Dandelion and cancer

Not long ago, information circulated on the Internet that dandelion root cures cancer. A matter as old as the world, I read about it more than 10 years ago, but now some new research has come out and the world has gone crazy. Many people face the prospect of looking for an alternative cure – sometimes because they hear a death sentence, and sometimes they just want to increase their chances. That’s why I think it’s worth breaking down the dandelion reports, if only to make it easier to realize the long road that leads from a study like the one that took place to the claim “we have something that helps.” I would suggest keeping this post in front of your eyes every time you hear about another herb “more effective than chemotherapy” or about a conspiracy by corporations hiding a “miracle drug.”

The topic was taken up for a reason – a man with chemotherapy-resistant stage IV melanoma, with metastasis to the heart, came to the forum. I am searching for those herbs and therapies for him that make some sense, as orthodox medicine has nothing left to offer. I came across this unfortunate dandelion. I believe this man can be helped – as long as he sticks firmly to those methods that have some scientific validation. There are a whole lot of therapies that have never been studied to the end – they prolonged the life of animals, sometimes cured them completely, but it was impossible to find a sponsor for human research. Sticking to such things is the best you can do. Unfortunately, on the Internet we have thousands of scammers or just plain fools, convinced that they KNOW how to cure – because they have read some blog or some one book. And they persuade the sick to their methods, without being able to justify them with anything. If you are interested, you can follow the story on the forum – I myself am curious to see how it turns out.

Well, let’s get back to the dandelion. How about first by way of introduction – what does research on such drugs look like? In a nutshell, there are three phases. The first is an in vitro study. Into a test tube with cancer cells we pour the substance of interest, if we are honest there are normal cells floating next to it. If we see that the cancer cells died and the ordinary cells survived – there is already something, we have some potential.

The vast majority of “miracle therapies” we read about on the Internet are the very positive results of this first phase of research. Unfortunately, a very, very small percentage of substances that work in the test tube will work in phase two. Why?

The answer is such a complicated word: “pharmacokinetics.” If we take a drug, it passes into the blood after a certain period of time. and then stays in the blood for a while. And here we have the first problem with dandelions. So what if the cancer cells immersed in it died, if we may not assimilate it at all, perhaps those substances that work – are not absorbed in the digestive tract?

The second aspect of pharmacokinetics – half-life. Some substances rapidly disappear from the blood, destroyed by the liver or filtered by the kidneys. Sometimes various tricks are used to prevent this. An example from “natural” methods, turmeric – black pepper extract is taken along with it, which blocks the enzyme in the liver responsible for breaking down curcumin. This keeps the levels in the blood much longer, and as a result, the curcumin works many times more potently.

Even if all this gets into the blood, it does not at all mean that it will be in the tumor area. Some substances do not cross the blood-brain barrier, while others are not absorbed by the tissues.

We don’t know what the half-life of dandelion active substances is, even if they get into the blood. Perhaps it disappears after a few minutes?

Well, suppose we are lucky – the dandelion has passed into the blood, it is not quickly destroyed or filtered. The problem of concentration arises. I’ve seen studies in which some plant extract is “proven” to kill Lyme disease bacteria. People started buying it on the cheap. However, no one told them that the study used horrendous concentrations – they would have to eat several kilograms of the herb to get similar in the body, which of course would fail for another reason, namely:

Toxicity. In a test tube, you can kill cancer cells with anything. The simplest method, pour acid inside. So what if the tumor disappears, if the patient disappears with it? This is where the secret of the vast majority of “miracle” herbs that “kill more cancer cells than chemotherapy” lies. They would kill the patient long before reaching a fraction of the concentration required to kill the bacteria. Putting normal cells in a test tube will provide some answer, but just because a single cell survives doesn’t mean there won’t be brain swelling or anaphylactic shock.

Then there is the issue of preparation of the product. Again, going back to that Lyme herb – the study used a specially prepared essential oil extract. Tea did not work at all. The study used an aqueous extract of dandelion root.

It is time to look at the study on our herb:


To begin with – the dosage. Admittedly, it was described in great detail how the extract was created, but someone forgot to add from what specific amount of raw material it was obtained. The doses used in the study (and effective) ranged from 1 to 10 mg/mL, with for one of the cell lines only the concentration of 10 mg/mL yielded results.

So far it’s not too bad – 1 mg per ml is 1 gram per liter, the most primitive 1:1 conversion ratio tells us that a 70 kg man would have to drink 70 grams of extract, or 700 for the highest concentration. That’s a lot, but it’s no longer hundreds or thousands of liters, as with other “miracle” substances. Nevertheless, these primitive conversion rates are rarely true, let’s look a little closer.

