Using dandelion as a home remedy for gout is yet another example of just how effective some natural remedies can be in the treatment of certain conditions.
Dandelion — from the French ‘dent de lion’ meaning ‘lion’s tooth’ — has been used down the ages as a natural remedy for all sorts of ailments as diverse as upset stomachs and eye problems and is still used today in traditional medicines such as Chinese and Ayurvedic.
In the case of gout — caused by high uric acid levels in the blood leading to the formation of crystals of urate in the joints and surrounding tissue — some recent studies have suggested that this weed may not only help to relieve gout pain and inflammation but also help to lower uric acid to prevent further attacks.
In this post you’ll discover how dandelion can benefit gout sufferers, how it works, how to take it, and side effects to look out for.
The dandelion — scientific name Taraxacum officinale — is a perennial that grows in temperate areas of Europe, Asia, and North and South America. It’s a member of the Aster plant family and is generally considered to be a ‘weed.’
It’s characterized by a deep central taproot; a basal rosette of smooth, deeply lobed leaves; and an unbranched, hairless and leafless hollow stem supporting a single bright yellow flower.
Scientists have shown that dandelions are rich in important nutrients; trace metals like calcium, sodium, potassium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron; A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 (folic acid) C (ascorbic acid), E and K vitamins; fiber, and even protein.
They are nature’s richest ‘green vegetable’ source of beta-carotene which our bodies turn into the vitamin A we need for a healthy immune system, as well as healthy skin and mucus membranes, and good eye health.
All parts of the plant can be consumed: root, leaves and flower and it has been eaten for thousands of years. Even today it is used in salads, soups, in coffee substitutes, as an infusion, and to make dandelion wine, root beers, and a whole lot more.
Dandelion as a Traditional Medicine
Traditional medicine is the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness. (source)
The interesting thing about dandelion is that it’s scientific name Taraxacum officinale actually references its use as a medicine: from the Greek taraxosa meaning ‘disorder,’ akos meaning ‘remedy,’ and from the medieval Latin officinale which denotes that it’s a plant with medicinal use.
It’s thought that dandelion could have been used to treat kidney and stomach disorders as far back as in ancient Egypt, but the earliest recorded mention as a ‘medicine’ is believed to be in the 10th century by Arab physicians. There are also some records of it’s medicinal use in Wales (UK) in the 13th century.
In Europe, it was traditionally used to treat a range of troubles including; digestive problems, joint pain, gout, diarrhea, diabetes, boils, fever, skin diseases, fluid retention and eye problems.
Native Americans used it to treat things like kidney problems, stomach upsets, skin problems, and heartburn.
Chinese medicine used it for kidney and urinary disorders, digestive disorders, appendicitis, and breast problems/disease, whilst India’s ancient Ayurveda system used dandelion for disorders such as jaundice, and enlargement and cirrhosis of the liver.
One of the most common complaints traditional medicine systems worldwide have used dandelion for has been in the treatment of fluid retention because of it’s perceived ability to act as a diuretic. This is an important element in treating gout as you’ll see in the next section.
Dandelion is still widely used in herbal medicine today: dandelion root is being used, for example, to stimulate the appetite, as an aid to digestion, to treat viral infections, and to help improve the function of the liver and gallbladder, and the leaves are being used as a diuretic to help urine excretion (fluid retention).
So far, though, there isn’t hard enough scientific evidence to determine its efficacy for any of them: the vast majority of studies having been done using animals. But, bear in mind, this doesn’t mean that dandelion doesn’t or cannot work, only that no rigorous enough human studies have been carried out to date.
That being said, dandelion has been approved as a treatment for urinary tract infections by Commission E — Germany’s equivalent of the USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Dandelion for Gout
As a gout sufferer you need to do two things when you suffer an attack: get rid of the inflammation and pain as fast as you can, then get your blood uric acid below 6 mg/dL and keep it there to help prevent future attacks.
Inflammation and Pain Relief
Your body’s inflammatory response to the presence of crystals in your joints and surrounding tissue is what causes the inflammation, swelling and the intense pain that you feel during an attack.
