Dandelion Root and the Benefits for Cancer
You’re likely familiar with dandelion as an irksome weed and gardeners’ archnemesis, but you may be surprised to know that dandelion is a medicinal plant that is believed to have a range of health benefits and may have potential therapeutic applications for cancer treatment.
In fact, dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has been used as a medicinal plant since ancient times in many cultures with the root and young tops most commonly used for medicinal purposes, while the young leaves have traditionally been consumed as a nutrient-dense healing food or tea . Dandelion tops, leaves or roots, fresh or dried, are used in a variety of different forms in herbalA product made from a plant that is thought to be useful in treating a disease or staying healthy. Herbal supplements are taken by mouth. remedies such as tinctures, liquid extracts, teas, tablets, pills and capsules. Roasted dandelion root tea is also used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute.
What are the benefits of dandelion root, you might wonder? Scientific studies have explored the potential antioxidant, antibacterialA substance that kills bacteria or stops them from growing and causing disease., antifungalA drug that treats infections caused by fungi., and immune boosting effects of dandelion root extract . In Traditional Chinese MedicineA medical system that has been used for thousands of years to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. Also called Oriental medicine and TCM, it includes acupuncture, diet, herbal therapy, meditation, physical exercise, and massage. (TCM), dandelion has been used as a remedy to improve upset stomachs, digestive disorders and skin problems . TCM also recommends dandelion to reduce inflammation, cleanse the kidneys, gallbladder and liver, regulate the metabolism, relieve coughs, and purify the blood .
The potential applications of dandelion don’t stop there. Dandelion has also been used in traditional medicine systems, such as Chinese, Arabian, Indian, and Native American for many different types of cancer . Ancient wisdom appears to be supported by preclinical research in laboratory and animal studies, which show that dandelion root extract has potent anticancer effects, selectively targets cancer cells of various types and inhibits tumor growth  .
Preliminary research indicates that dandelion root extracts could potentially be a well-tolerated and beneficial adjuvant (supportive) or primary therapy for multiple cancer types . However, clinical research is still lacking. Therefore, the safety and efficacy of dandelion root extract in the treatment of cancer is currently unknown in humans.
Traditional use of medicinal plants often plays a significant role in the discovery and development of new drugs in modern medicine. Plants of the genus Taraxacum, more commonly known as dandelions, have a history of use in Chinese, Arabian, Indian, European, and Native American traditional medicine systems to treat a wide range of ailments including cancer .
The origins of the medicinal use of dandelion can be traced back to 659 BC in ancient China and the plant is still used today in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In TCM, dandelion is prescribed for stomach problems, appendicitis, and increasing milk flow . In traditional European medicine, dandelion was used as a fever remedy and to treat boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea . In Native American medicine, dandelion was boiled into a tea or chewed to help relieve pain, ease sore throats, treat kidney disease, swelling, heartburn, and upset stomachs .
In recent decades, there have been concerted efforts to find less toxic and more effective cancer treatments that can improve the prognosis and quality of life of cancer patients who have often suffered severe side-effects from conventional cancer therapies. This has led to scientific research into the potential anticancer effects of dandelion .
Dr. Caroline Hamm, an oncologist at the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre in Canada, became intrigued in the potential anticancer effects of dandelion after hearing anecdotes and word-of-mouth tales of dandelion helping cancer patients to heal. This led to a collaboration with Dr. Siyaram Pandey, a Professor at the University of Windsor, to research dandelion with a view to developing new anticancer therapies .
They conducted many studies using animal models of human cancer. Their results showed potent anticancer effects and gave insight into the mechanisms of action. This consequently led to approval for the first human clinical trials in December in 2016. The researchers hope that human clinical trials will open the door for the introduction of dandelion root extract as a safe and effective adjunctAnother treatment used together with the primary treatment. Its purpose is to assist the primary treatment. or a primary treatment option for cancer . However, more research is still needed in humans to confirm the safety and efficacy of DRE.
Despite being an ancient remedy for cancer, there is currently no published clinical research on the anticancer effects of dandelion root in humans. However, laboratory and animal studies appear to support many of dandelion’s claimed health benefits in traditional medicine, including cholesterol-lowering, liver protective, blood-thinning, diuretic, antiviralAn agent that kills a virus or that suppresses its ability to replicate and inhibit its capability to multiply and reproduce., anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties .
