The stalwart little dandelion is a significant herbal medicine in three of the world's largest and oldest systems of herbalism — Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and European.

While not a standout in any of these systems, it is a respected member of the materia medica of each. Mainly it is considered an herb that generally benefits the liver[ 1]. Oddly enough though, one of its best applications is largely unknown here in North America. Dandelion is a very good herb for the prevention and treatment of breast disease of various types. Ayurveda particularly reveres it for that use, calling it "specific for the problems of the breast and mammary glands."[ 2]

In Ayurveda, benign cycts, such as those that form in the breast, are thought to be the result of kapha dosha, or the wet, cold tendency in the body. They tend to accumulate in fatty tissue. Since the breast is a fatty organ, it is particularly susceptible to these cysts.[ 3]

The root of the dandelion is the part commonly used, but the leaves have similar properties, and are more diuretic.

Dandelion is a bitter herb. Generally bitter herbs are cooling to the body, that is, they lower metabolic rate and body temperature, and they quell inflammation. Dandelion is a detoxifying herb, especially for conditions involving heat, such as an inflamed breast cyst. This herb especially promotes detoxification of the lymph system. Mammary glands are lymph tissues, so dandelion benefits in this way, too.

These qualities give dandelion the reputation in Ayurveda of being useful for sore breasts, breast tumors of various types, cysts, suppressed lactation, and swollen breast lymph glands.

In TCM, dandelion has been used for at least 1100 years in treating breast cancer, mammary gland inflammation[ 4], and lack of milk flow.[ 5][ 6] This herb is also indicated for reducing abscesses and dissipating nodules, particularly of the breast, and particularly if they are firm and hard. For these uses, dandelion is taken internally and applied externally over the nodule as a poultice.[ 6]

Dandelion has been shown in recent scientific research to have action against tumors. The form used was a hot water extract, a tea, the traditional form for using dandelion root in herbal medicine.[ 7] One recent Chinese medicine journal article called dandelion "the main treatment in gynecological recalcitrant, difficult conditions."[ 8]

Fibrocystic breast disease is a common, uncomfortable disease that affects 20-40 percent of premenopausal women. This disease is thought to be due to an increased estrogen to progesterone ratio. Since the liver is the primary site for estrogen clearance, an herb that benefits liver would likely benefit this disease. Dandelion does.[ 9][ 10] The herb has also been found to possess phytosterols, the plant building blocks of hormones, but it is not known if these play a role in dandelion's benefit for breast tissue.[ 11]

Since dandelion is diuretic, it helps water retention, a common factor in breast tenderness.

So, this little lawn pest is a good medicine. Women of all ages can profit from using it. Try it out.

Another example of media headlines not reflecting actual research results has just occurred. This time the subject is use of Echinacea for treating the common cold. If you review both the information on the actual study and the clarifications presented by an herbal association, you will note that the laboratory created herb used in the study was not representative of the natural herbs used in common Echinacea products on the market, nor were the dosage levels used in line with the latest scientific findings.

"An Evaluation of Echinacea angustifolia in Experimental Rhinovirus Infections" — Article in New England Journal of Medicine (July 28, 2005) http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/353/4/341

"Herbal Science Group Says Dosage Too Low in New Echinacea Trial" Comments from the American Botanical Council http://www.herbalgram.org/default.asp?c=echinacea072605

Perhaps the most important resource ever created by AHHA is the Health Information Search Services list (http://ahha.org/ahhahis.htm). This unique list includes organizations with experts who can research information and treatment options for any health condition. The patient can learn what both conventional medicine and alternative approaches have to offer. If you know of someone dealing with a life threatening or debilitating diagnosis, please let him or her know about this valuable support option.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE RE: Dietary Supplements Access

There are currently two active pieces of legislation designed to weaken the U.S. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) that currently protects your access to dietary supplements.

* "U.S. House of Representatives Bill 3156 — Dietary Supplement Access and Awareness Act" proposes to revise the "unreasonable risk" clause of DSHEA by significantly strengthening the FDA's ability to judge supplement unsafe.

* "U.S. Senate Amendment 1379" (attached to U.S. Senate Department of Defense Authorization Bill 1042) requires dietary supplement manufacturers to report serious adverse events. It also prohibits supplements with stimulants to be available in military installatio stores.
RE: Food Stamps & Dietary Supplements

"U.S. Senate Bill 1546 — Food Stamp Vitamin and Mineral Improvement Act" would allow the purchase of vitamin and mineral dietary supplements with food stamps.
RE:Medical Treatment Choices

"U.S. House of Representatives Bill 2792 — Access to Medical Treatment Act" is designed to permit an individual to be treated by a health care practitioner with any method of medical treatment that he or she requests.

The controversial Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) treaty ratification passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 28 with a close vote of 217 to 215. The next developing trade agreement to watch is Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). This one is to encompass the North and South American continents. Health freedom advocates are very concerned about the terms that could be used to force the U.S. to harmonize DSHEA with the Codex Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Foo Supplements.

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1. Nadkarni, AK, Indian Materia Medica, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1976, p.1195.

2. Frawley, David, and Lad, Vasant, The Yoga of Herbs, Lotus, Twin Lakes, WI, 1986.

3. Frawley, David, Ayurvedic Healing, Passage Press, Salt Lake City, 1989, p. 209

4. McDaniel, Douglas, "Traditional Chinese Specific Conditions Review: Mastitis," Protocol Journal of Botanical Medicine, Spring, 1996, p. 76.

5. Albert Y. Leung, Steven Foster, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, John Wiley & Sons; 1995, p. 206.

6. Bensky, Dan, and Gamble, Andrew, Chinese Materia Medica, Eastland Press, Seattle, 1986, p. 129.

7. Baba K et al. Antitumor activity of hot water extract of dandelion, Taraxacum officinale-correlation between antitumor activity and timing of administration. Yagugaku Zasshi 1981; 101:583-43.

8. Yu Tiao-zhong, "Herba Taraxaci Mongolici Cum Radice (Pu Gong Ying) as the Main Treatment in Gynecological Recalcitrant, Difficult Conditions", Xin Zhong Yi (New Chinese Medicine), #5, 1996, p.46.

9. Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Prima, Rocklin, CA 1991, p.301.

10. Stansbury, Jill, "Botanical Therapies for Fibrocystic Breast Disease," Medical Herbalism, Summer 1997, p.1.

11. Kapoor, LD, The CRC Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants, CRC Press, Boca Raton, 1990, p. 316.

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