We now know that dandelions contain compounds that are capable of addressing inflammation and pain: science has shown us that dandelion contains ‘apigenin’ which has natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
And research published on the ‘National Center for Biotechnology Information‘ website in 2012 suggests that dandelion has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Uric Acid Reduction
High uric acid is often due to the kidneys — for various reasons — not working to their full potential, so not excreting excess uric acid fast enough, leading to a build-up of uric acid in the bloodstream.
As a natural diuretic, dandelion may help to increase urine excretion and so help to flush excess uric acid from the body resulting in a reduction in blood uric acid. A potential benefit of using dandelion over some drug-based diuretics is that dandelion doesn’t leech potassium from the body during this process, thus reducing the risk of too low potassium levels in the blood.
Note: Because it’s a diuretic, when using dandelion as a natural remedy for gout, you need to drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. Urate crystals can form much more easily in a dehydrated body.
The hard scientific evidence for the efficacy of dandelion as a diuretic is somewhat lacking as noted previously; although a 2009 study on humans concluded that dandelion leaf extract showed ‘promise’ as a diuretic. It too noted that further studies on humans were needed.
However, the extent to which dandelion leaves have been used as a diuretic, for so long, in different traditional medicine systems, in different parts of the world, at the very least ‘hints’ at it’s effectiveness as a diuretic.
According to the “Physician’s Desk Reference For Herbal Medicines” there are several unique properties found in dandelions that have been shown to be effective in helping to treat gout. This claim was further supported in the October 2006 issue of the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology.”
On balance then, dandelion may well be a safe, natural way to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and lower your uric acid levels if they are too high. But, as with all natural remedies, you should talk to your doctor before using it to ensure that it’s right and safe for you.
Dandelion Safety Issues
According to eMedicineHealth.com, dandelion has not been evaluated by the FDA for safety, effectiveness, or purity, so all potential risks and/or advantages of dandelion may not be known.
However, dandelion is generally considered to be safe although, rarely, some people may be allergic to it, especially when taken by mouth or applied to the skin. So, if you are allergic to any type of flower or plant, particularly those of the Aster family, then you should avoid dandelion remedies.
There have also been reports of upset stomach, diarrhea, heartburn, and a rash, but these seem to be rare occurrences too.
No medical studies have been carried out on the safety of using dandelion during pregnancy, so if you’re pregnant or breast feeding then you must talk to your doctor before taking dandelion in any form.
If you have gallbladder problems, gallstones, high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach problems, or any other health issues, then you must talk to your doctor before taking dandelion.
And certain compounds in dandelions could interfere with the proper performance of some medications. Therefore if you are taking any medication whatsoever, or even other herbal remedies, and you’re considering taking dandelion, you must consult with your doctor beforehand.
How to Take Dandelion for Your Gout
First, don’t use dandelions that have been sprayed or you think might have been sprayed with chemicals and pesticides. Only use dandelions that you know for a fact have not been sprayed: look for organic dandelions.
When using dandelion for gout perhaps the easiest way to get it into your system is in a cup of hot tea. Drink 2 to 3 cups per day. It can taste quite bitter, so if it’s too bitter for your taste try adding a bit of honey, orange or lemon.
Here’s how to make dandelion tea…
Dandelion Flower Tea
- Collect a few handfuls of dandelion flowers.
- Wash the flowers in a colander to remove any debris or small insects.
- Pull the petals away from the base of the flower and place them in a bowl. Discard the other flower parts.
- Put a handful of flower petals for each cup of tea in the teapot. Pour boiling water over the top, and let the tea steep for about 3 minutes.
- Serve with honey to taste.
Dandelion Leaf Tea
- Collect handfuls of dandelion leaves. Select younger, smaller leaves if possible.
- Rinse the leaves under running water. Pat them dry with a paper towel. Spread the leaves on a tray and let them dry in a warm room or air cupboard. Turn them occasionally. Store the leaves in a glass jar out of direct sunlight.
- Add 1 teaspoon of dried leaves for each cup of tea to the teapot. Add mint leaves to the tea if desired.
- Add boiling water and let the tea steep for 5 minutes.
- Serve the tea with a slice of lemon or orange.
If you don’t have easy access to fresh dandelion plants, you can find dandelion products in most online and offline health stores in fresh leaf form, dried, as a tea, in capsules, tinctures and extracts.