Botanical name: Taraxacum officinale
Common name: Dandelion

Family: Compositae

Parts used: Young leaves, flowers, and roots in some varieties

Native Region: Historically, it is believed to evolve in Eurasia. The first Does not occur at all in the Southern Hemisphere, but is at home in all parts of the north temperate zone, in pastures, meadows and on waste ground. [1]

Botanical Description: The dandelion is a readily identifiable, perennial weed. It has a rosette base producing several flowering stems and multiple leaves. The flowerhead has about 150 to 200 yellow ray florets and no disk florets, spreading outward from the center. At the base fo the flowerhead, there are inner and outer green bracts. The inner bracts are linear or linear-lanceolate, appressed together to form a cylindrical tube around the ovaries of the flowerhead. This tiny tube is nearly half full of nectar, providing the incentive for the visits of many bees. The outer bracts are linear-lanceolate and sharply curve downward. Flowers are produced sporadically from early spring to late autumn. The blooms are very sensitive to weather conditions: in fine weather all the parts are outstretched; if rain threatens, the flower heads close up at once. It closes against the dews of night and opens again on the sunny morning. [1] Dandelions have toothy, deeply notched, basal leaves that are hairless. They are 5-25cm or longer, forming a rosette around a central tap root. Depending on conditions, they can grow 25-30 cm tall. [2] The shining, purplish flower-stalks rise straight from the root, are leafless, smooth and hollow and bear single heads of flowers. On picking the flowers, a bitter, milky juice exudes from the broken edges of the stem, which is present throughout the plant, and which when it comes into contact with the hand, turns to a brown stain that is rather difficult to remove. When the flower head has matured, all the florets close up again within the green bracts. Then one day, all those shriveled petals will be pushed off in a bunch to reveal a gossamer head of seeds crowned with their tufts of hair, ready to blow off when ripe with the slightest breeze or the puff of breath of a happy child. [1]

Growing: Dandelions are considered a pesky weed in Canada and the United States, yet European and Asian nations have benefited for years from the nutritional value contained in this weed. [2] Dandelion can be grown for the root. If planted about a foot apart, in deep soil, free from stones, the plant should develop roots worth collecting. They can be collected by ploughing the field. During the growing season, the crops should be kept clean of other weeds, all flowerhead should be picked off as soon as they appear. Collect second year roots. [1]

Harvesting: Dandelion leaves should be harvested while young, older leaves are too bitter to eat. Flowers can be harvested all season. Roots of second year old plants should be harvested in October after all the nutrients have been stored. Roots collected at this time will dry with a firm appearance compared to roots harvested in spring, which will dry shriveled and porous – and worthless for sale. The young leaves make an agreeable and wholesome addition to spring salads. Tear the leaves, don’t cut them, to keep the flavor.

Culinary Uses: In addition to using the young leaves in spring salads, the dandelion can be blanched in the same way as endive, and is then very delicate in flavor. The young leaves may also be boiled as a vegetable, spinach fashion, thoroughly drained, sprinkled with pepper and salt, moistened with soup or butter and served very hot. If considered a little too bitter, use half spinach, but the Dandelion must be partly cooked first in this case, as it takes longer than spinach. As a variation, some grated nutmeg or garlic, a teaspoonful of chopped onion or grated lemon peel can be added to the greens when they are cooked. A simple vegetable soup may also be made with Dandelions. The dried Dandelion leaves are also employed as an ingredient in many digestive or diet drinks and herb beers. Dandelion Beer is a rustic fermented drink common in many parts of the country and made also in Canada. Workmen in the furnaces and potteries of the industrial towns of the Midlands have frequent resource to many of the tonic Herb Beers, finding them cheaper and less intoxicating than ordinary beer, and Dandelion stout ranks as a favorite. An agreeable and wholesome fermented drink is made from Dandelions, Nettles and Yellow Dock.
The flowers are used in the preparation of a beverage known as Dandelion Wine. This is made by pouring a gallon of boiling water over a gallon of the flowers. After being well stirred, it is covered with a blanket and allowed to stand for three days, being stirred again at intervals, after which it is strained and the liquor boiled for 30 minutes, with the addition of 3 1/2 lb. of loaf sugar, a little ginger sliced, the rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon sliced. When cold, a little yeast is placed in it on a piece of toast, producing fermentation. It is then covered over and allowed to stand two days until it has ceased ‘working,’ when it is placed in a cask, well bunged down for two months before bottling. This wine is suggestive of sherry slightly flat, and has the deserved reputation of being an excellent tonic, extremely good for the blood.
The roasted roots are largely used to form Dandelion Coffee, being first thoroughly cleaned, then dried by artificial heat, and slightly roasted till they are the tint of coffee, when they are ground ready for use. The roots are taken up in the autumn, being then most fitted for this purpose. The prepared powder is said to be almost indistinguishable from real coffee, and is claimed to be an improvement to inferior coffee, which is often an adulterated product. Dandelion Coffee is a natural beverage without any of the injurious effects that ordinary tea and coffee have on the nerves and digestive organs. It exercises a stimulating influence over the whole system, helping the liver and kidneys to do their work and keeping the bowels in a healthy condition, so that it offers great advantages to dyspeptics and does not cause wakefulness. [1]

