Dandelion is a taproot perennial that grows prodigiously throughout Europe, Asia and North America, is considered a bane of many gardeners and a boon to herbalists and health enthusiasts. All parts of the dandelion are edible, including the leaves, roots and flowers, and some parts are considered medicinal. Certain of dandelion’s purported health benefits pertain especially to the kidneys and urinary tract.

Diuretic

The leaves have a slightly bitter flavor that goes well in salads and they are increasingly available in produce and grocery stores. Vitamins A, B-complex, C and D are found in the leaves. Dandelion also provides the minerals iron, potassium and zinc, and has diuretic effects — it promotes increased urine production — and also replaces potassium that may be lost in the urine. Native Americans used dandelion extract to treat a variety of conditions, including kidney disease, skin disorders and digestive problems, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Antiviral

Dandelion roots have antiviral effects and, combined with the herb Uva Ursi, which has antibacterial properties, may also help decrease frequency of urinary tract infections in women. A study published in the June 2011 issue of the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” found that Vietnamese dandelion decreased urinary tract infection by increasing urine production and flow, and also by preventing bacteria from attaching to cells that line the bladder wall. Preventing bladder infections also prevents kidney infections, which usually occur when bacteria ascend from the bladder. Researchers concluded that dandelion may be a useful, safe alternative to conventional antibiotics, many of which are becoming ineffective due to emerging strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Anti-Inflammatory

Dandelion root soothes inflammation and helps dissolve kidney stones. Drinking dandelion root tea continually during an attack can help break up and pass the kidney stone, according to Reader’s Digest’s book “1,801 Home Remedies: Trustworthy Treatments for Everyday Health Problems.” Talk to your doctor about using dandelion root to treat a kidney stone or other health condition.

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