PHYSICAL HEALTH

Dandelions Are Not Weeds! Top 10 Health Benefits of Dandelion

 By Carly Fraser 

whole dandelion plant with flowers and roots on cutting board on a table

People spray their lawns to get rid of it, while others use it to heal their body of numerous ailments. What could it be? Well, dandelions of course!

Whether your eat or juice the greens, indulge in the honey-flavoured flowers or steep some dandelion root tea, this herb is pure magic!

The health benefits of dandelion include bone and skin health, help with liver and urinary disorders, acne, jaundice, diabetes, cancer and anemia.

The only problem is, is that most people are killing the very plant that could be helping them. Dandelions are not a pesky weed, and should be utilized to their full advantage!

Dandelions Are Not Weeds

Only in the twentieth century did humans decide that the dandelion was a weed. Before the invention of perfectly manicured lawns, dandelions were more less praised as a natural medicine, food source and out-right magic. Back in the day, grass was dug out to make room for the dandelions – just imagine!

According to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, “The use of dandelions in the healing arts goes so far back that tracing its history is like trying to catch a dandelion seed as it floats over the grass. For millennia, dandelion tonics have been used to help the body’s filter, the liver, remove toxins from the bloodstream. In olden times, dandelions were prescribed for every ailment from warts to the plague. To this day, herbalists hail the dandelion as the perfect plant medicine: It is a gentle diuretic that provides nutrients and helps the digestive system function at peak efficiency.”

Dandelions are also good for your lawn. Their roots break through hard-packed soil to help aerate the earth and help reduce erosion. Their deep taproots pull up calcium and other nutrients from the depths of the soil, making them available to other plants. These nutrients actually help fertilize the soil, improving the quality of grass and other surrounding plants.

The less we focus on dandelion as being a “weed”, the more we can appreciate what this plant truly is – a natural medicine that can actually help treat many ailments we see today.

Top 10 Health Benefits of Dandelion

Dandelions are a green and growing first aid kit! Their ability to heal and nourish the body from the inside out make them one plant you definitely do not want to get rid of this summer. There’s a reason dried dandelion root is so expensive.

If you don’t have access to dandelion or can’t find any clean sources (steer clear of dandelion from sprayed lawns), you can always order your own dandelion seeds and grow them yourself!

Here are 10 of the most important health benefits of dandelion:

Stronger Bones

Dandelions are calcium-rich, which is the main element required for the growth of strong, healthy bones. They are also high in antioxidants like Luteolin and Vitamin C, which protect from loss of bone density and bone weakening (1).

Liver Health

One of the greatest benefits of dandelion is how it nourishing and healing the liver. Dandelion has been shown to improve hepatic function by detoxifying the liver and reestablishing hydration and electrolyte balance. It also increases the production and release of bile. One of the greatest benefits of dandelion is it’s effect on our liver.

A laboratory study on mice showed this medicinal plant’s ability to slow down the progress of carbon tetrachloride-induced liver fibrosis or scarring.

Diabetes

Dandelion helps stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin, and helps regulate blood sugar levels. It is also a natural diuretic, and thus encourages urination. What does this have to do with diabetes? It helps remove excess sugar and salt from the body, and reduces sugar build-up in the kidneys (thus helping reduce the risk of renal problems in diabetics) (3).

Urinary Health

As mentioned above, dandelions are a great natural diuretic, and so they help eliminate toxic build-up in the kidneys and urinary tract. The anti-microbial properties of dandelion also prevent bacterial growth in the urinary system, which is great for individuals suffering from recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) (4).

Better Skin

Dandelion is an excellent detoxifier and antioxidant, making it one of the best herbal remedies for treating acne and other skin problems like psoriasis and eczema. It helps purify the blood, and improves liver function, both of which result in beautiful, glowing skin. The major chlorophyll content in dandelion greens is also a win-win for skin health.

Cancer

Another important use for dandelion is its powerful effects against cancer. Many studies have found that dandelion root extract is effective in the treatment against leukaemia and breast cancer. It acts by inducing apoptosis in leukaemia cells, while leaving healthy cells alone. It also has a positive impact against cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy.

2011 Canadian study found skin cancer cells treated with dandelion root extract started dying off within just 48 hours of treatment. Dandelion root has also been shown to be effective against pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

Jaundice

Thanks to the liver-healing abilities of dandelion, it also helps with jaundice, a disorder of the liver, where it overproduces bile and messes with the body’s metabolism. Dandelion helps regulate bile production, and also promotes urination, helping to get rid of excess bile (5).

Gall Bladder Disorders

Dandelion leaf is great for stimulating a sluggish gallbladder (the organ that stores and excretes bile as the body needs it). Gallstones can even be flushed out by using a combination of dandelion and milk thistle.

Digestive Issues

Dandelion contains mucilage and inulin (6), which soothe the digestive tract and make food processing easier. It is also a great source of dietary fibre, which is crucial for proper intestinal health and improving gut flora. If you suffer from constipation or diarrhea, eat some dandelion greens!

