Dandelion root is not a proven cancer cure

21 May 2021
What was claimed

Dandelion root is able to kill 98% of cancer cells within 48 hours.

Our verdict

Laboratory studies using cancer cells have shown that dandelion root extract has anti-cancer effects, but this has not been proven in humans.

A Facebook post claims that “dandelion root is able to kill 98% of cancer cells within 48 hours. Not only that, but it acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory, immune booster, antioxidant and organ detoxifier.”

Whilst laboratory studies, on cells outside of a living being and on cells in mice, have shown some anti-cancer effects, this has not been replicated in humans. 

The post doesn’t provide a source for this information, but as previously described by fact checkers Snopes and USA Today, it is likely to have come from a 2016 article which was published on the Health Eternally web site.

The headline reads “Scientists Find Root That Kills 98% of Cancer Cells in Only 48 Hours”, and the article includes a story of 72 year old patient, John Di Carlo who was reportedly being treated at the Windsor Regional Cancer Center, in Ontario, Canada. 

His leukaemia (a type of white blood cell cancer) had continued to advance despite conventional treatment, but went into remission after he started drinking dandelion tea at home. 

The article also includes the views of Dr Carolyn Hamm, a doctor at the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre, who is reported to have said at the time that dandelion root extract was the only thing that helped with chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia. 

This was reported slightly differently in 2012, where the same patient’s story was reported, and Dr. Hamm was reported to say that dandelion root extract is one of the only things found to help with chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia. 

The Windsor Regional Cancer Centre (the centre that Mr. Di Carlo was reportedly treated at, and Dr Hamm was said to have worked at) is known to have conducted studies in this area. 

The Health Eternally article does not reference any scientific articles, however the specific claim regarding the death of cancer cells within 48 hours potentially came from a University of Windsor study from 2016 which showed that 95% (not 98%) of colon cancer cells were killed within 48 hours of treatment with dandelion root extract. 

This study did show increased cancer cell death in lab studies and reduced tumour growth in mice that took the extract. But, importantly, this study did not test the extract in humans. 

The US based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre website explains that dandelion has long been used in traditional medicine for a wide range of ailments. It points out, however, that “dandelion has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer”. 

It also warns that because dandelion has an impact on the activity of the hormone oestrogen, it may actually increase the growth of certain types of hormone sensitive cancers. 

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head cancer information nurse, told Full Fact: “There is no scientific evidence that dandelion extract is a useful cancer treatment in humans. Any potential new treatment needs to go through rigorous trials in humans before its safety and effectiveness, if any, can be established.  We would strongly advise anyone considering taking any supplement or unproven treatment to discuss this with their doctor first.”

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