Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a "general-purpose cleaner" for the organism: it boosts metabolism, aids digestion, promotes the production of urine and transports contaminants from the body.
Where does dandelion come from, and what does it look like?
Dandelions are now found all over the world, but they are originally from Eurasia. The botanical genus Taraxacum includes a long list of species that are difficult to distinguish from one another. Common dandelion grows in fields and along paths. It is a robust plant and often can be found growing on heaps of rubble or along streets or railway tracks. Gardeners view it as a weed as it spreads prolifically and has deep, strong roots that are difficult to pull up.
Dandelion is a member of the family Asteraceae and displays bright yellow flowers from April until June. Its name comes from the French dent de lion in reference to its sharply toothed leaves, which – with a little imagination – resemble the teeth of a lion. The flower heads are borne singly on a hollow stem. The flowers then mature into "blowballs", tufted spheres consisting of tiny fruits with "parachutes" that allow them to be carried by the wind and spread their seeds.
Dandelion's long taproot is black/brown on the outside but white on the inside. In times of scarcity, this root can be used to make chicory coffee, a type of ersatz coffee.
In its growth phase, all parts of the dandelion plant contain a white, bitter milky sap that is released when the plant is injured. The quantity of this liquid increases with the age of the plant. Contrary to popular belief, neither dandelions nor their milky fluids are poisonous. Young leaves have only a slightly bitter taste and can be used in springtime salads. However, the sap from larger leaves and the stem can leave a brown discolouration on the skin and can cause allergic reactions.
Which parts of the dandelion plant are used in medicine?
The entire plant, i.e., herb and root (Taraxaci herba cum radice), is harvested, chopped and dried in the spring before flowering.
Both the root (Taraxaci radix) and the leaves (Taraxaci folium) are used by themselves.
The plant is used to make juices, powders, and extracts.
What does dandelion do?
All parts of the dandelion plant contain bitter substances that stimulate appetite and metabolism. They stimulate the taste receptors and encourage the secretion of saliva, gastric juice, pancreatic juice and bile.
Its flavonoids increase urine output and accelerate salt excretion. Dandelion's diuretic effects, which have been confirmed by studies, have also earned it the name "piss-a-bed".
The silicic acid in the leaves has beneficial effects for cartilage and connective tissue.
Alongside its mucilaginous and bitter substances, dandelion root also contains inulin at levels that increase from spring (18%) until autumn (40%). Inulin is a prebiotic formed by fructose chains that promotes the proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria and aids in the regeneration of the intestinal mucosa. It strengthens the immune system and can regulate lipid metabolism. According to one study, inulin also contributes to bone health by promoting the absorption of minerals from the intestines.
What ailments can dandelion be used to treat in horses and other animals?
- for purification and detoxification, e.g. after administering medication, to promote urine production and flushing of the organism.
- to reduce strain on the liver and stimulate bile production
- to treat loss of appetite and digestive ailments
Especially when used in combination with stinging nettle, dandelion encourages the elimination of contaminants and thus helps support convalescence.
When should dandelion not be used?
Caution: Do not give dandelion to animals with gastrointestinal problems or with diagnosed allergies to plants of the Asteraceae family!
Sources and further reading
- Arzneipflanzenlexikon. (Dezember 2020). Von Löwenzahn: https://www.arzneipflanzenlexikon.info/index.php?de_pflanzen=122 abgerufen
- Brendieck-Worm, C., & Melzig, M. F. (2018). Phytotherapie in der Tiermedizin. Stuttgart: Georg Thieme Verlag KG.
- Legette, L. L., Lee, W., Martin, B. R., & Weaver, C. M. (April 2012). Prebiotics enhance magnesium absorption and inulin-based fibers exert chronic effects on calcium utilization in a postmenopausal rodent model . J Food Sci. , S. 88-94.
- Prentner, A. (2017). Heilpflanzen der traditionellen europäischen Medizin. Wirkung und Anwendung nach häufigen Indikationen. . Wien: Springer Verlag.
- Reichling, J., Gachnian-Mirtscheva, R., Frater-Schröder, M., Di Carlo, A., & Widmaier, W. (2008). Heilpflanzenkunde für die Veterinärpraxis. Berlin-Heidelberg: Springer Medizin Verlag.