By Patricia Kyritsi Howell
When you look out at all those sunny yellow dandelion flowers in your yard this spring, rather than seeing them as a signal to do something about your lawn, I invite you to congratulate yourself for your good fortune. One of the most important herbal remedies for breast health is growing right in your own backyard.
Whether you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, are healing from breast cancer, or just want to have healthy breasts, you need to know about the healing properties of dandelion (Taraxacum officiale).
The seeds of this humble flower are dispersed by the wind. Once they are airborne, they travel vast distances, crossing oceans with ease. Once the seeds find solid ground, they cheerfully thrive in just about any kind of soil. As a result this Mediterranean native is now found on every continent except Antarctica.
Dandelion’s deep taproot is similar to a carrot though paler and much smaller. It’s difficult to eradicate or harvest by simply yanking it out of the ground. Dandelion is target of a well-‐funded campaign by companies that manufacture herbicides.
In a futile attempt to eradicate dandelions, homeowners are encouraged to dump toxic chemicals onto their lawns. Once these toxins are introduced into the environment, they ultimately find their way into our water and food supplies. These carcinogenic substances, most of which are also estrogen disruptors, are a proven contributing factor in increased cancer rates, especially breast cancer.1
The most effective remedy for treating diseases caused by exposure to environmental toxins is actually the much-‐maligned dandelion.
Dandelion root is one of the most detoxifying herbs we have and it is hepatic, or tonic for the liver. It improves liver and gallbladder function, which improves digestion and elimination. Most importantly, dandelion root helps the liver clear excessive estrogens and toxins from the blood and eliminate them. In addition, research with alcohol extracts (tinctures) of dandelion root indicates it may prevent or reduce tumors.2 Dandelion extracts also decrease something known as the tumor
necrosis factor (TNK) that causes inflammation and disrupts immune response to increase the risk of developing cancer.
Spring is the best time to gather dandelion leaves -‐ a nutrient rich wild food with high levels of vitamins A, C, K and calcium that also stimulate endocrine secretions and supports digestion. Drinking dandelion root tea on a regular basis encourages the growth of 14 strains of bifidobacteria that are critical for healthy gut flora.3 When used regularly after taking a round of antibiotics or other strong medications that may disrupt digestion, dandelion root helps restore the digestion. Regular use of dandelion root tea or extract protects the liver from damage caused by pharmaceutical drugs and environmental toxins.
What all of this boils down to is the use of dandelion root and leaf to improve liver function, promote healthy digestion and elimination, and break down tumors, malignant and benign, is well supported by folk tradition as well as modern research. And because dandelion root is a food-‐like tonic herb, it is suitable for long-‐ term use. (In some rare cases it may cause a loose stool and it is contraindicated while taking antihypertensive or diuretic medications.)
Who would benefit from dandelion as a tonic or food? Women who suffer from cyclic breast pain and swelling or fibrocystic breast disease and anyone being treated for or at risk for developing breast cancer would be wise to consider dandelion root part of a long-‐term health strategy. While harvesting dandelions from urban areas is not recommended as they contain toxins generated by air and water pollution, most health food stores and on-‐line sources have organic dandelion root in various forms. Unlike pharmaceuticals, dandelion works slowly and deeply to bring you into balance. It can, and should, be used for months or even years as part of every woman’s wellness program.
How to Use Dandelion
Dandelion root is available in three forms: as bulk dried herb for tea; as a capsule; or as an alcohol extract or tincture. If you have a source of unpolluted dandelions, spring is the time to harvest them. Get a good sturdy trowel to dig up their long roots. Clean the entire plant and use it to make tea. Or eat the greens in salad. And of course there is always dandelion flower wine!
A Recipe for Dandelion Root Tea
Bulk dried dandelion root may be purchased from mail order sources or your local herbs shop. To prepare dandelion root tea, use 1 heaping teaspoon of dried root, or 2 teaspoons for fresh root (chopped) per 8 ounces of boiling water. Measure dandelion root into a teapot or quart canning jar and cover with freshly boiled water. Cover and steep for 40 minutes. Strain the herb and discard. Drink a half a cup of tea three times a day. The taste is bitter, which many people enjoy, but if you prefer you may combine it with other teas you enjoy, especially aromatics like lemon balm, peppermint or spearmint, and little bit of honey. Store tea in the refrigerator for no longer that two days.
Patricia Kyritsi Howell, RH (AHG) is a clinical herbalist with more than 20 years experience and the author of Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians. A member of the Governing Council of the American Herbalists Guild, she is founder and director of the BotanoLogos School of Herbal Studies, located in the mountains of northeast Georgia. Learn more at www.wildhealingherbs.com.
- What Are the Benefits of Dandelion Root (vitamins1978.wordpress.com)
- Dandelion: Your medicinal powerhouse go-to herb for spring cleansing. (dalternative.wordpress.com)