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Health Benefits of Dandelion and Dandelion Root

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Its dandelion harvest time and I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with dandelions. Their sunshine yellow heads spread across the field in the meadow behind our farmstead and their tenacity – flowering from February through to November – means they welcome in the colder, grimmer months. The delicate orbs of their seed heads are a harbinger of first frosts, the smell of autumnal smoke, spider silk drifting through the air – and goldfinches love them.

                                                                  Health Benefits of Dandelion and Dandelion Root

But seeing the flat rosettes of their leaves in my herbal garden is hugely irritating. They have deep taproots that snap as you dig them up and, like a vegetal version of a horror flick, they regenerate from just a fragment left in the soil.

To some (and at one time me included) the common dandelion is just a bothersome weed or for children and those who are in touch with their inner child (again, at times me included) they are not a bothersome weed but a wish making machine. Then for others, the corner I stand in now, having the knowledge that dandelion root has been at use in traditional herbal medicine for hundreds of years. After examining the properties of dandelion in detail, I found that modern science suggests that its root might have significant benefits that can keep you healthy and disease-free. It can be invasive and pervasive but lucky for us, it is also an excellent food and herbal medicine that anyone can find, grow, and put to good healthy use.

The dandelion plant is a hardy perennial that grows wild in temperate regions worldwide. It has a thick, long taproot that has been used for centuries as a medicinal aid. Native Americans boiled the dandelion plant and used it to treat kidney disease, skin disorders and upset stomach. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is commonly recommended for digestive problems and to improve milk production in breast-feeding women, and European herbalists are known to use dandelion for fever, diarrhea and diabetes.

Dandelion contains several biologically active constituents that make it potentially beneficial for your health. Dandelion is a very rich source of beta-carotene which we convert into vitamin A. This flowering plant is also rich in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. It is a good place to get B complex vitamins, trace minerals, organic sodium, and even vitamin D. Dandelion even contains protein, even more than spinach! It has been eaten for thousands of years and used to treat anemia, scurvy, skin problems, blood disorders, and depression.

Here are a few images of our harvest this year so far.

               Dandelion Harvest Dandelion Leaf Dandelion Harvest

                                                    Dandelion Roots

Seeds grow readily in your garden, planter boxes, or pots. If you collect them wild, try to choose ones you know have not been subjected to pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals. The ones in your lawn are not the best so try and pick them from a mountain meadow or abandoned lot (make sure no little doggies have done their business there) or other place that the use of chemicals have been next to nil. Dandelion leaves can also be found fresh in some health food markets or as a freeze-dried herb. Dandelion tea, dried leaves, roots, and tinctures are also available on my website. Now what is Dandelion good for? Well here is a list!

Digestive Aid – Dandelion acts as a mild laxative that promotes digestion, stimulates appetite, and balances the natural and beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

Kidney – This weed-like superfood is a diuretic that helps the kidneys clear out waste, salt, and excess water. This inhibits microbial growth in the urinary system too.

Liver – Dandelion has been shown to improve liver function by removing toxins and reestablishing hydration and electrolyte balance.

Urinary Tract - A specific combination of dandelion root and leaf extracts of another herb called uva ursi taken by mouth seems to help reduce the number of UTIs in women. In this combination, uva ursi is used because it seems to kill bacteria, and dandelion is used to increase urine flow.

Antioxidants – Every part of the dandelion plant is rich in antioxidants that prevent free-radical damage to cells and DNA, slowing down the aging process in our cells.

Cancer – Dandelion acts against cancer to slow its growth and prevent its spread. The leaves are especially rich in the antioxidants and phytonutrients that combat cancer.

Diabetes – Recent animal studies show promise that dandelion helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.

High Blood Pressure – As a diuretic dandelion increases urination which then lowers blood pressure. The fiber and potassium in dandelion also regulate blood pressure.

Cholesterol – Animal studies have shown that dandelion lowers and control cholesterol levels.

Gallbladder – Dandelion increases bile production and reduces inflammation to help with gallbladder problems and blockages.

