Common dandelions are often perceived as weeds. Their scientific name is taraxacum officinale, and they belong to the same family as sunflowers. Dandelions are actually perennial yellow flowers that open when the sun is bright in the morning, and close when the sun hides behind clouds in gloomy weather or when the sun sets in the evening. They grow in countries in the temperate regions of the world. They are often found in lawns and along the side of roads. Dandelions can also be found along disturbed banks, waterway shores, and other moist areas.
They are very popular for their silver-tufted fruits that look cottony soft, because these fruits easily get blown away in the wind. These fruits carry seeds, and this is how dandelions spread quickly, far and wide. Aside from the wind, people help this process along by blowing dandelion seeds into the air. Some people believe that these can grant wishes and can carry thoughts to loved ones. They are nicknamed “blowballs”, “puffballs”, and “clocks”.
Whether or not dandelions can grant wishes, we can’t say for sure. But if you made wishes of health, you might be better off eating dandelions rather than blowing them away.
What do dandelions do for health?
Dandelions are filled with vitamins A, B, C, and D. They are also a good source of important minerals like zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. Your grandma may be familiar with their uses and regularly use them as a home remedy. Native Americans used to make tea by boiling dandelion in water. They used the tea to treat kidney disease, heartburn, upset stomachs and more. It is also effective against skin problems.
In other parts of the world, dandelions are still a staple medicinal herb. In Europe, dandelions were used to remedy boils, fever, eye problems, diarrhea and diabetes. Farther east, the Chinese use it for stomach problems and appendicitis. They also use dandelions for breast issues, like inflammation and lack of milk flow.
What makes dandelions good for you?
Diuretic. Dandelions help the body release excess water by increasing the amount of urine a person excretes. This aids people with kidney and urinary disorders to eliminate toxic deposits. This is also helpful in regulating excess sugar in diabetics and bile in liver disease patients.
Antioxidants. Dandelions are particularly rich in two known antioxidants, vitamin C and Luteolin. These are great in reducing free radicals which are considered cancer-causing agents. This helps reduce the risk of cancer. This also helps the body stand the test of time and reduce age-related weakness and degradation. And of course, because they are rich in vitamin C, dandelions make a great immune system booster to help us ward of diseases in general.
Calcium. Because of their calcium content, dandelions are great for your bone health. Because they also contain antioxidants, dandelions are also great preventive measures against age-related bone damage.
Insulin production. Dandelions stimulate insulin production in the pancreas. This keeps blood sugar levels low for patients with Type I diabetes. However, for patients who are already taking blood sugar modulators, the combination of these two treatments may result in hypoglycemia, wherein blood sugar levels become too low.
Iron. Dandelions are a good source of iron, as well as vitamin B and protein. These make dandelion a great addition to an anemic patient’s diet. Iron is integral in the structure of the hemoglobin. In addition to that, vitamin B and protein are essential in the production of red blood cells and other components of blood.
Fiber-rich. Fiber is one of the eliminators of cholesterol in the human body. Because of this, dandelions help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension because cholesterol is one of the main contributing factors to high blood pressure. Since they are rich in fiber, dandelions are also great aids in digestion, bowel movement, and you can even say weight loss.
Skin care. Dandelion sap, or milk, has known germicidal, insecticidal and fungicidal properties. It is also highly alkaline. This makes it a great addition to anyone’s skin care routine. From treating acne, to bacterial and fungal infections, eczema, and more, dandelion can be your best ally for healthy and beautiful skin.
Stimulant and detoxifier. Dandelion can aid in regulating hormone levels, reducing the risk of acne breakouts in adolescents. As a detoxifier, dandelions can also help improve kidney function, and resolve liver and gallbladder problems.
Herbs have been used to strengthen the body and heal diseases since the time of our ancestors. This has been in practice long before we have developed modern medications. Taking dandelions is generally considered safe. However, there is a small percentage of people who may be allergic to dandelions. If you are allergic to chrysanthemums, chamomile, daisies, marigold, ragweed, yarrow and iodine, you are likely to also be allergic to dandelions. You may develop a rash upon contact, or develop mouth sores upon intake.
How to use dandelions for health
Dandelion herbs and roots come in many forms. They can be dried or fresh. They can be used as tinctures, teas, tablets, capsules and liquid extracts. Actually, every part of the dandelion is edible. There is a wide range of dandelion recipes, from dandelion wines, to salad greens, flower fritters, coffee and tea drinks, and more.
Dandelion greens. These are a great and easy addition to your daily meals. They can be readily purchased at co-ops, health food stores and farmers’ markets. But check out your garden, you will probably find these nutritious treats a-plenty right in your backyard, especially in the spring and early summer months.
If you are foraging, make sure to avoid dandelions in urban and industrial waste areas. Heavy metals like lead and mercury can leak into the soil and contaminate the plant. Also, make sure that the dandelions have not been sprayed with pesticides or insecticides. As much as possible, try to harvest dandelions before the flower head appears. These tend to be less bitter. Choose unblemished dark green leaves. Store your greens in the fridge with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture if you are not planning on consuming them immediately. Dandelion greens have a very short shelf-life and will quickly go bad.
