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.
Image above, Girl Sitting in Dandelion Field on Allposters.com
Dandelion: Medicinal Herb or Common Weed?
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."
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....)
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!
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
"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.