Medicinal Uses: Dandelions are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and it even has antioxidants. For example, one cup of raw dandelion greens contains 112% of your daily required intake of vitamin A and 535% of vitamin K. In addition, it is rich in Vitamin C, iron, and calcium, and detoxifiers, which explains its frequent use in medicines. The common yellow dandelion has a long list of powerful healing abilities as well as other health benefits. Contrary to popular belief, the dandelion is a beneficial plant to have. It’s a great companion plant for gardening because it’s long taproot brings up nutrients to the shallow-rooting plants in the garden adding minerals and nitrogen to the soil. Dandelions attract pollinating insects which helps fruits to ripen. [2]
Current research is underway that suggests a variety of health benefits including: [3]
Improves Bone Health – Dandelion is rich [1] in calcium, which is essential for the growth and strength of bones. It is also rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and luteolin, which protect bones from age-related damage. This inevitable impairment is often due to free radicals and is frequently seen as bone frailty, weakness, and decreased density.

Treats Liver Disorders

Dandelion can help the liver in many ways. While the antioxidants like vitamin C and luteolin keep the liver functioning in optimal gear and protect it from aging, other compounds in dandelion help treat hemorrhaging in the liver. Furthermore, dandelion aids in maintaining the proper flow of bile, while also stimulating the liver and promoting digestion. Proper digestion can reduce the chances of constipation, which in turn reduces the risk of serious gastrointestinal issues.
Controls Diabetes

Dandelion juice can help diabetics by stimulating [3] the production of insulin from the pancreas, thereby keeping the blood sugar level low. Since dandelions are diuretic in nature, they increase urination in diabetic patients, which helps remove excess sugar from the body. Diabetics are also prone to renal problems, so the diuretic properties of dandelion can help in removing the sugar deposition in the kidneys through increased urination. Furthermore, the dandelion juice is slightly bitter to taste, which effectively lowers the sugar level in the blood, as all bitter substances do. Consistently lower blood sugar and a regulated insulin release prevents dangerous spikes and plunges in diabetics, so dandelion extracts can be a perfect solution!
Treats Urinary Disorders

Dandelions are highly [4] diuretic in nature, so they help eliminate deposits of toxic substances in the kidneys and the urinary tract. The disinfectant properties of dandelions also inhibit microbial growth in the urinary system. In fact, the diuretic properties of dandelions are so strong that in France, the flower is also called “pissenlit” which means “urinate in bed”.

Skin Care

Dandelion sap, also known as dandelion milk, is useful in treating skin diseases which are caused [5] by microbial and fungal infections. This treatment stems from the fact that the sap is highly alkaline and has germicidal, insecticidal, and fungicidal properties. You should be careful while using this sap and avoid any contact with the eyes. This sap can be used on itches, ringworm, eczema, and other skin conditions without the risk of side effects or hormonal disturbances commonly caused by pharmaceutical skin treatments.
Prevents Acne

Dandelion juice is a good detoxifier, diuretic, stimulant, and antioxidant. These four properties make it a great treatment for acne. Before we know how it treats acne, we must know what causes it. Acne typically arises during the teenage years, when the body undergoes many physiological and hormonal changes. The flood of new hormones that bring about the changes in the body must be regulated, but if they don’t remain at a healthy ratio, they tend to deposit somewhat toxic substances into the body. These toxins tend to come out along with sweat through the sweat glands or sebaceous glands on the skin.

During these hormonal changes, these glands secrete more oils which, when mixed with dead skin, block the pores and the secretion of toxins is obstructed. Therefore, the toxic substances cannot escape and eventually result in acne. This situation is exacerbated by the microbial infections in the affected places. Dandelion juice, being a stimulant, diuretic, and detoxifier by nature, can help regulate proper secretion of hormones, increase sweating, and widen the pores. All of these factors help facilitate the removal of toxins through sweat and urine. Furthermore, dandelion sap, if externally applied to areas with acne, can inhibit microbial infection and reduce the signs of acne.Also, it can speed up healing due to its vitamin C content, so the scars and ugly red inflammation that traditionally follow acne treatment will be less noticeable.