The anticancer properties of dandelion root are currently only supported by in-vitro (test-tube) studies and efficacy has yet to be validated in human studies. However, laboratory research is promising and indicates that DRE has anticancer effects against multiple types of cancer cells including liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, melanoma and leukemia .
The results of a 2021 study on esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) cells showed that DRE selectively inhibited cell growth, proliferation, migration and invasion and induced cell apoptosisA type of cell death in which a series of molecular steps in a cell lead to its death. This is one method the body uses to get rid of unneeded or abnormal cells. The process of apoptosis may be blocked in cancer cells. Also called programmed cell death. in ESCC. Further research would be required to understand if DRE may serve as an effective anticancer alternative for human esophageal cancer .
A study in 2008 showed that dandelion leaf extract (DLE) inhibited breast and prostate cancer cell growth. It concluded that extracts of dandelion may be of value as novel anticancer agents . However, clinical research in humans is still needed to validate the hypothesis.
A 2012 study demonstrated that dandelion root extract caused the collapse of the mitochondrial membrane potential, leading to autophagy, in human pancreatic cancer cells. It concluded that DRE has the potential to induce apoptosis and autophagy in pancreatic cancer cells with no significant effect on noncancerous cells . However, clinical research is still required to determine effects of DRE in humans with pancreatic cancer.
In a 2011 study, dandelion root extract was shown to specifically and effectively induce apoptosis in chemoresistant melanoma without causing toxicity in noncancerous healthy cells, which indicates potential application in the treatment of drug-resistant skin cancer. However, further research to validate anticancer effects and efficacy in treating drug-resistant cancers in humans is still needed .
A 2016 study showed that DRE selectively induced programmed cell death in over 95% of colon cancer cells after only 48 hours of treatment. The anticancer efficacy of the extract was confirmed by in-vivo (animal model) studies where DRE slowed the growth of human colon cancer models by more than 90%. The study demonstrated that DRE targets multiple vulnerabilities in cancer cells and researchers hypothesized that it could be a non-toxic and effective anticancer alternative with the potential to help reduce the occurrence of drug-resistance in cancer cells . However, clinical research is still required to evaluate the effects in humans.
While there is limited research on the benefits of dandelion root extract in humans, there have been some case reports, but these only provide anecdotal evidence of limited quality. For example, a 76-year-old male with previously untreated leukemia whose bone marrow blast counts vastly improved while taking dandelion root extract in combination with papaya leaf extract .
Overall, preliminary research indicates potential anticancer effects of DRE, but clinical trials are still needed to determine safety and efficacy as a cancer treatment in humans.
Dandelion has been studied for a range of potential health benefits. An analysis of 54 studies identified 12 key potential therapeutic properties of dandelion, but further clinical research is required to determine the validity of all these purported effects :
- Diuretic (increases urine output)
- Hepatoprotective (promotes liver health)
- Anticolitis (prevents colitis)
- Immunoprotective (supports immune system)
- Antiarthritic (aids arthritis)
- Antidiabetic (aids diabetes)
- Antiobesity (aids weight-loss)
- Anticancer effects
Preliminary research indicates that DRE may exhibit the following anticancer effects, but further research is still required to confirm effects in humans:
- Selectively inhibit cancer cell growth
- Induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells
- Induce autophagy (destruction of damaged cells)
- Activate genes and pathways related to cancer cell death
- Inhibit tumor growth
- Kill cancer stem cells
- Damage mitochondria in cancer cells
- Improve immune function
- Reduce inflammation
In light of the medicinal properties of dandelion, it comes as little surprise that dandelion root extract (DRE) may have potential applications in the treatment of cancer. Preclinical laboratory research shows that DRE has potent anticancer effects through multiple specific mechanisms of action .
Firstly, dandelion has powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties . The free radical scavenging properties of dandelion have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and prevent DNA damage . Oxidative stress can damage DNA and trigger mutations in healthy cells, which can lead to chronic inflammation and cancer growth.
Dandelion root extract has been shown in laboratory studies to selectively target and kill certain cancer cells without harming healthy cells. Multiple studies on various cancer cell types (including pancreatic, colon and leukemia) have demonstrated that DRE efficiently and selectively induces apoptosis (programmed cell death) and autophagy (destruction of damaged cells) in a dose and time dependent manner with no toxicity to healthy cells   .
The anticancer effects of dandelion root are related to multiple active compounds, targeted genes, activation of cell death pathways and a range of other complex biological processes  . Gene expression analyses show that DRE modulates gene expression and triggers multiple death pathways in colon cancer cell models . Natural compounds in DRE switch on specific genes that are involved in the programmed cell death of human colon cancer cells .
