Scientists Say That This Garden Weed May Have Anti-Cancer Properties

Image: Schöning/ullstein image via Getty Images

Throughout a normal week, householders will have numerous jobs they have to complete around their home. Indeed, whether it’s a spring clean or maintaining their back garden, the responsibilities can seem endless. When it comes to the latter task, though, one of the most frustrating challenges is keeping certain plants at bay.

Image: Jason Long

Depending on the level of care put into a lawn, they can look perfect during the warmer months of the year. But for that to happen, weeds such as dandelions must be kept under control. Noted for their bright yellow heads, these plants can sprout at a rapid rate in particular areas.

Image: Andrew May

For instance, if your lawn is free from shade, the sun will aid the growth of dandelions in the grass. And keeping that in mind, woodland areas and fields are also ideal locations to find the eye-catching flower. However, the plant itself can be useful in some very surprising ways.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: PxHere

In places like Ancient Greece and Egypt, dandelion was added to meals, with the flower acting as a type of herb. Around the same, it also became a recognizable item for those working in the medical field. And it’s in this area that several studies have been conducted in the last few years, testing the health benefits of the plant.

Image: via The Royal Horticultural Society

For many of us, gardening can be one of the most relaxing activities to indulge in. From preserving our potted plants to mowing the grass, the end results are often quite satisfying. But while we must contend with the continued appearance of dandelions at certain points of the year, the flower itself boasts a fascinating history.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: PATRICK PLEUL/AFP/Getty Images

Sometimes referred to as a Taraxacum, dandelions have existed for around 30 million years. The plant could be found in areas of Europe and Asia at that point, before spreading further afield as time went on. With that in mind, Columbia University compiled an intriguing study into the weed back in 2006.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: PxHere

The study, which was titled, “Introduced Species Summary Project,” suggested that colonists transported dandelions to the United States in the 1600s. As the report asserts, “Ships that came ashore to the New World undoubtedly brought soil and seeds along, including the seeds of dandelions. While the plant spread discreetly in a pant cuff or in a boot sole, it was also an invited species.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Arnold Media/Getty Images

As we mentioned earlier, dandelions were often used as an ingredient in certain meals, but the colonists had other ideas. The study continued, “When dandelions were brought to the New World, they were mainly used by the Puritans as a source of medicine. Dandelion was not valued as a food commodity but, instead, as hosting a variety of health benefits.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: ChamilleWhite/Getty Images

Indeed, before the settlers left Europe, medical practitioners often had dandelions on-hand to help fight off a number of problems. According to the study, the flower remedied issues such as heartburn, diarrhea, boils and even water retention. Other cultures, however, used it for treating very different ailments.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: iStock/Getty Images

As the Columbia University study explained, “Dandelion was used in China, India and Russia to treat breast problems, liver diseases, appendicitis and digestive problems.” From there, the paper then focused on that latter issue, revealing why the plant might help people suffering those conditions. But that wasn’t all, though.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: i yunmai

The study read, “Dandelion is seen as aiding digestion due to its bitter principles, thought to stimulate salivary and gastric juices. The root can improve bile flow, which would help alleviate liver congestion, bile duct inflammation, hepatitis, gallstones and jaundice. Dandelion leaves create diuretic activity, which can cause considerable weight loss.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: manuel_adorf/Getty Images

As for how we might consume dandelions today, the college study put forward some interesting ideas. For instance, the flower could be included with a salad, but it’s also edible in warmer dishes. Meanwhile, you can easily add the plant to different drinks as well, ranging from tea to wine.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: AleksandarNakic/Getty Images

Furthermore, dandelions have several other medical uses, too. In addition to the aforementioned issues in the study, the flower can also help people with eczema, blood disorders, anemia, depression and psoriasis. Given all of that, it’s somewhat unsurprising to learn that the Taraxacum plant is also full of healthy nutrients.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: jggrz

