Stand up for the facts!

Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.

More Info

I would like to contribute

A field of dandelions bloom in a pasture. May 23, 2013 (AP) A field of dandelions bloom in a pasture. May 23, 2013 (AP)

A field of dandelions bloom in a pasture. May 23, 2013 (AP)

Gabrielle Settles
By Gabrielle Settles June 17, 2021

Fact-checking a claim on dandelion root extract as a cancer remedy

If Your Time is short

  • Studies have examined how effective dandelion root extract is against cancer. 

  • A study that showed the extract effective in killing 95% of colon cancer cells in 48 hours looked at cells in a petri dish, not in the human body. Another study involved mice. 

  • Human clinical trials of dandelion root extract as a cancer treatment have been approved, but they haven’t been able to recruit enough patients. 

Dandelion root extract is purported to hold many health benefits, such as supplying antioxidants and reducing cholesterol. But a sweeping claim on social media about its effectiveness as a cancer remedy calls for a dose of skepticism.

"Did you know? Dandelion root is able to kill 98% of cancer cells within 48 hours," an Instagram post reads. "Not only that, but it acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory, immunity booster, antioxidant and organ detoxifier."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The claim about cancer cells appears to draw on real scientific studies of dandelion root extract as a natural aid in fighting cancer. But it leaves out important context about the nature of the research and its conclusions. 

This isn’t the first time such a claim has circulated. In September 2016, Snopes rated "mostly false" a headline on an article from the website Health Eternally, which referenced a testimonial from John Di Carlo, a 72-year-old man in Canada, who told the Canadian broadcaster CBC that he had gone into remission from leukemia after drinking dandelion tea.

The Health Eternally article said "studies have shown" the extract to kill cancer cells within 48 hours, but it didn’t cite specific research. 

Health Eternally also referenced a 2012 CBC interview with Dr. Caroline Hamm, medical oncologist at the Windsor Cancer Research Group, in which she spoke about the promise of dandelion root extract. 

Hamm studied the extract’s effects on cancer cells and published a case report about a patient who had used the root in a tea with favorable results. But she warned that the tea didn’t work for everyone and that taking the extract could interfere with regular chemotherapy. 

Despite her warnings, false claims began circulating about the extract as a cancer fighter. In 2017, CBC reported that Hamm had received numerous emails and calls from cancer patients who believed that they should stop all medications and only use dandelion root extract. 

"It’s just very sad that people do this," Hamm told CBC. "It’s really unfortunate for patients who believe it. It offers false hope."

Featured Fact-check

The numbers in the Instagram post appear to align with findings of a November 2016 study by researchers at the University of Windsor in Ontario. They found that dandelion root extract "induced program cell death (PCD) selectively in (more than) 95% of colon cancer cells ... by 48 hours of treatment." The study was published in the journal Oncotarget.

In an interview with USA Today, Siyaram Pandey, a chemistry and biochemistry professor who co-authored that study, pointed out that this finding was based on a study of cells in a petri dish, not cancer in the human body.

A 2019 University of Windsor study published in an alternative-medicine journal from Hindawi found that both dandelion root and lemongrass extracts, when used with chemotherapy treatments, can help induce the death of prostate cancer cells in mice. This study, which also included Pandey as a co-author, warns that "their efficacy on prostate cancer and their interactions with standard chemotherapeutics have not been studied to determine if they will be suitable for adjuvant therapies," meaning follow-up treatment to prevent recurrence of the cancer.

Pandey’s LinkedIn profile and various other articles about his research identify him as chief scientific officer of a company called Windsor Botanical Therapeutics since 2014.  

Pandey told PolitiFact that Canadian regulators approved clinical trials of dandelion root extract for cancer patients as far back as 2013, but researchers had trouble recruiting subjects, and funding dried up. 

Our ruling
 
An Instagram post claimed that dandelion root extract was found to kill 98% of cancer cells in 48 hours. 

A University of Windsor study found that the extract killed over 95% of colon cancer cells in 48 hours, but this study was done on cells in a petri dish, not in the human body. 

In 2019, a separate study found that both dandelion root and lemongrass extract can boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments in killing prostate cancer cells in mice, but the study didn’t look at whether they were effective in stopping the recurrence of tumors.

Human clinical trials of dandelion root extract as a cancer treatment have been approved, but they haven’t been able to recruit enough patients. 

The claim contains an element of truth, but leaves out important context that could give a different impression.

We rate this post Mostly False.

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Gabrielle Settles

Fact-checking a claim on dandelion root extract as a cancer remedy

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up