Apparently, the ultimate detoxing elixir is in your backyard.
While dandelions are the weedy bane of gardeners and homeowners, dandelion tea is having a moment, popping up in health food stores and trendy eateries. Dandelion tea is made from the flowers or roasted roots of the plant and is usually blended with other ingredients because its taste is very bitter.
From supporting weight loss to treating urinary tract infections, proponents of the trendy herbal tea claim it has a cuppa benefits. So we spoke to some medical professionals to weigh in.
Detoxes the liver
Emergency medicine specialist Dr Janette Nesheiwat says the tea can help enhance liver function. “Basically, it helps replenish and rejuvenate our body in the detoxification process,” she says. “There are enzymes and the tea helps to accelerate and strengthen the metabolism of the liver.”
Most research around dandelion tea benefits for the liver are centered on Taraxacum officinale, a dandelion leaf extract that's rich in health-boosting polyphenols. A 2013 study from Food and Chemical Toxicology done on rats suggests that dandelion leaf extract may be promising for treating obesity-related nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
But more research on its effects on humans are needed. Ostepath Dr Robert Danoff says, “Not enough studies have been done to make these claims,” he says.
Supplies essential nutrients
Dandelions contain the nutrient lecithin-a fat found in foods like eggs, beans, and seafood-that's been used to help treat gallbladder disease and Alzheimer's. Moreover, dandelion leaves are rich in iron, potassium, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, folate and vitamins C, K, and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, and manganese.
The roots are also brimming with soluble fibre, which aids in balancing gut bacteria. Dr Danoff says that while dandelions are rich in important vitamins and nutrients, not everyone can benefit from them in the same way.
For example, for those with ragweed pollen allergies and oral allergy syndrome, consuming dandelion greens or tea can trigger an allergic response. And, people taking a coumadin or other blood thinners, the vitamin K in the dandelion greens and tea may decrease the effectiveness of the medication. So it's important to talk to your doctor to make sure it doesn't contraindicate any other drugs you're taking.
Helps treat urinary tract infections
If you’ve ever had to take a powerful antibiotic for a urinary tract infection (UTI), you know that the effectiveness of treatment could wane overtime, especially if the bacteria becomes resistant to the medication. To help with this, Dr Nesheiwat recommends supplementing your treatment with dandelion tea to help relieve UTI symptoms and prevent future infection.
“Dandelion tea contains an enzyme—a chemical compound that can eliminate certain bacteria such as E.coli, which is the most common cause of urinary tract infections," she says. It also acts as a diuretic, which helps liver and kidney flush out the body.” A 2018 study from Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests that dandelion extracts could be used in developing more effective treatments for UTIs, but more scientific research is needed.
Regulates blood sugar
Dr Nesheiwat says that dandelion tea can help people with diabetes or anyone looking to stabilise their blood sugar. “It’s been shown to reduce blood sugar,” she says. However, she warns, “It’s not a substitute for your medicine, but sometimes you can reduce the amount of medicine you take if you incorporate it into your diet.”
Before you change your medication regiment, though, she advises speaking with your doctor.
Supports weight loss
Many teatoxes include dandelion because of its detoxing properties. Dr Nesheiwat says it may actually aid in burning more fat. “It helps burn kilojoules by increasing the process of breaking down the fat in the liver,” she says.
But Dr Danoff says that while dandelion can act as a mild diuretic, “There have been minimal studies and more needs to be completed prior to any definitive conclusions.” It's also important to note that teatox products can also mess with your gut and cause an upset stomach, diarrhoea, and cramping. The bottom line is there isn't a magic bullet for losing a ton of weight, but introducing tea into a healthy diet can be helpful.
Relieves common cold symptoms
Drinking tea is one of the best ways to soothe a sore throat and cough and help replenish lost fluids. Dandelion tea can also help flush out toxins and inflammation from your body as you're recovering. “I prescribe it often during flu season,” Dr Nesheiwat says. “I like to give as many home remedies as possible versus prescribing a lot of prescription medicines. So first, I suggest humidifier and hot tea."
Dandelion tea isn't the cure-all for the cold, flu and other viruses, but Dr Nesheiwat and Dr Danoff say drinking it a few times a week may yield some health benefits. But again, if you're taking any medications, are pregnant, or recently had surgery, check with your doctor before introducing this herbal tea into your diet. You can buy dandelion tea at any grocery or health food store, but here are some products you can pick up.