Weight Loss

Our urine consists of up to 4% fat, so the more we urinate, the more water and fats are lost from the body. Dandelions, being diuretic in nature, promote urination and thereby help in losing the dreaded “water weight” without causing any side effects. Furthermore, dandelions are low in calories, like most leafy greens, but for the small expense  of calories (~100 cal. /4 cups), you get a huge amount of beneficial side effects. This is also why dandelions are sometimes used as sweeteners because they are not packed with unhealthy sugars.
Prevents Cancer

Dandelions are high in antioxidants, such as vitamin C and luteolin, which reduce free radicals (major cancer-causing agents) in the body, thereby reducing the risk of cancer. Vitamin C also detoxifies the body, which further protects from the development of tumors and various cancers. Luteolin poisons essential components of cancer cells when it binds to them, rendering them ineffective and unable to reproduce. This Treats Jaundice

Jaundice is primarily a disorder of the liver in which the organ starts overproducing bile, which ultimately enters the bloodstream and wreaks havoc on the body’s metabolism. The excess bile is also reflected through the color of the skin and eyes, which typically develops a yellow tint. The treatment of jaundice includes three main steps. First, you need to curb the production of bile. Second, you must remove the excess bile from the body, and third, you have to fight the underlying viral infection.

Dandelions are very helpful in all of these steps. They promote liver health and regulate bile production. Being diuretic in nature, they promote urination, where the excess bile can be eliminated. Finally, as an antioxidant and disinfectant due to the presence of vitamin C and luteolin, dandelions fight viral infections as well. They are the most beneficial when taken with sugarcane juice since they replace the sugar in the body, which is significantly lowered due to the impact of excess bile. A lack of sugar can cause extreme fatigue and weakness, so dandelions help boost your energy levels after infection.

Prevents Gall Bladder Disorders

Dandelions are very beneficial [10] for the gallbladder and liver, because they improve their general functioning, protect them from ill effects of oxidants and infections, and regulate the various secretions from both organs.

Cures Constipation

The high levels of dietary fiber make dandelion a beneficial aid for digestion and proper intestinal health. Dietary fiber stimulates healthy bowel movements by adding bulk to stool and also reduces chances of constipation and diarrhea. It regulates bowel movements, which can prevent serious gastrointestinal issues. It is commonly prescribed for children who are experiencing constipation, as it is relatively soothing on the stomach. It has also been used to stimulate the appetite, particularly following trauma or surgery.

Prevents Anemia

Dandelions have relatively good levels of iron, vitamins, and protein content. While iron is an integral part of hemoglobin in the blood, vitamin B and protein are essential for the formation of red blood cells and certain other components of the blood. This way dandelion can help anemic people keep their condition in check.

Regulates Blood Pressure

Urination is an effective way of lowering blood pressure. In fact, most of the modern medicines for lowering blood pressure are based on this phenomenon. Dandelion juice, being diuretic in nature, increases urination, both in quantity and frequency. Therefore, it helps to lower high blood pressure. The fiber in dandelion is also helpful in reducing cholesterol and thereby assists in lowering blood pressure since cholesterol is one of the factors that increase blood pressure. Finally, there is a high potassium content in dandelions, which is very effective in lowering blood pressure by replacing sodium.

The Value of Bitters
Dandelion leaf is bitter – a flavor we need more of in our diet. Once you include bitter foods, you will notice how much more robust your digestion is. The bitter taste increases the flow of saliva which contains antibacterial substances and enzymes that support the breakdown of your food. It also stimulates digestive secretions throughout the digestive tract and enhances the strength of peristalsis and stimulates the flow of stomach secretions and other helpful digestive substances. [4]

 Recipes  

Try mincing 4 or 5 fresh dandelion leaves into your salads. Cut the leaves into very small pieces and mix them in with the rest of your salad or cooked greens.

Farmers Almanac posted a dandelion pesto recipe

Learning Herbs shared this recipe for dandelion tea:

Roasted Root Tea
Simmer 1 tablespoon roasted dandelion roots in 1½ cups water for 20 minutes. Strain. Add honey and/or cream as desired. Purchasing roasted roots is a great introduction to using this safe and nourishing herb. Do not gather wild-harvested herbs until you know how to 100% identify and harvest the plant you want.

Edible Wild Foods includes recipe links for a variety of ways you can enjoy dandelions:

Baked Dandelion, Belgium Wild Beer, Burdock Tonic Tea, Chicken Weed Wrap, Dandelion Banana Bread , Dandelion Fritters, Dandelion Syrup, Dandelion Vinegar, Dandy Muffin Tops, Dandy Pasta, Herbal Shampoo, Leek and Nettle Soup, Nettle Mustard Pesto, Sesame and Wilted Green Saute, Wild Pizza

References

1. https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/dandel08.html

2. http://www.ediblewildfood.com/dandelion.aspx

3. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/health-benefits-of-dandelion.html

4. http://livingawareness.com/eat-dandelion-greens/

Billie Nicholson, Editor
April 2018

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