Circulatory Health

The high levels of iron, B-vitamins and protein in dandelion make it a perfect food to eat if you suffer from anemia or other blood-related disorders. Dandelion is also a natural diuretic, so it helps lower blood pressure by getting rid of excess salt in the body. The fibre in dandelion is also helpful in reducing cholesterol, which we all know is an integral part of maintaining a healthy circulatory system.

Picking & Processing Dandelion

Picking and processing your own dandelion might be an option if you have a yard with plenty of the plants. If you don’t have any dandelion in your yard currently, you can order your own dandelion seeds to grow your own dandelion patch.

The entire dandelion plant is edible: flower, leaves and roots. It has a taste that resembles that of a spicier arugula. If you plant to harvest your own dandelion, make sure you harvest from an area that is not treated with chemicals or fertilizer of any kind. Avoid areas near freeways or public parks. 

Some grocery stores even sell dandelion greens if you’re not up to foraging. 

If you do plan on harvesting your own dandelion, the best time to do it is in the spring when they are young (before they flower) and again in the fall. 

When it comes to harvesting, you want to try to pick the youngest leaves, which will be located on the inside of the growth. The oldest (and bitterest) leaves will always be on the outside. The best greens from the dandelion plant often come before the plant has produced its yellow flowers. 

To harvest the leaves, all you need to do is pluck them out of the ground and collect them in a basket, bowl or bag. They’ll keep for a couple days in the fridge, but the fresher, the better (so try to eat them as soon as you pick them!). 

Dandelion Crowns

Dandelion crowns are the densely packed circle of small leaves that are just about to produce a yellow flower. The crowns are the best tasting part of the plant (and the sweetest). Pick them if you can, before the plant has had a chance to flower. Dandelion crowns can be stored in the fridge for a couple days, or dehydrated for 1-2 days at 115ºF in a dehydrator (and then stored in a mason jar).

Dandelion Flowers

To harvest dandelion flower, pluck them off the green stem. Try to separate the flower from the green base, which can be quite bitter. You can store the flowers in the fridge for a couple days, or you can dehydrate them in a dehydrator at 115ºF for 1-2 days until they are completely dried out. Once dried, you can store in a mason jar and make tea with them throughout the winter months.

Dandelion Leaves

To harvest dandelion leaves, just pluck off the greens from the stem. Remember, the best tender greens are those that grow nearest to the stem. The larger outer leaves will be much more bitter (but they are still beneficial if you can handle the bitterness!).  The leaves will store in the fridge for a day or two, but it is best to use them right away. You can also dry the leaves in a dehydrator at 115ºF for about 8-15 hours (or until crispy and dried). Once crisp, transfer to a mason jar and store in the cupboard to make tea.

Dandelion Root

Harvesting dandelion root can be a pain in the butt, but it is so worth it. The best time to harvest dandelion root is in the spring, since this is where all the vitamins and minerals are stored during the cold winter months. You can use a weeding tool to dig at the base of the root and pull up. Otherwise, you will just have to dig with a spoon or other tool to dislodge the hearty tuber from the ground. Once you’ve harvested the root, clean and scrub them thoroughly in the sink, and chop them into pieces, just as you would a carrot. You can use the root directly as is for boiling down into tea, or you can dehydrate them at 115ºF for 1-2 days, until completely dried out. Then, you can store the root for use over the winter as tea. 

If you are not interested in picking and processing your own dandelion, or don’t have access, here are some products you can utilize in your home to gain full benefits from the plant. Since these products come from other companies, use their instructions on their products on how much to consume. As always, I will only ever link products here that I would personally use myself:

Organic Dandelion Leaf & Root Tea

Organic Raw Dandelion Root Tea
Organic Dandelion Tincture (whole plant)
Organic Raw Dandelion Root (to make your own tea or tincture)

How to Use Dandelion

Dandelion can be utilized in all its forms. Whether you want to use the flower and leafy greens in your salad, or steep a body-warming tea with the root, you can receive so many benefits from the plant!

Dandelion Crowns & Flowers

Dandelion crowns and flowers can be consumed fresh on top of salads, or straight up as a snack. There are also many different applications for using the crowns and flowers as outlined below:

  1. Dandelion Flower Infused Oil
    This oil can be used to heal chapped or cracked skin, and is also useful to soothe sore muscles and other aches and pains. The shelf life of the oil is about 1 year. 

    To make it, fill canning jar about half-way with dried dandelion flowers. You can dry the dandelion flowers in a dehydrator at 115ªF for about 1 day (or until completely dry). 

    Once the flowers are in the jar, cover them with about twice as much as your favorite carrier oil (olive, sweet almond, apricot kernel, avocado and hemp oil are my favorites). Cap the jar, and place in a dark cabinet for 4-6 weeks, shaking occasionally as you remember.

    Once the infusion time has passed, strain the dandelion flowers from the oil into another canning jar, and store in the fridge for up to 1 year. 
  2. Dandelion Flower Salad
    Young dandelion petals have a honey-like flavor; mature blossoms are bitter, but still nutritious and pretty. You can consume fresh dandelion flowers on top of your salad if you want to reap the benefits of the raw flower. Simply cut off the green stem at the base of the flower (the bitter part), and toss in whatever salad you’re making. 