DRE has been shown to increase the production of certain cytokines (cell signaling molecules) such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1 alpha) and selectively target multiple cancer cell types . TNF-alpha and IL-1 alpha play multifunctional roles in the inflammatory response of the immune system and cancer cell survival, growth and death  .
Luteolin, an active compound in DRE, has been shown to have cytotoxic effects on breast, colon and skin cancer cells without harming healthy cells, inhibit tumor growth and eliminate breast cancer stem cells, which indicates potential therapeutic benefit in the prevention of cancer initiation and metastatic disease progression (spread of cancer)  .
Natural compounds in DRE have been shown to specifically and effectively target mitochondria (energy powerhouses) in drug-resistant skin cancer cells without causing toxicity in normal cells . Studies also show that DRE impairs mitochondrial integrity and collapses the mitochondrial membrane potential of neuroblastoma and pancreatic cancer cells, selectively leading to autophagy, while normal cells remain unharmed   .
In short, laboratory results show that DRE has well-defined anticancer effects on various cancer cell types. It may have potential therapeutic applications for cancer treatment, but further research and clinical trials are needed to determine safety and efficacy in humans.
Risks and Side-Effects
Dandelion is typically considered to be safe and well-tolerated when consumed as a food or tea and probably safe in higher dosages as found in dandelion root extracts, but there is still limited research on the effects in humans .
Dandelion root side-effects include stomach discomfort, diarrhea or heartburn in some people . Dandelion may also cause allergic reactions. Anytime you experience itching, redness, or swelling after starting a new supplementA product, generally taken orally, that contains one or more ingredients (such as vitamins or amino acids) that are intended to supplement one's diet and are not considered food. you should discontinue use.
Dandelion can interact with certain drugs. It also acts as a diuretic, which can result in medication being excreted from the body more quickly and reduce absorption. If you are taking any of the medications listed below dandelion may interfere with their effects.
- Anticoagulants (blood thinners)
- Diabetes medications
- Statin drugs
- Estrogen-based contraceptives
If you plan to start a new supplement and are taking prescription drugs, you should always talk with your doctor first to ensure there are no potential interactions.
Can dandelion root treat cancer?
There have not been clinical trials to confirm if dandelion root can help to treat cancer in humans. However, dandelion is a traditional remedy that has been used for cancer and dandelion root extracts have been shown to have potent anticancer effects in laboratory and animal studies. More research is needed to understand clinical treatment options utilizing dandelion for cancer treatment.
How is dandelion taken?
Dandelion can be taken in many forms including tinctures, liquid extracts, teas, tablets, pills and capsules. Most scientific research has been conducted on dandelion root or leaf extract for cancer, which is a more potent and concentrated form. Anecdotally, and in traditional medicine, dandelion root tea has reported anticancer benefits. However, clinical studies are still lacking.
What cancer types is dandelion used for?
There is currently not enough clinical research on dandelion root extract to determine what cancer types may respond to dandelion root extracts. In laboratory and animal studies there are early indications it could have anticancer effects on multiple cancer types, but further research is still needed in humans.
