The root (and leaves) of a dandelion are a great way to get vitamins and minerals, but most people just pass them by. Humans have used Dandelion root since ancient times to help with a variety of ailments. In fact, the scientific name for Dandelion is Taraxacum, which is derived from Greek words “taraxos” meaning “disorder” and “akos” meaning “remedy”. Scientists are just now looking into the properties of Dandelion root, and are finding that the ancient Greeks were onto something.
Dandelion for Liver Protection
The first written account of Dandelion being used as a therapeutic agent were from Arabic physicians from the 10th and 11th century. They were using dandelion root as a treatment for liver and spleen damage. Recent studies have pointed in this direction. Studies have shown that Dandelion does have a protective effect on the liver in mice. Two sets of mice were fed alcohol every day, and one set was given dandelion extract as well. The mice that were given the dandelion extract suffered no liver damage from the alcohol. This suggests that dandelion extract can protect the liver from damage.
Dandelion as a Diuretic
What is a diuretic? A diuretic is anything that increases the flow of urine. Your dog will urinate more, and have a lower water content in their blood. Because of the lower water content, there is less pressure on the blood vessels, and blood vessels contract. This has a few health benefits such as lower blood pressure, and a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Diuretics also help with more minor things like headaches.
Because of this, synthetic diuretics are prescribed to people (and dogs) that have extremely high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis, and a high risk of kidney failure, heart disease, or stoke. Essentually, diuretics relieve stress on your dogs organs that they can operate more effectively.
See the part about liver cirrhosis? It seems that Arabian physicians knew what they were talking about when they prescribed Dandelion root back in the 11th century.
One of the side effects of the most prescribed dieuretics is that they tend to deplete minearals such as calcium and phosphorus. Dandelion has been shown to have enough vitamins and minerals that it compensates for any losses that might occur.
Compared to prescribed diuretics, dandelion is fairly weak – studies show that it would take 8 grams of Dandelion leaf to compare to 80 miligrams of furosemide (the most popular presciption diuretic), but I don’t think this is a bad thing necessarily. If your dog has serious heart, liver, or kidney problems, and your vet prescribed a diuretic, don’t use dandelion as a replacement. However, I think there are many health benefits to useing a light dietetic as an everyday prevention of stoke, heart attack and other illnesses.
Long term studies of dandelion use don’t exist, as it is very expensive to do, and not enough people eat dandelion root on a daily basis to do any comparative studies. But there are many studies of another popular diuretic – coffee. Studies have shown that frequent drinkers of coffee have a lower incidence of stroke, lower rate of heart problems, lower rate of liver disease, lower blood pressure, and a lower risk of kidney stones and gallstones. What all of these diseases have in common is that they are all related to blood, and blood vessels.
Caffeine is very bad for dogs, so don’t give it to them, but it does suggest them health benefits for long-term use of diuretics. Some other long term studies of coffee consumption show a higher risk of diseases such as osteoporosis, which may be linked to the fact that coffee may take some important minerals out of the blood stream. However, I’ve already mentioned that Dandelion root has enough minerals to balance out this effect, so I don’t think this will be a problem with Dandelion.
Dandelion for Digestion
Dandelion has been shown to have a strong choleretic effect, meaning that it helps the liver produce bile. This is more evidence that dandelion root is great for the liver, but it has important implications for digestion. Bile helps pancraceatic enzyes digest fats. It is also extremely important for the absorption of Vitamin E.
Dandelion Then and Now
A common theme here is that something that people thought was helpful has been proven to be helpful. They didn’t do scientific experiments, but were working with tradition and trial and error. I find it fascinating that the more we look into things, the more we come back to the herbs and foods we’ve been using since ancient times. I hope to be exploring this a lot more in this blog, and how we can use this to improve the health of our dogs. Stay tuned!