Incredibly, dandelions contain vitamins A, C, D and K, alongside chemical elements like iron, potassium, calcium and phosphorus. But the health benefits don’t end there. Indeed, the flower also contains higher protein levels than the spinach plant. On that note, it’s continued to fascinate the science community over the last few years.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Jeff Bryant

For example, the International Journal of Molecular Sciences conducted a study that was eventually shared at the start of 2010. The project involved a group of researchers focusing their attention on “cholesterol-fed rabbits,” as they put dandelion into the animals’ food over a certain time-frame. And the outcome proved quite interesting.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Floriana/Getty Images

“The objective of this study was to investigate the possible hypolipidemic (the reduction of fats) and antioxidative effects of dandelion root and leaf in rabbits fed with a high-cholesterol diet,” the article read. At that point, it broke down the experiment in greater detail, noting how the animals were separated into different categories.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Nkarol/Getty Images

The study continued, “A group of 28 male rabbits was divided into four subgroups. A normal diet group, a high-cholesterol diet group, a high-cholesterol diet with one percent (weight for weight) dandelion leaf group, and a high-cholesterol diet with one percent (weight for weight) dandelion root group.” Following that, the outcome was finally revealed.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: FatCamera/Getty Images

As explained in the article, the researchers were looking out for two results in particular. The first was the “plasma antioxidant enzyme” levels, which can help shield an individual from ailments such as cancer and heart disease. And the second important result was “lipid” levels, also known as fats.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Madeleine_Steinbach/Getty Images

The article added, “Our results show that treatment with dandelion root and leaf positively changed plasma antioxidant enzyme activities and lipid profiles in cholesterol-fed rabbits. And thus may have potential hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects.” In conclusion, it also suggested that the flower could help fend off clogged arteries, which can lead to major health issues.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: weisschr/Getty Images

The following year, a couple of other research papers appeared in different journals, taking a closer look at the effectiveness of dandelions. One of the articles could be found in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2011. The piece was titled, “The Efficacy of Dandelion Root Extract in Inducing Apoptosis in Drug-Resistant Human Melanoma Cells.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Elena Litsova Photography/Getty Images

Indeed, as suggested by that title, dandelions can apparently fight off cancer as well, adding to its uses in the medical field. In that particular article, a group of researchers working in Canada put the plant to the test. And much like the rabbit experiment in 2010, the results were eye-opening.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

The paper read, “Notoriously chemoresistant melanoma has become the most prevalent form of cancer for the 25 to 29 North American age demographic. Standard treatment after early detection involves surgical excision, and metastatic melanoma is refractory to immuno, radio and most harmful chemotherapies.” After that introduction, the study then got to the crux of the matter.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: BlackJack3D/Getty Images

It continued, “Various natural compounds have shown efficacy in killing different cancers, albeit not always specifically. In this study, we show that dandelion root extract (DRE) specifically and effectively induces apoptosis in human melanoma cells, without inducing toxicity in noncancerous cells.” From that point, the article delved into the intricacies of the experiment.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

According to the researchers, certain cancerous cells responded to the extract, triggering something known as apoptosis. Otherwise referred to as “programmed cell death,” this step results in the destruction of the aforementioned cancer. But to get there, the process first releases the caspase protein, which kicks the whole thing off.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Tuned_In/Getty Images

Furthermore, the researchers noted an intriguing development during the experiment as well. While they tested a “resistant” group of cancerous cells, they seemingly made a breakthrough with the dandelion. To reach that particular stage, though, the article’s authors introduced a form of diabetic medication, called metformin, to the mix, too.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Max Pixel

As a result of the experiment, the Canadian researchers came to a promising conclusion at the end of the article. The authors added, “Therefore, treatment with this common, yet potent extract of natural compounds has proven novel in specifically inducing apoptosis in chemoresistant melanoma, without toxicity to healthy cells.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: FatCamera/Getty Images

Meanwhile, an additional science paper appeared in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in January 2011. But unlike the previous study, this one focused on a different type of cancer. In this instance, a group of researchers looked to tackle leukemia with the dandelion root extract, hoping for similar results.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Maximkostenko/Getty Images

