Dandelions, Taraxacum officinale (sunflower family, Asteraceae) are the quintessential weed in the United States. Yet I say they are a plant success story. They are in sidewalks, lawns, waste sites.
Learn more about harvesting and using dandelions.
Dandelions are known to everyone, at least in the eastern 2/3 of the United States, as they grow from Canada to Mexico.
People can hate dandelions, but they would be wrong. All the enormous amounts of money, time, herbicides and energy spent killing dandelions is a huge waste because you can eat every part of the dandelion. The leaves, flowers and roots are all edible. It’s also very versatile. Yellow petals from the flower and the leaves are useful in a salad. Plus leaves are cooked and eaten like spinach.
Don’t eat any dandelions unless you KNOW they have NOT been sprayed, with herbicides or any other potentially toxic chemical. It’s not just plant toxins we have to be careful of, but what is sprayed or poured on the soil or into the environment generally.
How dandelions ended up in America is confusing. The theory is they are native to Asia Minor, between Greece and the Himalayas and spread from there. From the last Ice Age, there are fossil dandelions. They spread across Europe and Asia.
Theories about how and when it came to America include: they came from Asian over the Bering land bridge or with the Vikings in about the year 1000 AD or even on the Mayflower.
Settlement and agriculture dramatically increased the habitats suitable for dandelions and human travel carried the plants to those areas. Dandelions were not weeds for most of human history; instead, they were a food plant to the United States.
Used for thousands of years as a medicine, dandelions help treat anemia, scurvy, skin problems, blood disorders, and depression. Folk remedies have a wide variety of medicinal uses of dandelions. In traditional Chinese healing, dandelions continued to be used for breast concerns, appendicitis, and stomach problems. Whereas, native Americans boil and drink dandelion extract to help treat digestion problems. Also, they are a remedy for inflammation, liver injury, skin ailments, heartburn and kidney disease. Early Europeans used dandelions for high fever, diabetes, and digestion problems like diarrhea.
But then dandelions went out of fashion as food or wine or medicine.
Salad is now lettuce, cabbage, spinach. There are new microgreens and leafy vegetables of choice. Plus, most people rely on pharmacies for medication and no longer gathered their own.
Dandelions made it on their own
Dandelions made it on their own, without human planting because they have small wind-borne seeds. They succeeded so admirably they became regarded as weeds.
Depending on the season, the flavor of the leaves change. It is sharp by summer, even bitter. Years ago, greens were stronger and less pleasant-tasting, so people ate them. Today in expensive salad mixes, dandelions are now back in.
Excellent Dandelion Salad
2 cups Young dandelion, washed and dried, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces, 1 leek sliced thinly, red bell pepper diced, tomatoes diced, 1 tsp salt 1/4 cup flaxseed or olive oil and the juice of a small lemon less than 1/4.
- Place all the ingredients except salt, oil and lemon in a large bowl and toss together.
- In another little bowl stir together oil, lemon juice and salt. Then pepper to taste. Pour over salad. Enjoy!
Dandelion roots are edible. They are smaller, more fibrous than carrots or radishes and taste okay when cooked. When the roots or dried and ground, they can be medicine or/and a coffee-like beverage. For example, when eaten raw, the plant is a diuretic (causes urination) and it has been used medicinally for centuries.
The dandelion flowers can be gathered and made into wine. Use just the yellow petals, not the green bracts. The flowers and roots can be sauteed or fried.
Great Dandelion Benefits
Dandelions are a rich source of beta-carotene (vitamin A) it is also rich in vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, calcium, and zinc. Dandelions have B complex vitamins, trace minerals, organic sodium, even vitamin D, and more protein than spinach.
Dandelions Boost the Immune System
Scientific studies also show dandelion boosts immune function and fights off microbes and fungi.
A Wonderful and Mild Laxative
Dandelion is a mild laxative that promotes digestion. It is called pissenlit, in French, which can translate to ‘wet the bed.’ Dandelions help the kidneys clear out waste, salt, and excess water by increasing urine production and frequency of urination. They inhibit microbial growth in the urinary system and prevent urinary tract infections. Stimulates appetite and balances beneficial bacteria in the intestines while increases the release of stomach acid and bile, which aids digestion.
Ends Water Retention in your Kidneys
This superfood is a natural diuretic, which helps the kidneys.
Dandelion replaces some of the potassium lost in the process.
A study used fresh dandelion leaf hydroethanolic extract. Results demonstrated the urine output and frequency increased in the two out of three instances dandelion extract was ingested.
Dandelions detoxify your Liver
Dandelions improve hepatic function by detoxifying the liver, plus reestablishing hydration and electrolyte balance, increasing the production and release of bile.
Increases Antioxidant Activity
All parts of the dandelion are rich in antioxidants, which prevents free radicals from damaging cells and DNA.
Helps Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
Dandelions help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels by using the ability to control lipid levels while stimulating the pancreatic cells to produce more insulin as needed.
Regulates High Blood Pressure
As a natural diuretic, dandelion increases urination that lowers blood pressure. The fiber and potassium help regulate blood pressure.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Dandelions lower and control cholesterol levels while improving cholesterol ratios by raising HDL.
