The common dandelion is more than just a pesky weed, it is a nutrient filled plant that offers many healthy benefits when consumed. Dandelions are one of the best plant sources of beta-carotene and vitamin A and are also rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, protein, potassium, fiber, thiamine, riboflavin and vitamins C, K and H. As a result of this nutritional bounty, there are many dandelion benefits, but the plant has been used primarily as a natural diuretic and anti inflammatory as well as a liver detoxifier. In fact, the dandelion’s scientific name is taraxacum officinale or “the official remedy for disorders.”
The dandelion is a common weed with a distinctive yellow or orange flowering head. Its buds and leaves are ingredients used in traditional Sephardic and Asian cuisine and can also be used to make dandelion wine and dandelion coffee and tea.
Complementary, traditional and natural medicine practitioners as well as herbalists value the dandelion for all its medicinal and culinary uses. The roots and leaves are commonly given to patients with liver problems as well as kidney and gallbladder disease to improve the function of these organs. Additionally, the leaves can also have the effect of a diuretic or urine stimulant and can help regulate an individual’s level of blood sugar.
Additional dandelion benefits include appetite stimulation, ease of urinary tract infection, weight loss aid, and relief from herpes, genital warts, water retention and swelling. Since any herbal or dietary supplement can produce unforeseen side effects or interactions with other medications, a medical professional should be consulted prior to ingesting dandelion.
To gain dandelion benefits, the plant can be ingested in several ways including fresh or dried, tinctures, teas and coffees, wine, beer, tablets or capsules and liquid extract. Dried dandelion leaf or root steeped in hot water will brew an infusion or decoction, respectively. Young dandelion leaves can be consumed raw or soaked in salt water brine for approximately 30 minutes and steamed like spinach. The root should be dried and then ground before using as a coffee or tea substitute and there are many recipes for dandelion wine.
In addition to humans, dandelion benefits extend to other plants as well. The plant’s tap root helps loosen hard soil and excavate nutrients from deep within the ground so that other plants with shallow roots can benefit. Dandelion benefits also include acting as a protection against armyworm infestation and serving as an important source of pollen and nectar for honeybees early in the growing season. As a result, dandelions can be considered beneficial weeds.