The article began, “Dandelion extracts have been used in traditional Native American Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine for treatment of leukemia and breast cancer. However, the mechanism of action remains unknown.” From there, the researchers touched upon their intentions for the experiment, expanding on the introduction of the piece.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: ljubaphoto/Getty Images

The report continued, “Today, dandelion root extract (DRE) is mainly marketed for management of gastrointestinal and liver disorders. The current study aims to determine the anti-cancer activity of dandelion root extract against human leukemia, and to evaluate the specificity and mechanism of DRE-induced apoptosis.” After that, the article then covered the process in significant detail.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Pixabay

Just like the previous experiment, the researchers got some positive results after using the dandelion root extract. Once again, the flower triggered apoptosis, with the caspase protein coming into action. At the end of the study, the scientists summed up their findings to round the article off.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: yul38885 yul38885/Getty Images

The report concluded, “Our results suggest that aqueous DRE contains components that act to induce apoptosis selectively in cultured leukemia cells, emphasizing the importance of this traditional medicine. And thus presents a potential, novel non-toxic alternative to conventional leukemia therapy.” Alongside those final words, the publication also included a graphic of the experiment.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: via Windsor Cancer Research Group

Some 12 months later, another study was set to be conducted in Canada, with a familiar face at the helm. Dr. Caroline Hamm was one of the researchers on the “Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” paper, and she felt the need to tackle the subject again. And as it turned out, her inspiration came from an interesting source.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: via Two Row Times

“It really started with a little old lady I had in my clinic with a very high white [blood cell] count, and an unusual diagnosis called myelomonocytic leukemia,” Hamm told CBC Radio in August 2018. “[After the diagnosis] she said, ‘That’s okay sweetie, I’ll take care of myself.’” Following their meeting, the situation took a promising turn.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: vvvita/Getty Images

Indeed, a few months on from that appointment, the lady returned to Hamm looking a lot better. According to her, this was thanks to the dandelion root, which she was consuming in tea. Unfortunately for the patient, however, the cancer came back a short time later. But then more people started to share similar stories, intriguing the doctor.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Aleksandr Ledogorov

With that in mind, Hamm started her original research project, as she looked to gain a bit of additional insight about the dandelion. During that period, CBC News published an article on the story in February 2012. However, no one could’ve predicted what happened in the next few years.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: MabelAmber

Following the publication of the article, Hamm received a large number of messages that all said similar things. Unsurprisingly, with the story now in the mainstream media, patients saw dandelion tea as a genuine alternative to their cancer treatment. As a result, the physician tried to dampen their optimism with some tough words.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: YouTube/WRHWeCare

Speaking on the CBC Radio show White Coat Black Art, Hamm said, “It’s really unfortunate for patients that believe [that dandelion is a cure]. It offers false hope. That is just unkind. It’s horrible. I get emails every week from people around the world thinking they want to stop their standard medicine and take this instead.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Pixabay

While the previous experiments in the science publications looked promising back in 2011, they were just laboratory tests. Hamm continued, “[Patients] can die if they believe that [dandelion will cure them]. We get inundated with people calling. It’s a lot of work that takes us away from our patient care. It’s also very hard to talk to these people.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Organic Creations

Despite Hamm’s best efforts, though, one person in particular took the tests to heart, leading to a fascinating message. Posting on the Organic Facts website, this individual wrote, “After I read about dandelion root, I started taking 1,000 mg of it in a pill form I got from the health food store, along with 1,000 mg of Moranga, also in pill form.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Organic Creations

The user added, “I take these two times a day to kill cancer cells. I have stage four Follicular Lymphoma (terminal). I started this nine months ago, and for the first time in the last three years that I’ve known I had cancer, [it’s] gone ‘dormant’ as my doctor called it. She told me to keep doing whatever I was doing, because it works.” And while that’s great news for the Organic Facts user, it doesn’t mean dandelion will work for everybody. But it’s an intriguing development, nonetheless.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT