To say that dandelions aren’t appreciated enough is a gross understatement. Suburb dwellers often spend countless hours trying to rid their lawn of the weed throughout the summer.However, science is showing that the stubborn plant may be a lot more beneficial than we give it credit for.
What Is Dandelion Good For?
In Native American traditional medicine, the root is said to help the body break down fats during digestion, stimulate the liver and promote the expulsion of waste (1).
Dandelion is also commonly used to treat liver diseases, kidney diseases, and spleen problems (2).
Additionally its leaves are high in Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Manganese (3).
Dandelion And Cancer
Interest in the curative properties of dandelion root began when John DiCarlo, 72, told his doctor that he cured his cancer by drinking dandelion tea. Dicarlo had been admitted to a hospital three years ago with leukemia. His disease did not respond to aggressive treatment and he was sent home to live out his life surrounded by his family.
The cancer clinic suggested he try the tea. Four months later, he returned to the clinic in remission. He has been cancer free for three years (4).
Other cases similar to Dicario have since received the attention of cancer research teams at the University of Windsor.
However, not everyone at the university shared the same enthusiasm. Dr. Siyaram Pandey, professor of biochemistry, wasn’t convinced of the weed’s curative propeties.
“I was very pessimistic,” says Dr. Pandey.
“Two people doesn’t mean anything scientifically, but… I was surprised to find that simple aqueous extract of this root had pretty good activity in inducing cell suicide in cancer cells.” (5).
“All nine blood samples gave a good response that cancer cells committed suicide,” said Dr. Pandey.
“In 48 hours, more than 70% were committing suicide. If those cultures were kept for longer, all of them will die-this is our prediction.”
So far, the weed has proven to be effective against pancreatic cancer cells, colon cancer cells and melanoma cultures. It may even rival Taxol, one of the most commonly used drugs for chemotherapy (5). Plus, unlike traditional chemotherapy, dandelion extracts target cancer cells specifically, without harming other cells.
“Compared to Taxol, this one is 100 times better in terms of toxicity,” says Dr. Pandey.
“Taxol is terribly, terribly toxic to normal cells, it is not selective to cancer. That’s why people have very bad immunity, they lose their immunity, lose hair, and all that.”
The study concluded that dandelion’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects made it more than just a a worthy chemopreventative solution.
It’s ability to target cancer cells quickly and without harming healthy cells also suggests that it may be a valuable chemotherapeutic agent (6).
The Next Step
Thirty patients have been recruited to take part in a human trial at the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre in Canada. These patients are all affected with end stage blood related cancers including lymphoma and leukemia (7).
“Our clinical team is recruiting the patients and the outcome of the clinical trial will be the first clinical validation,” said Dr. Siyaram Pandey.
Phase one clinical trials were approved by Health Canada in 2012 and are currently underway. The trial hopes to set the optimal dose for treatment without altering the root too much (7).
“We are excited about it because it is a very simple natural extract, so it’s like you buying the vegetable and cooking it, basically, it is as simple as that, because we are not interfering with any chemicals.” concludes Pandey (5).