     You can also use dandelion flowers as garnish in desserts. The bright yellow hues make them the perfect option for livening up desserts of any type.

Dandelion Leaves

Dandelion greens are the bitter part of the plant, meaning they’re great for increasing production and release of bile in the liver. They can be eaten raw in salads, juiced, or even made into vinegar!

  1. Dandelion Vinegar
    To make dandelion vinegar, harvest the leaves, stems and flowers from a fresh dandelion plant. Rinse them well, and fill a jar full with the plants (don’t pack too tightly). Next, pour apple cider vinegar over the fresh plants until the jar is filled. Cover the top of the jar with wax paper or plastic wrap, and then screw on the lid (to prevent the acid of the vinegar from eating away at the metal on the lid). Place the jar in a dark cabinet and store for 4-6 weeks, shaking occasionally. Once the infusion is done brewing, strain and store in another jar. It is now ready to use!

    You can use dandelion vinegar on your salads by combining it with some olive or hemp oil and some maple syrup and salt to taste.

    Another use of dandelion vinegar is using it as a spot-dabber on itchy bug bites. 

    You can also use dandelion vinegar as a diluted hair rinse. Dilute 1/4 cup dandelion vinegar with 1/4 cup water, and rinse your hair with it to produce silky soft locks. 

  2. Dandelion Juice Shots
    Dandelion juice made from the raw plant is incredibly healing for the liver, and other organ systems of the body.

    To make, all you need is a juicer, and dandelion leaves that are freshly harvested. Run the dandelion leaves through the juicer to make 1-2 shots of fresh dandelion juice. I personally like to just take a shot, because it is so bitter, but some people like to make juice combinations with dandelion like adding in some apple, lemon and ginger (for about 3-4 cups of dandelion greens, add 1 apple, 1/2 peeled lemon and a thumb-sized piece of ginger). 

  3. Dandelion Salad
    Harvesting fresh, young dandelion greens and adding them to a salad of mixed baby greens is a great way to incorporate these plants into your diet!

Dandelion Root

Dandelion root can be used to make a medicinal tea for treating digestive issues, gallstones, inflammation, muscle aches, and bloating. It can also be roasted into a concoction that works as a great coffee replacement. There is so much you can do with dandelion root. Here are some of my suggestions:

  1. Dandelion Root Tea
    Once you have harvested your dandelion root as outlined above under “preparation”, you will want to boil down the dandelion root in water to release all the beneficial nutrients.

    Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a pot, and add 1/4 cup dehydrated dandelion root. Reduce the heat to simmer, and put a lid on the pot. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, and then take off the heat to let sit and cool. 

    ou can drink the tea as is, or add your favorite sweetener (maple syrup with dandelion is an amazin combination!). Depending on your stove and how hot the water was boiling and simmering, you might get more or less yield at the end. Drinking about one cup every day should suffice. If you have any extras left over, store in a mason jar in the fridge, and heat up the next day to consume. 
  2. Dandelion Root “Coffee” 
    If you are looking for a replacement for coffee, look no further! Roasted dandelion root tastes very similar to coffee, and many people have used it to kick their caffeine addiction. There is even a company out there that sells a “Dandy Blend” as an alternative to coffee drinking!

    Using fresh dandelion root that has been cleaned and cut into cubes, roast at 400ºF for about 30 minutes until they’re completely dry and brown, but not burned.  If your oven tends to run a bit hot, set the oven to 350 degrees and roast them for 40 minutes.  They should come out dry and toasted, but not burned.

    You can either take the roasted root and steep it into a tea, or you can grind down the roasted root to make into a powder similar to coffee. You can then take this powder, and utilize it as you would coffee in your coffee pot or french press. 

    Serve the dandelion coffee with coconut cream and a sweetener.

Whole Dandelion Plant

You can utilize the whole dandelion plant in things like tinctures where you can provide your body with the benefits of the whole plant all year long.

  1. Dandelion Tincture
    To make a dandelion tincture, harvest an entire dandelion plant and wash each part very well. Once you’re done, chop the entire plant as finely as you can. You’ll want about 3-4 cups of fresh plant cut up. 

    Place the pieces of the freshly cut plant in a mason jar (jar size depends on how much plant you’ve gathered up) then cover with an 80 proof or higher alcohol like vodka. Make sure you cover the lid with plastic wrap or wax paper before securing the lid, as the alcohol can eat away at the metal lid as it sits.

    Cap the jar and store in a cool dark place for 2 to 3 weeks, shaking occassionally. Once it has finished sitting, strain into a clean mason jar or pour into individual tincture bottles with droppers. 

    Traditional herbalists recommend a dosage of up to 30 to 40 drops, three or four times per day, but since tinctures are quite powerful, I recommend taking no more than 5-8 drops a day. Use this tincture to help with constipation or a sluggish liver that leads to poor digestion and acne.

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