Family: Asteraceae (Compositae), Taraxacum officinale, Wiggers

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Common dandelion, Taraxacum officinale Wiggers, is believed to be native to Europe. Naturalized in many parts of the world, the plant is sometimes classified as Leontodon taraxacum L. and known as blowball, cankerwort, Irish daisy, priest's crown, swine's snout, lion's tooth, puffball, white endive, or wild endive. A developing plant is characterized by a long, thick taproot, a rosette of short leaves, and a single hollow stem bearing a yellow flower, which turns into a round fluffy seed head at maturity. Upon injury, the plant exude a milky latex or juice.

The reported life zone of dandelion is 5 to 26 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 2.7 meters and a soil pH of 4.2 to 8.3 (4.1-31) . The plant is a hardy perennial, adaptable to most soil conditions. Strong regenerative properties make it difficult to eradicate, and it is therefore a common weed in many locations.

Horticultural varieties of dandelion differing in morphological and chemical characteristics are available for cultivation. Roots are generally harvested in spring or fall of the second year, while leaves and flower heads are gathered from cultivated and wild plants throughout the growing season.

The bitter plant resin found in both roots and above-ground parts contains taraxacin, taraxerin, taraxerol, taraxasterol, inulin, gluten, gum, potash, choline, levulin, and putin (11.1-136, 14.1-35). The plant itself is nutritious, being high in vitamins A, C, and niacin (11.1-136).

Dried and ground roots are used for noncaffinated, coffee-like beverages, as a flavoring agent in coffee and cocoa, and as an addition to salad dishes. Dandelion wine can be made from the leaves and flower heads. Young, tender leaves are used in salads and soups. Roots stored in fall may be stimulated under suitable enviromental conditions to produce leaves for use in winter salads.

As a medicinal plant, dandelion has been considered to be an aperient, diuretic, stimulant, stomachic, tonic, and detoxicant. Dandelion tea has been used against fever, insomnia, jaundice, rheumatism, eczema and other skin diseases, and constipation. Common dandelion and other Taraxacum species have also been used against warts, cancers, and tumors (14,1-14). The dried root constitutes a crude drug, taraxacum, but appears to lack any real therapeutic value (7.5-19, 14.1-23). Taraxacin in the plant resin may stimulate gastric secretions (11.1-136). Hypoglycemic effects have been noted in animals fed dandelions (7.1-21).

Taraxacum kok-saghyz Rodin, or Russian dandelion, is from Turkestan and can be used for production of rubber (14.1-3). Taraxacum mongolicum Hand.-Mazz. is employed in Chinese herbal medicine for detoxification, fevers, external wounds, congestion, stomach strengthening, and lactation stimulation. The resin of the plant contains taraxacin, taraxacerin, taraxasterol, taraxerol, pectinum, and choline (11.1-10, 11.1-97).

Extracts of common dandelion and Taraxacum laevigatum D.C. are generally recognized as safe for human consumption (21 CFR section 182.20 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997