Dandelion is a somewhat infamous plant. Those who love a perfectly green and "weed" free lawn are constantly waging war against dandelions. And yet, dandelion is a much-loved herb in herbal medicine with many health benefits.
The whole plant - roots, leaves, and flowers - is edible with many medicinal benefits. It can be harvested and used fresh, and the dried herb is also widely available.
Here's more about dandelion, including its major benefits for your health.
Growing & Harvesting Dandelion
Dandelion isn't difficult to find. It will happily grow just about anywhere, even in places most other plants won't.
If you do want to grow dandelion (maybe to keep it in its own space in the garden instead of all through the lawn), it will grow easily from seed. Just sow the seeds in the fall for a dandelion crop in the spring.
When using fresh dandelion as an herb, be sure that you are harvesting from somewhere that hasn't been sprayed with chemicals or herbicide.
Dandelion greens can be harvested anytime but will be the most tender and least bitter the younger they are. The flowers can be harvested and used once they open, and the roots can be harvested in late fall.
Whichever part of the plant you use, here are the key health benefits of dandelion.
Tonic for the Liver
Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar calls dandelion root "a classic liver tonic or 'blood purifier,' with a stimulating and decongesting effect on the liver." (Gladstar. Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide, pg. 125)
The bitter compounds in dandelion root help to stimulate the liver and have a cleansing effect.
Animal studies seem to indicate that dandelion extract can help to reduce excess fat stored in the liver and also exhibits a general protective effect on liver tissue. (1)
All of this makes up dandelion's powerful and positive effects on liver health. And, as dandelion helps the liver to remove waste and toxins from the blood, it may also help with skin conditions (such as acne and eczema) and hormone balance.
Helps With Optimal Digestion
The bitter compounds in dandelion also help to stimulate and improve digestion. The bitterness interacts with receptor sites on the tongue, which in turn signal the digestive tract to get ready for food.
These signals encourage the production of saliva, digestive enzymes, and bile, which all contribute to optimal and healthy digestion.
Because of these properties, dandelion can also act as a mild laxative and may help to treat constipation. The root is also a good source of inulin, a prebiotic fiber, which has been shown to reduce constipation. (2)
Rich In Iron & Other Nutrients
The whole dandelion plant is also very nutritious. It's especially rich in iron as well as Vitamins A, B, C, and D, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Dandelion is a great herb to consume for low-iron levels and may also be helpful for anemia. To boost your iron levels, try this Iron Tonic Tea containing dandelion leaf.
Dandelion also contains a high level of antioxidants, specifically beta-carotene and polyphenols, which can protect against cellular damage and neutralize the effects of free radicals on the body. (5)
Supports Immune Health
Research is starting to indicate that dandelion also has antiviral and antimicrobial properties that can help the body to fight off infection.
Mild Diuretic For Kidney & Bladder Health
Dandelion leaf can be used as a mild diuretic to help with water retention and kidney or bladder problems. The high potassium content of dandelion ensures that this nutrient is not depleted as may be the case with synthetic diuretics. (8)
The leaf also works to stimulate the kidneys, helping with proper elimination of metabolic waste.
The diuretic effect of dandelion also gives it the potential to help lower blood pressure when high blood pressure is due to excess fluid in the body. The high potassium content may also help to lower blood pressure. (9)
Dandelion is a very safe herb with few side effects. However, some people may have an allergic reaction to dandelion, especially those who already have allergies to related plants.
The milky latex that comes out of the flower and stem may also cause an allergic reaction or rash in certain people.
Finally, because of its diuretic effect, dandelion supplements may interfere with other diuretics. If you are taking prescription medication, be sure to consult with a doctor before use.
Dandelion Tea & Other Uses
Making dandelion tea is an easy way to get its benefits, and it can be made a few different ways.
You can simply steep the roots, leaves, and/or flowers in boiling water for 15-30 minutes to make a tea. Honey, maple syrup, or another sweetener can be added to taste.
If it's not the time of year for harvesting dandelions, the dried root can be purchased and used instead.
Coffee-Like Dandelion Tea: When dandelion root is roasted, it takes on a richer and more bitter flavor that is more similar to coffee than tea.
To make: Chop fresh dandelion roots that have been washed into small pieces. (For added coffee flavor, you can also chop an equal amount of chicory roots.) Spread the pieces evenly over a cookie sheet and bake in an oven heated to 350 for about 30-40 minutes or until they are dark brown.
Once they are cool, grind the roots in a coffee grinder or blender. Using about 1-2 tablespoons per cup of water, simmer the dandelion root (and chicory) in a small saucepan for about 20 minutes.
Strain out the root, add a sweetener or cream, and enjoy!
The health benefits of dandelion can also be gotten in many other ways. Often, dandelion root is used to make a tincture for the liver or digestive bitters to aid digestion.
The fresh leaves can be eaten in a salad or lightly steamed and eaten with olive oil and lemon juice to get all the good nutrients.
You can also buy pre-made dandelion teabags or find it in an herbal tea blend like this iron-packed tea blend that's especially helpful for replenishing nutrients during pregnancy.
Discover the Benefits of Dandelion for Yourself
Now that you know about the many health benefits of dandelion, why not try it for yourself? This is an herb that's found in abundance and has a lot going for it when it comes to natural health and wellness.
Give dandelion tea or a fresh dandelion salad a try and discover all the benefits of dandelion for yourself!