All About the Health Benefits of Dandelions

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PhotobucketDandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Yesterday I told you I’ve started a new category called Herbs & Their Uses.  But I bet you didn’t expect to hear me talk about dandelions, let alone see it featured as the first medicinal plant!  (We don’t call them weeds here, no sir.) While dandelions may be an unwelcome guest in your lawn, their health benefits are numerous.  They are a prime example of how herbs and medicinal plants surround us without our even realizing we have healing in our midst. 

Identifying:  Certainly the dandelion is an easy plant to recognize.  The bright yellow flowers sit atop a hollow stalk ranging anywhere from 2″ to 18″ tall.  The leaves form a rosette crown at the plant’s base, and each leaf has jagged “teeth”, hence the common name “dandelion” or “Dent-de-lion” in French.  The flowers can get as large as 2″ across, blooming anytime in some areas, but usually from April to November.

Parts Used:  Usually the leaves and roots are used for medicinal purposes, but the whole plant is edible and has been used as a food.

Harvesting:  It’s best to harvest the dandelion in the spring when all the medicinal properties are at their best, but you can harvest them anytime.  Don’t dig these up in your yard if you’ve fertilized with weed control or any other chemical substance.  Find a nice field where you’re certain no weed killers or contaminants have been applied.  Dig the plant up right to the roots, getting as much of the root from the ground as you can.  You can make a tea from the clean, chopped root immediately, or you can dry the herb by washing it then drying the chopped root and leaves on a drying rack (out of the sun) or in a food dehydrator.  Make sure it’s totally dry before storing in clean glass containers out of the sunlight.

Medicinal Uses:  As a fresh root tea it’s good for liver, gallbladder, kidney, bladder ailments, diuretic.  Tonic for weak digestion, and constipation.  Dried leaf tea a folk laxative.  Weak antibiotic for yeast infections, stimulates bile flow and weight loss.

Nutrients and What Makes it Work: Leaves and flowers high in Vitamin A and C; large amount of anti-inflammatory compounds in leaves and root.

Allergic Reactions:  Pretty safe plant, but it does irritate the skin of some people when picked.  Could be from the latex in the stems and leaves.

Interesting Notes:  Many towns and villages in China harvest the greens as a way to enrich their diet.  The scientific name, Taraxacum Officinale, gets its origins from the Greek “Taraxis,” meaning “disorder” and “akas” meaning “remedy.”  “Officinale” means “used in the office or workshop”.

13 thoughts on “All About the Health Benefits of Dandelions

  1. Thanks so much for mentioning this. My grandpa migrated to the U.S. from Lebanon around age 20, he was a great cook and Lebanese cooking uses dandelions. He used to cook with them frequently. Brings back nice memories. :o)

  2. Hello DKMommy
    I enjoyed this post. I love to read all the health benefits of the dandelion. I did a post earlier this year. Here is a link.
    http://annieofbluegables.blogspot.com/2008/09/if-ya-cant-beat-em-eat-em.html
    Your post inspired me to go out and harvest a bunch before the snows fall. How great is this that the Lord supplies such a great, healthy thing that is hardy in the earliest of spring and continues after everything else has died in November. I had a bit of miracle grow potting soil left so I poured it into one of those window boxes and began to transplant young tender dandelions so I can harvest them all winter long.
    I have found too that they freeze really great just as leaves and make GREAT smoothies from the frozen leaf. I don’t know if this ruins the nutritional value, I hope not. I will continue to harvest and freeze as long as there is no snow on the ground.
    I got into Dandelion Greens when I stumbled across this blog:
    http://yardsnacker.com/?p=128
    He has been raw for over a year now, but I have enjoyed all his informative posts.
    thanks for your post.
    ~a

    Annies last blog post..New Heading Picture

  3. Hi Annie,

    So glad you’re enjoying dandelion! Just so you know, you’re doing a great thing by freezing. I didn’t know dandelion would freeze so well and I’ll certainly give it a go. Freezing actually preserves all those vitamins and minerals and is the next best thing to dried or fresh foods. Happy to hear I can freeze them!

    Diane

  4. I have been studying the dandelion for a presentation I am giving to a group of home ec leaders. (For Thursday, Mar 5, 2009)

    This article surely does tell the benefits of this herb (it’s not just a weed anymore).

    One herb that I consider to be a Spring Tonic and have ate for as long as I can remember is Dandelions. Have you ever ate cooked dandelion greens? My mom always dug bucketfuls each Spring and made a delicious dish. We never went a Spring without them when I was growing up. She would cook them and fix a sweet and sour bacon dressing for them.. with sliced boiled eggs on top…YUM.

    This is her recipe: I follow it myself, as this has been passed on to me since my mother is nearing 90 years old.

    When digging Dandelions, don’t just cut off the leaves but instead cut at the base and include a small part of the root and keep the plant together in one big cluster. These are best picked when there is lots of buds but not yet flowers. Pasture fields or un-mowed abandoned yards have bigger dandelions that our mowed lawns. (Be certain they have not been sprayed with chemicals.)

    My mom would drop them into boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Drain; then drop in boiling water and cook 10 more minutes and drain again.

    She made a sweet sour gravy by frying 6 strips bacon. When crisp, remove the bacon to a paper towel. Stir 1/3 cup flour into the hot grease. When smooth add 2 cups water, 1/3 cup vinegar, 2/3 cup white sugar and 1/2 tea salt and a little pepper. Stir until thickened.

    Place the cooked and drained dandelions in a shallow bowl. Slice 6 boiled eggs on top. Cover with the sweet and sour sauce. Use a spaghetti scooper or tongs to serve the
    greens.

    YUM and so good for you!

  5. Wow, thanks Janie! I appreciate you taking the time to leave a recipe. I love putting the greens in smoothies too, and of course just picking them while walking for a little munching. They’re bitter, but it doesn’t take long before a person really craves those little guys!

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  7. Bill, you are absolutely correct, it shows that you’re an authority on the subject. I admire someone that takes the pride you have and with your projecton of information. oSo when i actually do sit down to read material, I appreciate well written and organized blogs like this one. I have it bookmarked and will be back. Thanks.

  8. Steamed Dandelions are excellent with a small amount of oil & vinegar. They can also be used chopped in raw salads. They only need to be steamed until tender, not mushy. As for the roots, I place them under the steamer collander to boil while the leaves are steaming. Remove the leaves and let the roots soak in the hot water to tenderize.
    Marinate the roots in Italian dressing overnight. Then just snack on them.
    The remaining juice from steaming can be made into a tea or mixed 25% volume with other herb teas.
    Dandelion flowers can be cut can placed in raw salads for color and fiber.
    The stems are bitter, so I let the wild rabbits chew them.
    Now if you want something even better, try steamed stinging nettle leaves…better than spinach and very high in plant protein.

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