Every spring, we hear it- the communal groan as the first dandelions start bursting through neatly manicured lawns. No matter what weed-spray we try, we just can’t seem to get rid of them. But when those pesky little yellow flowers start popping up in your yard- whether you like it or not- fret not! Though dandelions are considered a bother by many, they are actually an herb with numerous health benefits. And the best bit- they’re readily available in almost any climate, for free!
Dandelion is a rich source of beta-carotene- which we convert into vitamin A- as well as fiber, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. Include dandelion in your diet for immune-boosting vitamin C, fatigue-fighting iron, and non-dairy calcium. The abundant nutrients in dandelion flowers, leaves and roots make them an excellent addition to almost any herbal collection.
Check out this post to learn how to harvest dandelions
A few of the many health benefits of dandelions!
As we’ve mentioned, dandelions are rich in calcium necessary for skeletal strength and growth. But these weeds also provide a great dose of antioxidants like vitamin C and Luteolin, which protect bones from age-related brittleness, weakness, and decreased density caused by free-radicals.
Dandelions act as a stimulant to the liver, promoting healthy digestion and maintaining the proper flow of bile to remove waste from the body. Dandelions also help reestablish hydration and electrolyte balance, and the compounds in this herb fight constipation and gastrointestinal issues.
These weeds are a natural diuretic- the leaves, in particular. By stimulating increased urination, dandelions help the body eliminate deposits of toxins in the kidneys and the urinary tract. With their powerful disinfectant properties, dandelions also inhibit microbial growth in the urinary system. They can be used to help treat or prevent UTIs, kidney infections, and kidney-stones.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE/CHOLESTEROL:
Dandelions are an excellent source of fiber, which aids in reducing cholesterol (and thereby lowers blood pressure). The herb is also high in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure by replacing sodium.
Dandelions are an effective treatment for pain and swelling caused by inflammation.
The herb contains fatty acids, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that reduce inflammation throughout the body.
The most popular use for dandelions as a natural remedy is in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. The diuretic properties of dandelion leaves help alleviate uncomfortable bloating that many women experience, and the stimulation of digestion helps combat the sudden weight-gain that often goes along with menopause. Dandelions are excellent hormone regulators. The herb is phytoestrogenic- a natural hormone replacement. As hormones in the body fluctuate through menopause, dandelions both increase estrogen levels and help flush out excesses of other hormones. By regulating the body’s own chemistry, many of the unpleasant symptoms of menopause- such as chills and hot-flashes- will be greatly decreased.
The flowers, leaves and roots of dandelions can be used to make teas, tinctures, extracts, coffee and wine. (I’ve always wanted to try dandelion wine! If there’s one you recommend, help a sister out!) But the leafy greens are edible fresh. Add them to a salad, pasta, pretty much anything, and enjoy the slightly bitter bite!
If you’re planning on harvesting your own dandelions- why not, they’re pretty much everywhere- take notes! The aerial part of the plant (the part growing above ground) should be harvested when the plant is relatively small- the taste is less bitter at this stage. This portion of the plant should also be frozen, rather than dried, to retain more of the medicinal properties and nutrients. The flowers should be harvested in the spring, the roots in the fall, and the greens (leaves) anytime. Collect, prep, and store to take advantage of dandelion’s many health benefits year-round!
It’s time to stop fighting the dandelions and start using them!
-Check out our Guide to Edible Plants to learn what other delicious plants nature provides.
DANDELION TEA (greens and flowers)
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1/8 cup dandelion pieces.
Allow steeping for 15 minutes.
Strain and enjoy.
DANDELION ROOT TEA
Grind the dried root in a coffee grinder.
Use as you would coffee grounds OR steep 1 teaspoon in a cup of hot water using a tea strainer
for 15 minutes.