Not so common after all: Extracts from the dandelion can protect your blood vessels

It’s a good thing the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is such a common herb – or weed, for those who own ornamental gardens. A Korean study reported that extracts from the traditional medicinal herb can protect blood vessels from the inflammation caused by atherosclerosis.

Inflammation is considered to be a significant contributor to different kinds of cardiovascular diseases. It is an immune response to endotoxins caused by severe or repeated bouts of bacterial infections.

By triggering excessive instances of inflammation, endotoxemia can lead to the development of atherosclerosis. Treatments that prevent endotoxemia could potentially stop the development of atherosclerosis as well.

Conventional treatments for atherosclerosis try to reduce hypertension, lower cholesterol levels, or stabilize the blood. Most of them do not do anything about the problem of inflammation.

Researchers from Inha University (IU) were among those who sought out complementary and alternative means of treating atherosclerosis by managing inflammation. They investigated the medicinal herb – or garden weed, depending on whom you ask – dandelion.

Dandelion has been used as herbal medicine in Asia for many centuries. Dandelion extracts are used to reduce swelling and prevent oxidative stress, both of which are linked to inflammation.

Animal studies have shown that the extracts and individual parts of dandelion possess anti-inflammatory effects that can protect the brain cells of rats and the lung cells of mice. The IU researchers decided to test these protective properties on endothelial cells that make up blood vessels. (Related: The larger the variety of microbes you have in your gut, the healthier your blood vessels are.)

Can dandelion extracts protect blood vessels against inflammation?

The research team obtained methanol extracts from dandelions. These extracts were analyzed for their contents.

Several cultures of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were incubated in these extracts. The pre-treated cultures were then stimulated with lipopolysaccharides that cause inflammation in endothelial cells.

Afterward, the researchers added monocytic THP-1 cells to the now-stimulated cultures. These monocytes are white cells that bind to inflamed endothelial cells and break them down.

To measure the protective effects of the extracts, they measured the number of cytokines and binding molecules present in the stimulated samples. They also studied the activity levels of proteins and messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) that produced the pro-inflammatory molecules.

Common weed contains extracts that can lower the risk of atherosclerosis

They reported that the dandelion extracts reduced vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) levels and decreased the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These activities led to the prevention of inflammation in endothelial cells.

Endothelial VCAM-1 are the molecules that bind monocytes and T lymphocytes to their targets. Lower levels of VCAM-1 prevented these destructive white cells from attaching themselves to endothelial cells.

The researchers compared this suppression effect to that of Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), which is also used to treat inflammation. While Aspirin was more effective than the dandelion extract in reducing inflammation, the pharmaceutical drug also possessed blood-thinning side effects that prevented it from being used by people with hypertension.

Furthermore, the IU researchers determined that the dandelion extract achieved this by blocking the signals of nuclear factor-kappa B. Called NF-?B for short, this transcription factor enabled stimulated endothelial cells to bind with monocytes.

The researchers concluded that dandelion extracts could protect endothelial cells by preventing lipopolysaccharides from triggering the inflammatory response. The medicinal herb could prove to be a safe and effective means of treating inflamed blood vessels and atherosclerosis.

Additional research could identify the means by which the extract stops inflammation, the full extent of its safety, and the movement of the plant-based active compounds inside the body.

Find out what dandelion and other beneficial “weeds” can support your health at

Sources include:

comments powered by Disqus