Salad. Like most medicine, dandelion greens do have a bitter taste. Mask it in a fruit smoothie with the strong flavors of strawberries, mangoes, bananas, pineapples or citrus fruits.
Dandelion greens are also low in calorie, so it might be a wise choice for weight watchers. Just add them to your favorite salad mix. If you’re new and unsure what to use, try this combination: finely chopped onion, fresh basil, goat cheese, grape tomatoes, walnuts, apples and/or pears, hardboiled eggs, and of course, your dandelion greens. Choose between olive oil, red wine vinegar, or your favorite salad dressing.
Side dish. If you get older, larger leaves, you may want to try boiling them. This helps reduce the bitterness in the leaves. To do this, boil some water and then drop the leaves. Let them sit for two minutes. Remove the leaves from the water, and repeat. This goes great with butter or heavy cream, a squeeze of lemon juice and you get a delicious side dish.
If you are using young leaves, boiling them once will suffice. Don't throw away the water you just used. It is full of nutrients and you can drink that as tea.
Dandelion greens can be used just like any typical green leafy vegetable. Aside from salads and smoothies, you can also add it in soups and stews.
Flower fritters. Soak the dandelion flowers in water with a dash of salt or baking soda for half an hour. This help remove bugs, dirt, and debris. Drain and blot out excess water. For the batter, mix egg, flour, milk and salt. Heat some oil, dip the flower into the batter and pop it into the pot. Fry until lightly browned. Drain the excess oil, and serve while hot.
Dandelion root makes a nutritious and caffeine-free coffee alternative. All you have to do is clean your dandelion roots thoroughly. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Then, chop the roots into small pieces and place in a cookie sheet. Put them in the oven to dry and roast. Keep the oven door slightly open to let excess moisture escape. Stir the roots frequently to prevent them from burning and to make sure that they roast evenly. This will take approximately two hours. The roots will shrink in size and turn a pleasant brown in color. Set aside to cool, then keep in an airtight container.
One teaspoon of roots make one cup of coffee. To prepare, you can add the roots in a coffee pot or put them in a tea infuser, then just add boiling hot water. Dandelion roots can also be ground for easier preparation. If you love strong, bitter coffee, the dandelion root blend will be perfect for you. But if you’re not a fan of black coffee, add some milk. This helps take away some of the bitterness and adds a creamy texture to your beverage.
Also, check out your local health food stores. This might just save you all the trouble. Dried dandelion roots may also be available there.
The leaves of young dandelion plants, whether fresh or dried, make a strong sharp tea. If you have a selection of leaves, opt for smaller, younger leaves. The bigger ones, you can use for salads and other dishes. All you have to do is pour hot water and you will be able to extract all of the dandelion health benefits. Let it steep for five minutes. Soothing digestive irritations and ailments and relieving constipation are just some of the benefits of dandelion teas.
For dandelion leaf teas, you can even add mint for a refreshing blend.
If strong teas are not to your taste, there’s another option for you. Use dandelion flowers instead. Yes, dandelion flowers make a delicate tea that might suit you better. Collect a handful of flowers, rinse thoroughly to remove undesirables, then pull away the petals from the base of the flower. Place the petals in a teapot, add hot water, and let it steep for three minutes. This particular tea goes well with honey, adding sweetness to its delicate flavor.
Aside from the leaves and the flowers, dandelion roots can also be used as tea. Just make sure to wash them vigorously to remove all of the dirt, and chop the fresh root coarsely. Boil one quart of water in a saucepan. Once it comes to a rolling boil, lower the heat, add two teaspoons of the chopped fresh root, cover the saucepan, and allow the tea to simmer for a minute. After that, remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the root to steep for 40 minutes. Strain as you pour over your mug and enjoy.
If you are looking for something stronger, dandelion wine is the answer. It is available ready-made or if you would like, you can make it yourself.
Here are the ingredients:
- 1 quart yellow dandelion blossoms
- 1 gallon boiling water
- 8 cups white sugar
- 1 pack active dry yeast (0.25 oz)
- 1 lemon slice
- 1 orange, sliced
To make, first bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the dandelion blossoms and allow to stand for four minutes. Afterwards, remove the blossoms and allow the water to cool to 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 32 degrees Celsius.
While stirring, add the sugar, yeast, lemon and orange slices. Pour into a plastic fermentor and attach a lock. Set aside in a cool area. Wait until the bubbles disappear. This could take 10 to 14 days.
Once the bubbles are gone, siphon the wine, then strain through a cheesecloth. Afterwards, you can begin bottling it in quart-sized, sterilized canning jars. To get the full flavor, age the wine for at least one week.
- Dandelions are filled with vitamins A, B, C and D.
- They are also a good source of important minerals like zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.
- You can use dandelions as home remedies or eat them regularly for their health benefits.