Dandelion is known by herbalists as Taraxacum Officinale and its root has been used for liver and biliary complaints for centuries. Extensive records of its medicinal use exists from the 10th and 11th centuries when it was promoted by famous Arabian doctors.
In 16th century Britain it was well established as an official drug of the apothecaries under the name of Herba Taraxacon and was a popular medicinal plant for the liver and digestive organs. Since the 16th century the Germans have used Dandelion extensively for "blood purifying" and liver congestion.
It is truly a universal herb and is still found in the official pharmocopoeias of Switzerland, Poland, Hungary and Russia. A huge amount of research has been carried out on the medicinal and nutritional effects of dandelion in many European countries. Dandelion has been used as a herbal medicine for centuries in China, India and Nepal for liver ailments. Today dandelion is used widely as a tonic in North America, the Orient and Europe.
The therapeutic properties of dandelion are due in part to its bitter substances taraxacin and inulin (a bitter glycoside). Other substances in dandelion are taraxanthin, sesquiterpenes, flavonoids, levulin, pectin, fatty acids, minerals and vitamins.
Bitters, such as those in dandelion, stimulate the digestive glands and the liver and activate the flow of bile.
Although dandelion's specific action is on the liver, it also acts as a general body tonic. It acts as a laxative, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, bitter tonic and cholagogue. Its cholagogue effect is useful for liver and gall bladder inflammation and congestion, as well as jaundiced states. It is of use in the early stages of cirrhosis of the liver such as alcoholic cirrhosis.
Professor John King, the American doctor famous for his works on medicinal herbs, recommends dandelion for " weak digestion, loss of appetite, constipation and hepatic (liver) torpor ". Its dual liver and kidney action makes dandelion an excellent detoxifying remedy for gout, rheumatism and skin complaints.
The Australian Journal Medical Herbalism Vol 3 (4),1991, refers to two studies, one by Vivarelli in 1938 and the other in Britain, which demonstrate the liver healing properties of dandelion. They found that dandelion successfully treats hepatitis, liver swelling, jaundice and indigestion in those with inadequate bile secretion.