Most people immediately look at dandelion and think “weed”. If you are one of the people who look at dandelion that way I think the information in this article may come as a surprise. This hardy little plant is an incredible powerhouse of nutrition and healing for our bodies. Early Spring is the perfect time to get out and harvest some dandelion flowers to use later for balms or infused oil. It’s also the perfect time to gather the young leaves to use in salads or stir-fry. The leaves aren’t nearly as bitter when they are young. However, you might want to wait until later in the summer, or even early fall, to harvest the roots so they will have a full growing season.
Dandelion Is Edible
The fact that the entire dandelion plant is edible comes as a surprise for most people. How could this plant that gardeners and lawn enthusiasts love to hate be good for you?
First, the plant is loaded with essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best. That means we can get large amounts of the daily requirements of essential vitamins such as B-complex vitamins, Vitamin C, and even some Vitamin D, E, and K. It is also a rich source of beta-carotene, which is usually associated with carrots. Our bodies convert the beta-carotene into Vitamin A.
Dandelion plants are also rich in other essential nutrients your body needs. It has more protein per serving than spinach. It contains essential minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. It contains folate, thiamine, riboflavin, and manganese too.
Gathering & Eating Dandelion
Before you can use this plant in your natural diet you have to gather the parts of the plant you wish to consume. As I stated, the entire plant is edible. However, there are some caveats to consider. For instance, the leaves become bitter as they get larger and older. You will want to gather the young leaves, especially if you plan to use them raw, such as in a salad.
Another consideration is to assure that you gather your wild edibles from areas that you are sure haven’t been treated with herbicides or other chemicals. You don’t want to put harmful chemicals in your body as you are trying to eat healthy natural foods that you gather. So although they can be found virtually everywhere, you should be careful about where you decide to harvest them from.
Always remember to harvest them sustainably. Although they are very prolific, don’t take every plant in an area for use. Allow some to go to seed to assure a bountiful harvest in the future. Early in the Spring be sure and leave some flowers for the bees. Dandelions are an important source of pollen for bees in early spring.
Parts Of Dandelion & Their Use
All parts of the dandelion plant are edible. Let’s look at some ways to gather and use this amazing gift from nature.
Most people recognize the yellow flowers of dandelion as soon as they see them. The flowers can be used raw to brighten up a salad and add a splash of color. They can also be lightly battered and fried individually or in dandelion fritters. The flowers can also be used to make a delightful dandelion syrup, which is also commonly called dandelion honey. Use the flowers to make jelly or jam for a sweet treat at breakfast.
You can use the flowers to make an infused vinegar that is subtly sweet and bitter at the same time. You can also infuse olive oil with the flowers to create a unique cooking oil. Infuse a carrier oil, like sweet almond oil, to make an anti-inflammatory and pain relieving massage oil or balm. Read more about making dandelion pain balm in this article.
The flowers are also used to create refreshing beverages such as mead, wine, and beer.
Gather the leaves of the plant when they are young and small. As they get older they become bitter.
Wash completely and let dry. At that point, they can be cooked like any other green or used in salads. Use the infused vinegar you created as a dressing for a healthy and tasty dandelion salad. You can also try them sautéed with a small amount of olive oil, garlic, and a dash of lemon (or use fresh leaves from lemon balm as a substitute for lemon juice).
Leaves can also be dried and used to make dandelion tea. The flowers will just go to seed if you try to dry them, so I freeze them for later use. But the leaves can be dried and used as they are, or combined with other teas like Black Tea to create a unique blend.
The roots of the dandelion can be eaten. Be sure to wash them thoroughly, then you can roast them to be used to make tea or a suitable caffeine-free coffee substitute. They can also be used to create a dandelion root tea to help with fluid retention as well as liver and gall bladder function. More on that below in the medicinal uses section.
I found this article online which gives you 50+ Dandelion recipes to try.
Besides the ability to use the whole plant for consumption, the entire plant is also used in herbal medicine. One such use is in my Dandelion Flower Muscle/Joint Pain Balm. Since the plant contains analgesic compounds it is great for relieving the pain of tired sore muscles or joint pain in such conditions as arthritis.
It has mild diuretic properties that help to flush out excess fluids from your body as well as flushing the kidneys to help remove excess salt, wastes, and water. It can also help to inhibit bacterial growth in the urinary tract to help prevent urinary tract infections.
Eating dandelion can also help with digestion and waste elimination from the digestive tract. It adds bulk plant fiber and also acts as a mild laxative to help with bowel regularity. It can also help to promote the balance of good bacteria in the gut. Recent studies indicate that up to 80% of our immune response begins with the good bacteria in our digestive system.
Dandelion For Liver & Gall Bladder
Consuming dandelion has been a traditional healing use for centuries to help treat liver and gall bladder problems. It is said to help detoxify the liver and help promote the excretion of bile. This can help maintain gall bladder health. The anti-inflammatory properties can also help decrease inflammation of the liver and gall bladder.
It contains high levels of antioxidants which can help prevent the damage to your body from oxygen free radicals that can result in skin and cellular damage. It has also been shown to increase the production of an enzyme in the liver which is responsible for speeding up the process of breaking down superoxide byproduct.
Helps Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
Dandelion has been shown in studies to help regulate blood sugar by stimulating the pancreas to produce insulin. It is also believed to regulate blood sugar levels by controlling lipid levels in the body.
Helpful For Hypertension
The diuretic properties of dandelion can help to regulate fluid levels in the body and remove excess fluid and salt. If you remember your high school chemistry you will remember that water follows salt. If it controls and helps eliminate sodium levels in the bloodstream and helps remove excess sodium, it follows that blood pressure will decrease as excess fluid is eliminated.
Recent studies seem to indicate that many of the disease processes humans face are intimately related to chronic inflammation. It stands to reason that any foods that help to fight that inflammation in the body would be helpful to combat diseases. Dandelion plants are loaded with anti-inflammatory compounds which can help lower inflammation in the body. The Dandelion Flower Muscle/Joint Pain Balm mentioned above is one such DIY product that utilizes the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of this amazing “weed”.
Although dandelion is considered generally safe for use as food and at medicinal dosages, some precautions still apply.
If you are allergic to plants such as daisy, chamomile, ragweed, etc. you should be cautious if you decide to use dandelion. Some people are allergic to the white latex that is contained in the stem of the plant as well. Although this is a small number of people, you should always begin slowly when you start using edible or medicinal plants until you see how your body will react.
Those taking prescription medications, especially medications to treat diabetes, blood pressure, antidepressants, or antipsychotic medications should avoid using entirely, or speak to your doctor or health care professional before use. Women who are nursing or pregnant should avoid using it because there are no studies showing the effects on the fetus or its concentration in breast milk.
Now that you know the benefits of this amazing plant that is a nutritional and medicinal powerhouse, you may look at it not as a weed, but a miracle of nature.
For more information about other wild medicinal plants and essential oils you can visit our list of articles.
Disclaimer: This article should not be construed as medical advice. The health information in this article is not intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise a cure for any medical condition. Consult with your health care professional before considering any natural supplement or plant remedy for your health and wellness. We assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using manufactured or natural medications.