Increasing bile production and reducing inflammation helps with gallbladder problems and blockages.
Antioxidant Properties Lowers Inflammation and Pain
The dandelion contains essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that all reduce inflammation throughout the body. These can relieve pain and swelling.
Used to Combat Cancer
The ability to combat cancer dandelions show promise in studies from around the world. Dandelions slow cancer’s growth and prevent it from spreading because the leaves are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that fight cancer. The dandelion root extract has the ability to induce apoptosis or cell death in prostate and pancreatic cells.
UVB Damage Helped
The research concludes, dandelion extracts prepared from dandelion root, leaves, and flowers protect the skin cells from UVB-induced cell death. Dandelion flower and leaf extract help with UVB-related oxidative stress. Leaf extract protects your skin from free radical-induced aging and absorbs U.V. radiation better than dandelion flower extract.
If you collect not grow them, choose ones you know are clean of pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals. Unfortunately, the ones in your lawn are not usually the best when you use that. Instead, pick them from a meadow or an abandoned lot. Or grow some to use. Pick them quickly if you are in areas that have lots of lawns.
Use Dandelion Root, Leaves, and Flowers for your Healing
All edible are dandelion leaves, flowers, and roots having a slightly bitter flavor. That bitterness can be minimized by harvesting them in the fall or spring.
Leaves are eaten raw or cooked. The early young leaves are usually more tender and less bitter, thus a great addition to raw salads. Cooking dandelion cuts any bitter flavor of both the leaves and the roots. Wash dandelion leaves in a colander for vitamins.
When drinking a cup of dandelion root coffee or roasted dandelion root daily, you will need to adjust. Once adjusted, increase your intake to two to three cups a day.
Dandelion Dosage in Europe
At this time, there is no approved recommended dosage for dandelion extract in the U.S. as with most healing herbs. Yet recommended daily dosages in Europe include:
Dried dandelion extract .75-1 g
Fresh dandelion root 2-8 g
Fresh root extract 1-2 tbsp
Dandelion tea infusion 1 tbsp chopped root in ½ cup of hot water for at least 20 minutes.
Dandelion root powder 3-4 g powder dissolved in ½ cup of hot water
How to Make your own Dandelion Root Extract
If you don’t pick them, get your dandelion root and leaves from a health food store or a preferably organic source. Soak leaves and roots in water for a few minutes, then rinse and cut.
To make roasted dandelion roots and leaves roast for an hour at 200° F for 60 minutes. When cool, store in your airtight container. When you’re ready to drink, take a few teaspoons added to hot water. Enjoy your dandelion root coffee or tea. Whether you’re using dandelion root tincture, tea, or roasted like coffee, it can dramatically benefit health.
Dandelion Allergy Warning
Allergic reactions to dandelion are possible. For example, people with allergies to; yarrow, ragweed, chrysanthemum, chamomile, daisy or marigold, need to avoid dandelion. When pregnant, nursing, or on prescription drugs, talk to your health care professional.
Dandelion Extract Drug Interactions
Dandelion extract, when ingested, affects the blood, liver, and kidneys it may interact with the effects of drugs:
Antipsychotics, Antidepressants, Antibiotics, Blood pressure medications,
Diuretics, Hormone meds, or some other herbal medicines
Consult your healthcare team before changing your medicinal intake or before drinking dandelion extract.
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Selected Research References
Clare BA, Conroy RS, Spelman K. The diuretic effect in human subjects of an extract of Taraxacum officinale folium over a single day. J Altern Complement Med. 2009;15(8):929–934. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0152
Karakuş A, Değer Y, Yıldırım S. Protective effect of Silybum marianum and Taraxacum officinale extracts against oxidative kidney injuries induced by carbon tetrachloride in rats. Ren Fail. 2017;39(1):1–6. doi:10.1080/0886022X.2016.1244070
Miłek M, Marcinčáková D, Legáth J. Polyphenols Content, Antioxidant Activity, and Cytotoxicity Assessment of Taraxacum officinale Extracts Prepared through the Micelle-Mediated Extraction Method. Molecules. 2019;24(6):1025. Published 2019 Mar 14. doi:10.3390/molecules24061025
Gao C, Kong S, Guo B, Liang X, Duan H, Li D. Antidepressive Effects of Taraxacum Officinale in a Mouse Model of Depression Are Due to Inhibition of Corticosterone Levels and Modulation of Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Phosphatase-1 (Mkp-1) and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (Bdnf) Expression. Med Sci Monit. 2019;25:389–394. Published 2019 Jan 13. doi:10.12659/MSM.912922
Wirngo FE, Lambert MN, Jeppesen PB. The Physiological Effects of Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) in Type 2 Diabetes. Rev Diabet Stud. 2016;13(2-3):113–131. doi:10.1900/RDS.2016.13.113
Check medicinal plant references such as the PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) for Herbal Medicines. It reports on Germany’s Commission E, which carefully checks medicinal plants, has approved dandelion use in liver and gallbladder complaints infections of the urinary tract, dyspeptic complaints, and loss of appetite. As with all herbs, it is still a medicine, even applying modern standards of efficacy.