tea. The end product is a milled, extracted and freeze-dried dandelion root the color of mustard.
It is 6 to 10 times more powerful than what’s available at a health food or drug store, or than what you can pull from your backyard. It’s not intended to be used as a supplement or like ordinary tea, but is being tested specifically for its ability to induce apoptosis in cancer cells.
Health Canada approved the partnership between the University of Windsor and AOR in 2013, and trials are beginning mid-2016.
The goal of Phase One trials, being the first of four, are to test the treatment in a small group for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range and to identify any and all side effects.
It will most likely be another year to 18 months before the results are in.
If it works, the researchers will move onto Phase Two trials. In any event, it will be a while before a dandelion root-based cancer treatment is available in the marketplace.
But it’s exciting that these natural remedies are being taken seriously as medical treatments.
If you’re interested in trying dandelion root tea and haven’t had it before, consult with your doctor about any prescriptions you’re on to be sure it’s safe.
If you or someone you know is undergoing cancer treatments, it could be worth trying dandelion tea to relieve symptoms of nausea and aid in eliminating toxins and waste from your body. Again, be sure to check with your doctor first to avoid any unexpected interactions or side effects.
You can make your own tea and eat the dandelions out of your own backyard as well, provided they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides or chemical fertilizers. It’s so easy to make your own tea, just clean the roots and dry them out for a few days. Then, steep them in water.
If that’s a little too “homesteader” for you, you can always buy high quality dandelion root tea from your favorite health store or retailer. And some farmer’s markets will sell dandelions as well. The greens and flowers are delicious and nutritious additions to your diet.
Next time a yellow weed rears up in your yard, try pulling and eating it instead of cursing and spraying. You might be surprised by how good it makes you feel!
- Dandelion extracts protect human skin fibroblasts from UVB damage and cellular senescence. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2015/619560/
- Selective induction of apoptosis through activation of caspase-8 in human leukemia cells (Jurkat) by dandelion root extract. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874110006434
- Efficient induction of extrinsic cell death by dandelion root extract in human chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) cells. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0030604