For Your Health: Herbs the promote breast health
The dandelion is a significant herbal medicine in three of the world’s largest and oldest systems of herbalism–Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and European herbal medicine. In North America, it’s mainly considered a liver herb. But this stalwart little plant has another talent–it can help prevent and treat various breast disorders.
Treatment for cancer, cysts, inflammation
Ayurveda particularly reveres dandelion for its use in treating problems of the breast and mammary glands, according to David Frawley and Vasant Lad in their book The Yoga of Herbs (Lotus, 1986).
The root of the dandelion is commonly used, but the leaves have similar properties and are more diuretic. Generally bitter herbs such as dandelion are also cooling to the body; that is, they lower metabolic rate and body temperature, and they quell inflammation.
Dandelion is especially recommended for conditions involving heat, such as inflamed breast cysts. It promotes detoxification of the lymphatic system, the breast, and lymph tissues surrounding the breast. These qualities give dandelion the reputation in Ayurveda of being useful for sore breasts, breast tumors, cysts, suppressed lactation, and swollen breast lymph glands.
In TCM, dandelion has been used for at least 1,100 years in treating breast cancer, inflammation, and lack of milk flow. It’s also used for reducing abscesses and dissipating nodules (particularly of the breast), especially if they’re firm and hard. For these ailments, dandelion is both taken internally and applied as a poultice.
In-vitro research shows that dandelion has action against tumors (Yakugaku Zasshi, 1981). The form used was a hot water extract (a tea), the traditional form for using dandelion root in herbal medicine.
Aid for fibrocystic breasts
Fibrocystic breast disease (FBD) is a common, uncomfortable disorder that affects many premenopausal women. This disease is thought to be due to an increased estrogen to progesterone ratio. Because the liver is the primary site for estrogen clearance, dandelion’s liver benefits help treat FBD. The herb has also been found to possess phytosterols, the plant building blocks of hormones, but it is not known if these play a role in dandelion’s benefit for breast tissue.
Dandelion, a diuretic, is also able to relieve water retention, a common factor in breast tenderness.
K. P. Singh Khalsa has more than twenty-five years of experience with medicinal herbs and specializes in Ayurvedic, Chinese, and North American herbalism. He is a licensed dietitian/nutritionist and massage therapist, a board member of the American Herbalists Guild, and the author of Herbal Defense (Warner Books, 1997).
Bensky, D., and A. Gamble. Chinese Materia Medica. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1986.
Frawley, D. Ayurvedic Healing. Salt Lake City: Passage Press, 1989.
Kapoor, L. D. The CRC Handbook of Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, Louisiana: CRC Press, 1990.
Murray, M., and J. Pizzorno. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Rocklin, California: Prima, 1991.
Nadkarni, A. K. Indian Materia Medica. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1976.
Stansbury, J. “Botanical Therapies for Fibrocystic Breast Disease.” Medical Herbalism (Summer 1997).
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