 Di Napoli, A., Zucchetti, P. A comprehensive review of the benefits of Taraxacum officinale on human health. Bull Natl Res Cent 45, 110 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42269-021-00567-1
 Rehman G, Hamayun M, Iqbal A, Khan SA, Khan H, Shehzad A, Khan AL, Hussain A, Kim HY, Ahmad J, Ahmad A, Ali A, Lee IJ. Effect of Methanolic Extract of Dandelion Roots on Cancer Cell Lines and AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Pathway. Front Pharmacol. 2017 Nov 28;8:875. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29234282/
 Christopher Nguyen, Ali Mehaidli, Kiruthika Baskaran, Sahibjot Grewal, Alaina Pupulin, Ivan Ruvinov, Benjamin Scaria, Krishan Parashar, Caleb Vegh, Siyaram Pandey, “Dandelion Root and Lemongrass Extracts Induce Apoptosis, Enhance Chemotherapeutic Efficacy, and Reduce Tumour Xenograft Growth In Vivo in Prostate Cancer”, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2019, Article ID 2951428, 12 pages, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/2951428
 Xie J, Chen R, Wang Q, Mao H. Exploration and validation of Taraxacum mongolicum anti-cancer effect. Comput Biol Med. 2022 Sep;148:105819. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35810695/
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 Hu C, Kitts DD. Antioxidant, prooxidant, and cytotoxic activities of solvent-fractionated dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) flower extracts in vitroThis means "outside the body" – or in the laboratory.. J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Jan 1;51(1):301-10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12502425/
 Ovadje P, Chochkeh M, Akbari-Asl P, Hamm C, Pandey S. Selective induction of apoptosis and autophagy through treatment with dandelion root extract in human pancreatic cancer cells. Pancreas. 2012 Oct;41(7):1039-47. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22647733/
 Ovadje P, Hamm C, Pandey S. Efficient induction of extrinsic cell death by dandelion root extract in human chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) cells. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e30604. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3281857/
 Ovadje P, Ammar S, Guerrero JA, Arnason JT, Pandey S. Dandelion root extract affects colorectal cancer proliferation and survival through the activation of multiple death signalling pathways. Oncotarget. 2016 Nov 8;7(45):73080-73100. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27564258/
 Wang X, Lin Y. Tumor necrosis factor and cancer, buddies or foes? Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2008 Nov;29(11):1275-88. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2631033/
 Chiu JW, Binte Hanafi Z, Chew LCY, Mei Y, Liu H. IL-1α Processing, Signaling and Its Role in Cancer Progression. Cells. 2021 Jan 7;10(1):92. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7827341/
 Tsai KJ, Tsai HY, Tsai CC, Chen TY, Hsieh TH, Chen CL, Mbuyisa L, Huang YB, Lin MW. Luteolin Inhibits Breast Cancer Stemness and Enhances Chemosensitivity through the Nrf2-Mediated Pathway. Molecules. 2021 Oct 26;26(21):6452. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34770867/
 S. J. Chatterjee, P. Ovadje, M. Mousa, C. Hamm, S. Pandey, “The Efficacy of Dandelion Root Extract in Inducing Apoptosis in Drug-Resistant Human Melanoma Cells”, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2011, Article ID 129045, 11 pages, 2011. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/129045
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 WebMD. Dandelion. Side Effects. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-706/dandelion
Dandelion, typically thought of as a pesky weed, can be traced back to 659 B.C. for its medicinal purposes. Dandelions are highly nutritious and are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 
Scientifically known as Taraxacum officinale, the dandelion is a hardy perennial. This vibrant yellow flower has hundreds of species that can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia, and can grow to up to 12 inches in height. 
The entire plant is edible, nutritious, and can be eaten from flower to root. Dandelions can be eaten cooked or raw. The greens and flowers of the plant can help brighten up any salad. The flowers can be dried and boiled into a tea, or if you are looking for something with a little more kick, fermented into wine. The root of the plant can also be roasted to create a caffeine-free coffee.
When used medicinally, the root can be made into tinctures, infusions, teas, poultices, and is available over the counter in capsule form. 
So, before you dig out your weed killer, let’s take a gander this small but fascinating plant that has been used for centuries to help many different ailments, including cancer.
Origins of dandelion as medicine
Medicinal use of the dandelion can be traced to 659 B.S. in ancient China (and is still used in today’s traditional Chinese medicine). Dandelions were used by Native Americans as well as in Arabic, Welsh, and European medicine. 
In Native American medicine, the root of the dandelion was typically chewed or boiled. People would use it to help relieve pain, ease sore throats, treat kidney disease, swelling, heartburn, and upset stomach. 
Traditional Chinese medicine uses for dandelions are in aiding digestion, appendicitis, an increase of lactation production, and liver healing. [1-2]
For centuries this small but mighty plant has been used in treating many ailments. Some of the claims are better supported by research than others.
Health benefits, cancer, and what the research says
Lowers Cholesterol and Rich in Antioxidants
McDonald’s for lunch and pizza for dinner, sounds good right? Think again.
“Several studies have shown that an increased dietary intake of cholesterol results in hypercholesterolemia, which is known to eventually generate atherosclerosis and enhance the risk of coronary heart disease, fatty liver disease, and cancer-associated with hydroxyl radical formation.” 
In 2010 a study was done on dandelion root and leaf and its effect on rabbits fed with a high-cholesterol diet. The objective was to find the hypolipidemic (lowering of cholesterol) and antioxidative effects the dandelion might have. The findings showed that after treatment with the dandelion root and leaf positively lowered the total cholesterol, triglycerides, and “bad” LDL. It also increased the HDL “the good cholesterol” and reduced the oxidative stressors. 