Inflammation – Dandelion contains essential fatty acids and phytonutrients that reduce inflammation throughout the body. This can relieve pain and swelling.

Immune System – Animal studies also show that dandelion boosts immune function and fights off microbes and fungi.

Dandelion leaves, flowers, and roots are all edible. They have a slightly bitter flavor that can be minimized by harvesting them in the fall or spring. Cooking the leaves will cut the bitter flavor and the fresh leaves make a great addition to raw salads.

Dandelion is generally considered safe in the food and medicinal levels. However, some people may have allergic reactions to dandelion. Anyone with an allergy to ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, or daisy should avoid dandelion and anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding something new to their diet.

What do you do when you’re overrun with dandelions?

Eat them & Drink them ! :-)

Here are a few Dandelion Recipes

Dandelion Lemonade: To make this dandelion recipe you get to spend a few minutes outside in the sunshine in your favorite dandelion patch gathering fresh dandelion blossoms.

                                                                       Dandelion Lemonaide

You’ll need about 2 quarts of flowers to make a gallon of lemonade in this dandelion recipe.

Bring the flowers inside and wash them with cool water then place them in a gallon jar.

Fill the jar with room temperature water and add the juice of 4 lemons.

Add fresh honey to taste, and chill.

You can strain the flowers out after a few hours or just leave them to fall into the glasses when you serve the lemonade.

Remember Dandelion blossoms steeped as tea can help relieve headaches, menstrual cramps, backaches, stomach aches and even depression.

So, not only will this dandelion recipe be a tasty treat, it will be another way to access the healing properties of these beautiful sunny yellow flowers.

Save a glass or two for the rainy spring days that inevitably follow the hot sunny ones, and perhaps you will find your spirits lifted as you drink.

Enjoy the Spring and this dandelion recipe!

Dandelion Greens: One of the most nutritious vegetables full of beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the B vitamins, thiamine and riboflavin, and are a good source of protein. 

                                                                     Dandelion Green Salad

Ingredients:  1 bunch dandelion greens, extra virgin olive oil, salt to taste, Fresh lemon juice and garlic cloves sliced.(optional)

Directions: Cut the stems off the greens and wash. Place the greens in a large pot of salted boiling water for 20 minutes until tender. Serve immediately with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and squeeze of fresh lemon. If you’re adding the garlic, heat the oil in a large skillet and add the sliced garlic. Sauté for 1 minute until golden brown and add the greens. Continue sautéing for 1 minute and serve.

Dandelion Syrup: This is my all time favorite and is one of the syrups that we have every year made with the raw honey from our bees!

                                                                    Home Made Danelion Sryup

Dandelion flowers are steeped overnight, then sweetened with organic cane sugar and raw honey, and simmered until thickened into a sweet syrup. Perfect for waffles and pancakes!

Ingredients: 125 dandelion flowers (about 1 1/2 cups of petals), 3 cups water, 2 – 3 cups organic cane sugar (or sweetener of choice), 1/4 – 1/2 cup raw honey and juice of half a lemon (optional).

Instructions: Wash flowers and dry on a towel. With a knife, cut off the petals as close to the base as possible.

Put petals in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil, and allow to boil for 30-60 seconds.

Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep overnight in a cool place. A cool counter or the fridge is ideal.

Next morning, strain the liquid into a sieve over a bowl. Use the back of a spoon to squeeze out and extract as much liquid as possible.

Return water to pot, add sugar and lemon, and simmer on low heat for 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Check for desired consistency by dipping spoon into syrup, letting it cool a bit, then testing it with your finger.

Store in an airtight, glass container in the fridge.

My final notes on Dandelions:

The internet boasts many medicinal uses for dandelion leaf and dandelion roots which may or may not be true. I encourage you to do your research by finding reputable and independent sources of information. Don’t take my work for it or my using my husband and children as guinea pigs, consider working with a respected herbalist or naturopathic physician in your area – someone who uses plants as medicine on a regular basis and knows from experience what they will and will not do.

Squeek at you later. Maus