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Dandelion Benefits

Updated on February 6, 2015
Spring dandelions in my yard
Spring dandelions in my yard

Benefits of Dandelion

The Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is familiar to most of us, with it's cheery yellow flower head that turns into a puffy sphere of seeds which then float off in the wind. Perhaps you already know that dandelions have culinary and medicinal uses.

But, chances are if you're a lawn-owner, you don't care much about dandelion benefits! Possibly you're much more interested in figuring out how to eradicate these common weeds than in learning about the benefits of dandelions. I hear you!

As children, many of us enjoyed these abundant flowers -- we picked dandelion bouquets for our mother, made wishes as we blew the seeds off the perfect dandelion ball, made chains with the stems, or played "who likes butter" by holding the dandelion flower under someone's chin. But as adults, our sense of responsibility to the upkeep of our lawns and to the neighborhood often changes our feelings toward these lovely yellow dandelions. We don't see them for the useful plants that they can be.

But dandelions also have culinary and medicinal uses and they're free for the picking! Perhaps after reading this, you'll decide that you don't mind if a few of these common dandelions continue to grace your lawn in the spring.

Girl sitting in a dandelion field.
Girl sitting in a dandelion field.


Image above, Girl Sitting in Dandelion Field on Allposters.com

Dandelions
Dandelions

Dandelion: Medicinal Herb or Common Weed?

Taraxacum officinale

The official name of the Common Dandelion is Taraxacum officinale. Taraxacum is derived from the Greek taraxos meaning "disorder", and akos meaning "remedy". Officinale refers to it being used medicinally.

So, dandelion is definitely a medicinal herb.

But it also grows where we don't want it to grow -- it's a hardy plant that can easily crowd out grass in our yards or vegetables and flowers in our gardens. So yes it's also a weed.

A couple of interesting definitions for "weed":

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson said a weed is "a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered".
  • Peter Gail (ethnobotanist at Goosefoot Acres, Inc) has said, "A weed is a plant for which we once knew the use but we've forgotten it."
I like both definitions, especially the last. We've forgotten that dandelion has remarkable health and nutrition benefits. Or maybe we know, but we aren't interested, or don't have the time to harvest and prepare the plants ourselves.

Andt I do agree that there can be too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to dandelion growth! (You should see our lawn -- very pretty with all the yellow dandelions in the spring....)

Photo from Pixabay, CC0 1.0 (Public domain)

Dandelion wallpaper
Dandelion wallpaper

"If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn."

- Andrew V. Mason

Image from Asadal Design: Free Wallpaper Downloads

Dandelion Benefits Your Health

Dandelion nutrition and health facts

Dandelion leaves, roots, and flowers are nutritious and they help tone our internal organs.

Dandelion leaves are packed with vitamins and minerals: They have higher levels of beta-carotene than carrots, they're high in the various vitamin B's, and in vitamins C,E, and D. They're great sources for iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc.

Dandelion root is a safe and popular herbal remedy. The decoction ( involves mashing and boiling in water to extract the medicinal substances) is a traditional tonic that strengthens the liver and gall bladder. It can help get rid of gall stones, and it's good for chronic hepatitis and jaundice. It helps indigestion if there's insufficient bile.

Dandelion root or leaf tea act as a gentle diuretic -- the modern French name is pissenlit, meaning "piss in bed", referring to its diuretic properties. The tea helps the kidneys more efficiently cleanse the blood and recycle nutrients. From improved kidney function comes clearer skin and improved health overall.

Dandelion root is also used as an appetite stimulant and a digestive aid. The bitterness of the dandelion makes it a good herb for stimulating these systems. "Wildman" Steve Brill says dandelion is "recommended for stressed-out, internally sluggish, and sedentary people. Anyone who's a victim of excessive fat, white flour, and concentrated sweeteners could benefit from a daily cup of dandelion tea."

The milky sap of dandelion leaves may be good for removing warts, and clears up pimples, and it soothes bee stings.

Some people are allergic to dandelions -- if you're allergic to ragweed, marigold, daisies, and similar plants, be careful with dandelions.

Stalking Wild Greens: Dandelion (Video)

The narrator says dandelion should be considered a sustainable food source, and he lists what health issues dandelion can be used for.

He also shows how to make a dandelion pesto. Mmm, looks good!

Dandelion leaf salad
Dandelion leaf salad

Eating Dandelions

Leaves, roots, and flowers

Harvest your dandelion leaves early in the spring before they become bitter, or after the first frost, when the bitterness disappears. You may also be able to find dandelion greens in some supermarkets or at a farmers' market.

The simplest way to enjoy your dandelion leaves is to throw a few in with your regular lettuce and greens salad.

You can also sauté dandelion greens with onion and garlic in olive oil. "Wildman" Steve Brill suggests adding sweet vegetables such as carrots or parsnips if the dandelion bitterness bothers you. Here's another simple recipe for dandelion greens. You can use dandelion leaves in any recipe that calls for other greens.

You can also eat the dandelion flower. One recipe I found for the flower is Dandelion fritters

The taproot is best from late fall to early spring. It can be used in soups and stews. Sweet vegetables also go well with the root, to offset the bitterness. It can also be roasted and ground and used as a coffee substitute.

Also check out Dandelion and Burdock Soda.

Creative Commons photo by chiotsrun

Traditional Medicinals Organic Roasted Dandelion Root Herbal Leaf Tea, 16 Tea Bags (Pack of 6)
Traditional Medicinals Organic Roasted Dandelion Root Herbal Leaf Tea, 16 Tea Bags (Pack of 6)
Dandelion root tea is used to improve the functioning of the liver, kidneys, and gall bladder. It also is a way to help detox the body, by increasing urination, and it is a good blood purifier.
 

"Wildman" Steve Brill on Dandelions - Entertaining video

This video includes a funny, funny story of how Steve Brill was arrested in Central Park for eating a dandelion during a foraging tour he was leading.

The Teeth of the Lion - by Anita Sanchez

The Teeth of the Lion: The Story of the Beloved and Despised Dandelion
The Teeth of the Lion: The Story of the Beloved and Despised Dandelion
This book tells the story of the dandelion. The name "dandelion" comes from the French "dent de lion", meaning "lion's tooth", referring to the sharp, jagged, deeply toothed leaves. The author uses short essays to tell us about the natural history of the dandelion, and how it's been used as food, medicine, and in rituals and folklore.
 

Edible and Medicinal Plants - "Wildman" Steve Brill

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places
Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places
This book shows readers how to find and prepare more than 500 plants for better nutrition and health. There are line drawings of the plants to help the reader identify many plants. He includes a number of recipes for these plants.
 

Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health - by Rosemary Gladstar

Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family
Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family
People call Rosemary Gladstar the mother of modern herbalism. This book is her i"practical compendium of herbal know-how." She lists herbal remedies for use by all members of the family, gives detailed information about a number of herbs, and how to prepare certain remedies from scratch.
 
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