I suspect that many people will be interested in how the concentration of active substances in the blood translates in relation to the amount of root eaten. Each substance present in dandelion will be absorbed differently, but one can venture a very, very conservative assumption that it will be similar to other flavonoids. Using two of them as an example, I will try to assess how this may be the case with dandelion, but be warned that in reality the differences may be as much as several hundred times:


Ingestion of 123 mg of hesperetin increased its blood concentration to up to 325 nmol/L, while consumption of 29 mg of naringenin increased its concentration to 112 nmol/L. For fairly similar results, take hesperetin. Its molar mass is ~300 grams per mole. We have about 1000 nanograms per liter, 1 microgram. We’re aiming for concentrations in milligrams, so you have to add three zeros, unfortunately. Already we have 123 grams of hesperetin to consume to get a concentration of 1 mg/l. Cancer cells were killed at 5 mg, multiply times 5, pi times the door 600… well, yes, we still have to convert liters to milliliters. 600 KILOGRAMS you have to eat to get the concentration as in the study where the cancer cells were killed.

Okay, but maybe better results can be obtained by checking the increase in concentration immediately after ingestion, take a study where there is less counting and less risk of getting three zeros wrong:


100 mg of hesperetin in food with the best bioavailability resulted in a brief increase in its blood concentration to ~300 ng/ml. Here we have it much simpler, as the results are given in grams per milliliter. Eating 1000 mg (1 gram), we will have 3000 ng/ml, or 3 mcg/ml. Further, we have to multiply this times 1000, but we have “more realistic” values of one kilogram. One kilogram of active substance, not the danelion root. I hope this puts the results of this research into perspective and makes you understand that in order for dandelions to actually cure – you need to find a substance that works, then produce a concentrate of it that you can perhaps use.

By the way, I would ask that someone who knows a little better than me check these calculations. Back to the analysis of the study:

Was the toxicity to normal cells checked – yes, they survived intact, even at the highest concentrations.

That is, we have something that, provided you can keep this concentration around the tumor as in the study, will tear out half of its cells in 48 hours. In clinical practice, one searches for this substance, which has worked, and administers it to the patient in the form of an IV, obtaining very high concentrations – this is what chemotherapy looks like. To begin with, however, animal trials are being conducted.

We also have a second study:


This time the real killer was tested – pancreatic cancer. a disease that has a 100% mortality rate. Yes, 100% – no one has ever yet been cured of it if it started to give symptoms, in any case not with official methods, the unofficial ones even if they had successes, they have not been described anywhere. The study used concentrations ranging from 0.5 mg/ml to 7.5 mg/ml. Not only were the cells killed, but in addition they “remembered” the signal to commit suicide, even after the dandelion extract was removed. Here, similarly, there was no negative effect on normal, healthy cells. Yes, that’s right – well over 90% of the cells were killed at the highest concentration, maintained for several days.

Does this mean that we have a “cure for cancer”? Not necessarily. As I wrote, there are very many unknowns. Will it be possible to introduce such an amount into the body without killing it? Can it be sustained long enough to have any effect? Will the active substance reach the cancer cells?

Therefore, it is absolutely unacceptable to say that eating dandelion root will cure cancer. But it is equally unacceptable to say that such a thing will definitely do nothing. We don’t know the pharmacokinetics of its active substances, and it may turn out that they are concentrated near tumors, giving very high concentrations. But it may also turn out that even by eating 10 kg of the root a day, we won’t even get the minimum concentration necessary to produce an effect. You may have to wait until someone isolates the active substance, develops it in the form of an infusion, such an infusion generally also contains other substances – increasing absorption just by the tumor, reducing their destruction by the liver or secretion by the kidneys.

Sometimes such studies produce surprisingly good results, here, for example, green tea extract, consumed by mice in food, proved more effective than chemotherapy:


The doses of green tea extract used in the studies could be very large indeed, making it quite difficult to use in home therapy, but here is a study in which 10% cheap ground flaxseed present in the diet reduced the rate of melanoma growth by 63%


However, there have been many studies in which something that looked very promising under the microscope did not do well at all in the body.

To sum up – yes, it is worth eating dandelion root when you are a cancer patient, as it is relatively harmless (and even healthy) and ridiculously cheap, but it is important to remember that it has a big impact on the effect of chemotherapy, which it is impossible to describe here, as each drug will be affected differently. As if anyone was interested in the details – the activity of CYP1A2 and CYP2E will be reduced, while the activity of CYP2D and CYP3A should not be affected, at least this was the case in rodents. The treating physician will know what this means and whether it will affect those “normal” drugs he uses.

However, it must not be relied upon as a “miracle drug,” because the chances of the dandelion actually working when you just eat it are very slim. There would have to be a lot of assumptions really fulfilled, who knows, maybe it concentrates in tumors, maybe it is accumulated by cells… however, there is a much, much higher probability that dandelion will not do anything, maybe in the future, when very potent concentrates for intravenous infusions are developed… There are other herbs that have successfully passed the second phase – they actually helped animals when they were given to eat them. It may still turn out that they behave differently in the human body, but here the probability of giving something is much, much higher.

Nothing is hidden, there is no “miracle remedy” that can be bought in the herbalist or collected in the meadow, cancer cells were killed at concentrations not obtainable through normal supplementation – we are talking about the need to eat several hundred kilograms of dandelion root a day. The fact is that it should be thoroughly studied, isolate what works, produce medicines on this basis.