Though it sounds rather exotic, Taraxacum officinale is actually the scientific name for the common dandelion, believed by some homeopaths to have certain medicinal qualities. This plant is a member of the Asteraceae or Compositae family of plants, and is a perennial weed that flourishes in typical zone 5 weather conditions. Taraxacum officinale is known for being both very hearty and quickly prolific, much to the dismay of homeowners who wish to rid their lawn of the plant. The entire plant is edible, with the leaves in particular possessing a remarkable nutrient content. According to herbalist writer A. Crowe, 100 g of raw dandelion leaves contain 2.7 g of protein, 187 mg of calcium, 3.1 mg of iron, 35 mg of vitamin C, 397 mg of potassium, 66 mg of phosphorus and 36 mg of magnesium.
Aside from the nutritious and popular use of dandelion greens in salads, the rest of the plant is also used by herbalists and homeopaths. To date, there have been no conclusive medical studies verifying the medicinal qualities of Taraxacum officinale, though users can take solace in the fact that the plant is considered by botanists to be completely nontoxic. One of the supposed attributes of Taraxacum officinale is its ability to act as a diuretic. In this capacity, dandelion serves to rid the body of toxins through urination, promote the healing of urinary tract infections, and encourage the passing of gallstones. The high level of potassium found in Taraxacum officinale is also useful in this regard, as it manages to replace the potassium salts lost from the body during periods of increased urination.
Taraxacum officinale is also used to treat various digestive conditions, such as upset stomach, loss of appetite, intestinal gas and constipation. For these purposes, dandelion is most often consumed in the form of an herbal tea, which is available at most health food stores and in most major chain supermarkets. These teas are usually and mainly composed of dried dandelion root, as it is the root portion of the plant that contains the lion's share of the aperient and digestive tonic qualities. Additionally, the plant is considered to be a liver tonic and purifier, acting as a cholagogue (a medicinal agent which promotes the discharge of bile from the system) and a hepatic (heparin is a compound occurring in the liver which inhibits blood coagulation).
Lastly, Taraxacum officinale is used as a pain reliever in treating the discomfort that comes with chronic joint pain, mild arthritic pain and muscle aches. Again, there have been no conclusive medical studies proving Taraxacum officinale to be a verifiable pain cure, and there is no medical evidence to support the use of Taraxacum officinale as a cure for the underlying conditions themselves. Given the lack of plant toxicity, however, there would not appear to be much danger in attempting to alleviate joint, muscle or tissue pain with Taraxacum officinale tea or extract. The only considerations that need to be taken when using Taraxacum officinale are that it interferes with the body's ability to absorb antibiotics, and is also known to interfere with the liver's processing of prescription drugs such as Elavil, Zofran, Isoptin, Tylenol, Lipitor, and some other medications.