Dandelions

Chinese: 蒲公英

Pinyin: Pú Gōng Yīng

Parts used: The whole plant, dried

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: StomachLiver

Scientific name: Taraxacum monolicium or Taraxacum sinicum

Other names: Piss-a-bed, Lion's tooth, Blowball, Cankerwort, Doon-head-clock, Witch's gowan, Milk witch, Yellow-gowan, Irish daisy, Monks-head, Priest's-crown, Puff-ball, Faceclock, Pee-a-bed, Wet-a-bed, Swine's snout, White endive, Wild endive.

Use of dandelions (Pú Gōng Yīng) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, cut, and dry.

Dosage: 10 to 15g

Main actions according to TCM*: Expels Heat and Fire toxicity. Dispels Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner. Increases lactation. Treats all kinds of inflammations.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which dandelions may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Clogged milk ducts Mastitis Lymphadenitis Uveitis Sore throat Lung abscess Appendicitis Jaundice Strangury Cirrhosis Hepatitis Boils Carbuncles

Contraindications*: Excessive doses can cause diarrhea. Not to be used if one has a Yang deficiency or a weak Spleen.

Common TCM formulas in which dandelions are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind dandelions' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dandelions are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Heat and relieve Toxicity treat the latter while, at the same time, removing infectious toxins from the body. As such they tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category dandelions are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that dandelions typically help people who have too much "heat" in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much heat in their body are said to either have a Yang excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition dandelions can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Dandelions also taste Bitter and Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like dandelions tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such dandelions are thought to target the Stomach and the Liver. In TCM the Stomach is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on dandelions

Dandelion ethanolic extract shows promise as a diuretic in humans.1

Phytotherapy with Cinarepa (consisting of dandelion root) holds promise as an alternative option in the relief of functional dyspepsia symptoms.2

Sources:

1. Clare BA, Conroy RS, Spelman K. (2009). The diuretic effect in human subjects of an extract of Taraxacum officinale folium over a single day. J Altern Complement Med. , 15(8):929-34. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0152.

2. Sannia A. (2010). Phytotherapy with a mixture of dry extracts with hepato-protective effects containing artichoke leaves in the management of functional dyspepsia symptoms. Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol. , 56(2):93-9.

Use of dandelions as food

Dandelions are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Dandelion dumplings, Dandelion salad or Dandelion porridge.