Description: “The long taproot issues from a short rhizome; all the underground parts are covered by a dark-brown bark, but are almost white inside, and like the stem, produce a bitter-tasting white milky sap.” (Mills, 1993: 431)
Habitat: Prefers moist soils, in pastures, meadows, lawns, waysides and waste places; mostly in N hemisphere but found worldwide.
Harvest: Mills recommends not picking until spring, rather than usual autumn, to benefit from improved bitterness.
Dosage: 1:5 Tincture: 2-5ml tds, Fluid Extract: 1-3ml tds, Dried: 2-8g tds
Character: Cold, bitter, sweet (Ody, 1995)
-lack of appetite (Bradley, 1992)
-Active hepatitis, gallbladder inflammation, gallstones (Mills, 1991)
-Constipation; chronic toxic conditions, eg. joint inflammation, eczema, acne (Ody, 1995)
Safety: Very safe
Contra-indications: Occlusion of bile ducts, gallbladder empyema [filled with pus], ileus [obstruction of bowel] (Bradley, 1992)
Key Constituents (Bradley, 1992):
-Sesquiterpene lactones (bitter tasting glycosides)
-Phenolic acids, such as caffeic acid
-Carbohydrates (40% in autumn, 2% in spring) and fructose (18% in spring)
-Vitamins A, B, C, and D; Minerals, especially potassium (1.8-2.6%) and calcium
Pharmacology: Choleretic effect confirmed by Bohm in 1959; an alcoholic extract increased bile secretion in rats by over 40% (Bradley, 1992)
Toxicology: No studies found.
History: Did not appear in European herbals until Ortus Sanitatis in 1485. Name apparently due to leaves resembling a lion’s tooth, dens leonis. Roasted and ground roots good substitute for coffee.
Traditional and Practitioner sources:
“It is of an opening and cleansing quality, and therefore very effectual for the obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen, and the diseases that arise from them…” Culpeper, 1653 (Culpeper, 1995: 87)
“A decoction is prepared with half an ounce of the cut root to one pint of water and simmered for a few minutes (never allow excessive boiling to impair its strength). This liquid when strained should be taken in the usual wineglassful doses for liver, stomach, bowel and urinary troubles. Its action is vast and its true value has never been fully recognised.” William Smith, 1977:66.