Natural health products are usually well-tolerated. As such, they are interesting options in cancer treatment. These herbal medicines can be used over a long period without significant side effects. Some contribute to reducing the side effects of mainstream cancer therapy. Others can boost the impact of traditional medicine as coadjutant treatments.
Certain plants are so potent against cancer that chemotherapy drugs are based on their isolated bioactive compounds. An example is paclitaxel, which comes from the Pacific yew tree bark extract. Other plants are under active research and show promising potential against cancer. They include lemongrass, hibiscus extracts, long pepper, and dandelion root (taraxacum officinale).
In this article, we’re examining dandelion root extract and other parts of the plant. We’re reviewing the literature and showing you what you can expect from this ingredient regarding tumor growth inhibition and other benefits.
What is dandelion root extract?
Dandelion is a plant native to Europe, especially in the Northern hemisphere. It is also found in China, and you can recognize the plant with various names: yellow flower, milk grass, or Huanghua DeDing.
All parts of the plant are edible, including dandelion flowers, leaves, and roots. They have a bittersweet flavor. Compared to lettuce, dandelion has more healthy fatty acids. It is also one of the richest green vegetable sources of beta-carotene.
Besides beta-carotene, dandelion has many phytochemicals, including sesquiterpene lactones, which confer its bitterness. These include many substances, and we will cover some of them in the section below. These phytochemicals have several benefits, including anti-cancer properties.
But dandelion is also an excellent source of vitamin A, B, C, D, and E. It has minerals, including calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc. And compared to other green vegetables, it has much more dietary fiber and a variety of amino acids. Notably, it has 18.8% of protein, much more than other vegetables.
Does it have anti-cancer properties?
The phytonutrients found in different parts of the dandelion plant function as anti-tumor agents. They inhibit oxidation and boost immune function. Thus, various studies have evaluated the anti-cancer effects with the prospect of bringing dandelion as a part of cancer treatment.
To explore the anti-cancer properties of dandelion, let us break it down into the most critical antitumoral components:
These substances work as anti-tumor and immunity-boosting agents. They have a potent antioxidant function and may slow down the aging process. Clinical trials with dandelion polysaccharides show a promising effect as an anti-tumor agent. It is known to cause apoptosis (cell death) in leukemia and melanoma.
They include substances such as taraxerol and taraxeryl, which exhibit antitumoral effects in stomach cancer. They promote apoptosis in some cancer cells while arresting the cell cycle in others. Studies are mainly based on animals, but it shows promising effects against different types of cancer.
These phytonutrients antagonize cancer in different ways. They block the cell cycle, not allowing tumor growth in cancer. This has been tested in lung cancer and several animal models. It also has an apoptotic effect, causing cancer cell death and changes in tumor size and conformation.
They are essential substances with very specialized functions. They are probably the most famous anti-cancer substances due to an inhibiting mechanism that slows down proliferation. Besides triggering apoptosis, flavonoids inhibit cancer migration and the formation of new blood vessels inside the tumor.
Organic acid compounds
They include ferulic acid, chlorogenic acid, and more. These substances show an inhibitory effect on gastric cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, and much more. They activate tumor-suppressing genes inside the cell and promote apoptosis.
What the research says
Clinical studies with dandelion extract are very scarce so far. However, it has been widely studied in vitro and animal models.
One such study was performed in prostate cancer cells combining dandelion root and lemongrass extract. The researchers reported how this combination induced prostate cancer cell death. The effect was more pronounced in higher doses, reducing tumor burden and enhancing the effect of chemotherapeutic drugs.
The researchers propose a few mechanisms by which dandelion extract induces apoptosis. The first mechanism is by causing oxidative stress in cancer mitochondria. The second mechanism is by activating substances inside the cell that trigger cell death. This process is selectively toxic and only affects prostate cancer cells.
We need more evidence in animal models and humans to standardize dandelion root extract as a part of formal medical treatment. However, it is a non-toxic and highly nutritious food we can adopt in our daily living without any consequence.
