Dandelion root induces cancer cell “suicide,” while leaving healthy cells alone, study finds
(This story has been updated since it was first published in 2016.)
Those yellow dots that “litter” your otherwise “perfectly green” lawn are more than just pesky weeds. Dandelion has been considered a valuable food and medicine in both Eastern and Western culture for thousands of years and is now being researched for its cancer-fighting abilities.
The use of the dandelion plant in both Greek and Chinese medicine predates written records. Traditional healers use it to cleanse the liver, flush toxins from the kidneys and purify the blood.
It’s blood purifying compounds led researchers at University of Windsor in Canada to hypothesize that dandelion could help patients with end-stage blood cancer.
They inserted dandelion root extract into Petri dishes with blood drawn from leukemia patients and lab rats.
To their delight, the dandelion root induced apoptosis or “cell suicide” in cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells alone.
Dandelion root’s ability to selectively kill only cancer cells — as opposed to radiation and chemotherapy which kill healthy cells and flood the body with toxins — ccould make it an invaluable tool in the future of cancer treatment, at least in countries whose medical institutions are actually invested in cures, not keeping people sick.
As a result of the experiment, researchers were given the green light (in 2015) to test out dandelion root on thirty Canadian cancer patients. It’s the first ever in Canada that a natural extract has been approved for a human clinical trial. Unfortunately, the United States has yet to follow suit.
In “the land of the free” herbalists aren’t allowed to treat cancer patients for cancer, they are merely allowed to offer herbs as supportive therapy, to help undo the damage of conventional treatments.
UPDATE: Apparently, the University of Windsor researchers were never able to get the funding for the human clinical trials (Big Pharma certainly isn’t going to fund them).
However, a 2017 study, carried out by several Asian universities, tested dandelion root extract on several cancer cell lines isolated from human cancer patients, including breast cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer and skin cancer cell lines. The results were “potent,” especially against liver cancer.
The dandelion root extract “inhibited the cancer cell proliferation by activating AMPK,” the study’s author’s wrote. “The compounds from natural sources, such as dandelion can serve as a reservoir of potent bioactive compounds that might inhibit different forms of cancer without any side effects. Furthermore, the rigorous fractionation and isolation of the active principles present in the various extracts of dandelion would play a crucial role in explaining the anti-proliferative effect of dandelion on liver, breast and colon cancer cells.”
Herbalist, teacher and author Demetria Clark says if a patient has chosen chemotherapy, dandelion will support the liver and kidneys, boost the immune system and help detoxify the body. It also helps with nausea and mouth soars, she says.
Dr. Siyaram Pandey – lead researcher and biochemistry professor at Windsor – was encouraged when he saw the results of patients who chose dandelion tea over chemotherapy. “These folks actually lived,” he says in the Ted Talk below:
Not only do dandelions heal the body, they also nourish the body (go figure). They’re loaded with vitamins like A, C, K, B6, B3,B9 and B12 and minerals like iron (crucial for generating red blood cells), calcium, magnesium, potassium (regulates heart rate and blood pressure), phosphorus, manganese, copper and zinc.
So, the next time you decide to hack away at all those yellow weeds, eat them instead of throwing them away. They’re great in a salad, in smoothies or as a tea.