Dandelion root and burdock root are my two most commonly prescribed herbs when chronic conditions require anti-inflammatory, blood purifying alteratives for gentle detoxification. This includes conditions such as arthritis and cancer. I’ve studied literally hundreds of herbs from around the world, and considering cost, availability, palatability (no small matter, as people with chronic disease like cancer need to be able to take their herbs at least three times a day for months) – there are probably no two more simple and powerful anticancer herbs on the planet than dandelion and burdock.*
After prescribing both of these in strong dose clinically for years with great results (patients feel better, or experience slowing or even complete remission of some cancers), I learned that many professional British medical herbalists also use the same two-herb combination for conditions requiring blood, lymphatic and liver detoxification.
This does not mean that burdock, dandelion or any single herb is guaranteed to successfully treat all cancers. The same, in fact cannot be said for any conventional medical cancer treatment intervention. It simply means that these herbs are able to enhance organic physiological function optimizing the body’s ability to destroy cancer cells and prevent mutagenic proliferation.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
I routinely prescribe dandelion root along with burdock root, pau d’arco, red clover, barberry root and perhaps some fennel seed for flavor for patients with serious diseases requiring detoxification which would include cancer and other inflammatory-based disease.
Ask any mother who drinks dandelion tea to increase breast milk and you will find that as a galactogogue, dandelion root has a particular affinity for women’s breasts making it useful for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.
As a matter of practice, unless a patient is declared terminal and given up on by oncologists, I make it a practice generally to not treat cancer patients unless they are under the direct supervision of an oncologist. So my treatments would be considered ‘complementary.’ This doesn’t prevent patients, on their own, from refusing conventional cancer therapy in favor of herbs. I have had a few clients who have experienced remission from pancreatic and liver cancer that have included dandelion root as part of their protocol.
It’s about time that this ubiquitous herb, the bane of gardeners, is researched. Researchers headed by biochemist Siyaram Pandey at the University of Windsor, Ontario, recently received a total grant of $217,000 to study the effective use of dandelion root extract for the treatment of cancer.
In fact, Pandey’s team has been studying dandelion root extract for nearly two years and has found it to be effective against drug-resistant type blood cancer cells known as chronic monocytic myeloid leukemia, causing them to go into apoptosis – that is, to commit suicide.
Pandey began to study dandelion root after he was approached by oncologist Dr. Caroline Hamm, whose interest was piqued when a number of cancer patients who had been drinking dandelion tea seemed to be getting better.
“To be honest I was very pessimistic,” Pandey said. “She said it could be coincidental but it couldn’t hurt to see if there is anything.”
With all kinds of wild ‘cure’ claims flying around the alternative health industry, I certainly respect Pandey’s initial skepticism regarding dandelion and cancer.
Hamm was convinced that the weed contains an active ingredient, but warned earlier this year that "it can harm as well as benefit."
We all know what healthy skepticism means but maintaining an open mind while remaining skeptical may be more difficult for some to practice than others. The fact is, our knowledge of herbs (and, for that matter, off-label drugs) comes about as a result of someone trying something (guided by faith or science) and finding that it is effective.
Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Burdock has a long history of use both as a food with the highest level of antimutagenicity and as an herb for a wide range of conditions requiring blood, lymph and liver detoxification. In medieval Germany, Hildegard of Bingen used burdock to treat cancerous tumors. Its use for the treatment of cancer was widespread throughout Europe and China.
Burdock is another herb that warrants scientific research for its anticancer properties. Thus far there are no animal or human studies substantiating its value as an anticancer herb. There is, however, a considerable body of empirical and anecdotal evidence for its value in the treatment of cancer. In vitro studies of burdock have found it to have antineoplastic, antimutagenic and antitumor properties.
For instance it is one of the primary herbs in “Essiac” tea formula used by thousands of cancer patients around the world as an herbal treatment for cancer. It was also one of the herbs in the famous Hoxsey anti-cancer tea formula.
One study conducted in Japan where researchers were screening pharmacologically active substances from extracts of crude drugs for the treatment of cancer found burdock to have ‘antiproliferative and apoptotic’ effects of the lignans from burdock on leukemic cells.
Inulin, a naturally occurring, indigestible and non-absorbable oligosaccharide found in abundance in burdock root has prebiotic and potential anticancer activity. This is based on the ability of inulin to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon, including bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. By so doing it protects against pathogens, toxins and carcinogens that cause inflammation and cancer. What this means is that burdock root enhances the value of probiotics.
Dandelion and Burdock as Food
Both dandelion leaves and root are food grade herbs. The leaves are used throughout the world as a steamed spring green. The root is dried, lightly toasted, and ground into a powder and can be brewed as an alternative to coffee. You can make your own roasted dandelion root tea by simply purchasing dried cut and sifted dandelion root and lightly toasting it in an open pan on the stove. The same can be done with burdock root.
A wonderful health beverage some might appreciate instead of coffee is a product called “Dandy Blend.” I have no proprietary interest in this product except as a consumer who has used and recommended to others for years. The amount of roasted dandelion in Dandy Blend is probably not enough to treat cancer but it certainly helps in maintaining the blood and liver in a healthier state.
From an herbalist’s perspective these would constitute as pleasantly tasting “bitters.” We need the bitter flavor in our diet for health and the major herb that most people get their ‘bitters’ from is coffee. It is good to include a number of possible mildly bitter but pleasant tasting foods such dandelion root and burdock root as an alternative.
Burdock root is rated at the top of foods comparing them for their antimutagenecity. It is eaten as a popular root vegetable called “gobo” by Japanese people and the fresh root is sometimes found in organic produce markets. For ideas on how to prepare burdock, click here.
To enjoy burdock and dandelion together in a single treat, try Fentiman’s Dandelion and Burdock Root Soda naturally sweetened with pear juice.
*Dandelion and burdock root are not the only herbs I use. My own personal “Essiac-like” tea combination has these two herbs along with pau d’arco, Oregon grape, and red clover as the basic alterative tea I recommend to most cancer patients. Other than these an important component is the use of medicinal mushrooms and Chinese tonics such a reishi mushroom, coriolus and astragalus root.