Even after all those hamburgers, the dandelion root lowered Roger the rabbit’s bad cholesterol. Of course, we are kidding; they did not feed the rabbits hamburgers, but one of the 28 male rabbits could have been named Rodger or Bugs.
A 2017 study was conducted on the dandelion root polysaccharides (DRP) and the effects it had in preventing liver injury. The research was done in vitro and in vivoThis means "in the body." (in mice) and given large amounts of acetaminophen and DRP. The ones who were given the DRP showed that the DRP protected the liver from acetaminophen injury by activating the body’s metabolic pathway (Nrf2-Keap1).  This suggests that DRP may be beneficial to liver health and may help prevent liver injury.
The dandelion root has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. The current research for dandelion root and cancer is promising. Most of the studies that have been done are in vitro and animal studies.
A study done on mice with colorectal cancer were given dandelion root extract (DRE) daily and resulted in selectivity induced programmed cell death in the cancerous cells. It also showed that the DRE’s molecular complexity was responsible for anti-cancer activity engaging multiple signaling pathways inside the cancer cells, including “the powerhouse” mitochondria. 
Observations on a study conducted on dandelion root extract and liver cancer cell lines (test tubes) showed that DRE demonstrated potency against liver cancer by inducing apoptosis. 
A 2019 study on mice with prostate cancer used dandelion root extract and lemongrass extract to see if there were interactions with chemotherapy. If successful, the extracts could be a complementary therapy adjuvant with chemotherapy.
Both exhibited selective anti-cancer activities. When both were introduced with chemotherapies, they enhanced the induction of apoptosis (programmed cell death). The addition of DRE and LRE led to reduced dosages of the chemo, which reduced the drug-related toxicity. Furthermore, they were well tolerated by the mice and saw a reduction in the tumors. 
Many current conventional therapies for cancer treatments have many side effects and are not suitable for long term usage. Natural health products that have been used for centuries are typically well-tolerated and safe, including dandelion root extract.
Although the current research involving cancer and dandelions appears to be promising, most studies have been done in vitro and in vivo. There are little research and a lack of human studies done to this point.
Precautions and drug interactions
While dandelions typically are considered safe, some people may be allergic and should avoid them. If you’re whiffing then you’re sniffing, it might be a good idea not to take a big ol’ bite.
You should avoid dandelions if you have allergies to ragweed, marigolds, chamomile, chrysanthemums, daisies, yarrow, or iodine. These may cause an allergic reaction when eaten or applied topically.
Anytime you experience itching, redness, or swelling, you should discontinue use. If the symptoms do not subside, please contact a health care provider immediately.
Dandelions can act as a diuretic, which can cause drugs to leave your body faster with less absorption. You should avoid dandelion leaf or talk with your healthcare provider, especially if you are taking the following.
- Antipsychotics like lithium and Haldol
- Blood-thinning medications
- Medicines broke down by the liver
- Medications for diabetes
- Statin drugs
- Estrogen-based contraceptives
In some cases, only a dose of modification is needed. As with anything, if you plan to start a new supplement and are on a prescription drug, you should always talk with your health care provider to avoid any interactions. [2-3]
Although many promising animal studies have been done on dandelions and their effects on cancer, no human studies have been done.
The plants can be eaten from root to flower and can be made into tinctures, infusions, teas, poultices, and is available over the counter in capsule form.
While dandelions typically are considered safe, some people may be allergic and should avoid them. If you plan to start a new supplement, and are on a prescription drug or have an existing health condition, talk with your health care provider to avoid any complications or interactions.
- Dandelion Root Benefits for Cancer, Cholesterol and the Liver. https://draxe.com/nutrition/dandelion-root/
- Dandelion. http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productid=107&pid=33&gid=000236
- Health Benefits of Dandelion Root. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-dandelion-root-89103
- Hypolipidemic and Antioxidant Effects of Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Root and Leaf on Cholesterol-Fed Rabbits. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2820990/
- Purification, Preliminary Characterization and Hepatoprotective Effects of Polysaccharides from Dandelion Root. https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/22/9/1409/htm
- Dandelion root extract affects colorectal cancer proliferation and survival through the activation of multiple death signaling pathways. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5341965/
- Effect of Methanolic Extract of Dandelion Roots on Cancer Cell Lines and AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Pathway. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5712354/
- Dandelion Root and Lemongrass Extracts Induce Apoptosis, Enhance Chemotherapeutic Efficacy, and Reduce Tumour Xenograft Growth In Vivo in Prostate Cancer https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6662490/