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8 other benefits of dandelion root extract
The effect of dandelion root extract against cancer cells is one of many benefits. Here’s a complete list of health effects and applications of dandelion root extract:
1) Nutritional benefits
As noted above, the nutritional contents are very rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It is full of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. It is an excellent potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron source.
The dietary fiber it contains is inulin. This is soluble fiber and contributes to keeping your bacterial flora healthy.
2) Improves your antioxidant profile
The human body creates antioxidant enzymes. But they are sometimes not enough to counter our free radical exposure.
Dandelion root contains many antioxidant molecules, and they take care of the job when you run out of enzymes. The most important antioxidants in dandelion include beta-carotene and polyphenols.
3) Modulates the inflammatory response
Besides enhancing the antioxidant profile, polyphenols also have anti-inflammatory potential. According to in vitro studies, several substances found in dandelion root reduce cell inflammation markers. Preclinical trials showed effects in vivo in the case of lung inflammation, too.
It is a potential anti-inflammatory food, but we need more research to explore its application in clinical trials.
4) Could help diabetes patients achieve better glucose control
Dandelion contains two substances with known effects in glucose control. They are chicoric and chlorogenic acids. They both help insulin in their glucose-lowering action after eating.
In other words, they increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood glucose levels. So far, we have seen results in preclinical studies only, but it is still a promising coadjutant therapy.
5) Improves blood lipid levels
As noted above, one of the dietary fibers in dandelion root is known as inulin. This is a type of soluble fiber, and they are known to lower cholesterol levels.
Soluble fiber binds with cholesterol in bile. It is not reabsorbed in the intestines and will be eliminated in the feces instead, reducing cholesterol levels gradually.
6) It has a diuretic effect and may improve blood pressure levels
Dandelion is effective as a natural diuretic. As such, it may contribute to detoxifying functions by the kidneys. Moreover, reducing blood volume levels may also lower blood pressure.
Additionally, dandelion plants are rich in potassium. This mineral can also modulate blood pressure. So far, studies in this particular field are starting in humans with promising results.
7) Protects your liver
The antioxidant substances in dandelion reduce oxidative stress in your liver in case of intoxication. Moreover, it is known to minimize fat-storage levels in the liver in fatty liver.
8) Could be helpful to improve digestion and gastrointestinal symptoms
Dietary fiber in dandelion is potentially beneficial to calm an upset stomach. It may improve constipation and serve as a prebiotic for the gut microbiota. Studies show that it can increase intestinal movement in cases of constipation.
How to get it in your diet
You can adopt dandelion into your diet in many ways. If you have young leaves, you can include them in salads, combining them with other veggies. You can also include them in soups. Dried leaves are very common to create dandelion tea, soft drinks, and wine. Flowers are also common in dandelion wine and a few desserts.
If you prefer to consume dandelion root, roasted dandelion roots can be a coffee substitute. Dandelion coffee won’t have an excitatory effect on the nervous system and provide you with the benefits listed above.
But if you can’t find dandelion in a natural form or prefer not to change your diet, you can always look for a herbal supplement or extract.
According to the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, these are the recommended doses depending on the source you prefer:
- Dried dandelion leaves: 4-10g every day
- Fresh dandelion leaves: 4-10g every day
- Fresh dandelion roots (not dandelion root tea): 2-8g every day
- Dandelion fluid extract: 1-2 tablespoons every day
- Fresh dandelion leaf juice: 1 tablespoon two times a day
- Dandelion root tinctures: 6-15mL every day, divided into three doses
- Dried powder extract: 1000-4000mg every day, divided into four doses
Dandelion root extract is a herbal remedy against several diseases. It is known to induce apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in cancer cells. Most studies are in vitro or use animal models, but they show promising preclinical results. This type of herbal tea made of dried dandelion may contribute to cancer treatment in some patients.
Dandelion greens and similar products may also contribute to liver function, help controlling blood sugar levels, and much more. Therefore, that’s why many people use dandelion root supplements to obtain a wide array of benefits.
There are not many studies available, so the dose of dandelion extract has not been firmly established. However, if you’re not using dandelion root capsules, consider the recommended dose by the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia.
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