Dandelion and Detox
Just ran across this study that found that dandelion led to "... a dramatic increase (244% of control) in the activity of the phase II detoxifying enzyme UDP-glucuronosyl transferase..."
So there herbalists are right!! Dandelion can lead to a dramatic increase in detoxifying enzymes in the liver. A search on Pubmed for the terms "phase 2 enzymes detoxification" turns up over 500 studies ... the term "phase 2 detoxification enzymes" is standard scientific terminology, and dandelion (and a variety of other foods and herbs) increases the amount of these detoxifying compounds.
What are phase 2 enzymes? As a group, they are relatively non-specific protein catalysts that break down a wide variety of carcinogens and toxins (unlike some enzymes that have a specific 'lock and key' activity and only act on a single molecule). Phase 2 enzymes are associated with anti-cancer molecules in the diet, and some suggest that such dietary components work by elevating the phase 2 enzymes, which allows the body to better process and eliminate a wide variety of compounds that would otherwise cause problems.
Phase two enzymes protect against heterocyclic amines, which are considered mutagenic and carcinogenic. Phase 2 enzymes can prevent the elevation of IgE and other immune disturbances caused by diesel exhaust, a common modern toxin.
The specific enzyme that dandelion increases has been described this way: "Human UDP-glucuronosyltransferases (UDPGTs) are a family of enzymes which detoxify many hundreds of compounds by their conjugation to glucuronic acid, rendering them both harmless and more water soluble, hence, excretable."
So it seems that whole notion of an herbal detox is in fact grounded in science. Dandelion does help the body to detoxify and eliminate specifically identified molecules which would otherwise contribute to disease.