Some people think dandelion is nothing but a pesky weed that can ruin a perfectly groomed garden, while others consider it one of the most useful gifts from nature. However, it seems to grow in undesirable places as previously mentioned. Here Dr. Joseph Mercola, Mercola.com, reflects on the many health benefits of the weed know as dandelion:
“Dandelion is well-known as a sturdy, prolific weed that often grows unwanted in gardens, lawns, fields and playgrounds, but it’s actually an herb that has many benefits. From the dandelion leaves and roots to its stems and flowers, every part of this plant is useful. Read on to find out more about the benefits of dandelion herb and the ways you can use it to your health’s advantage.
What is Dandelion?
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is an herbaceous perennial that belongs to the Asteraceae family of plants,1 along with daises and sunflowers.2 Native to Europe, dandelion seeds were brought by American colonists to America, where they were initially planted for culinary and therapeutic use. They have since spread far and wide.3
There are many plants that look similar to dandelion, such as cat’s ear and false dandelion. If you’re planning to use this herb, it’s important to be able to tell it apart from its lookalikes. Known for its bright yellow blossoms, dandelion also has smooth, deeply toothed leaves and hollow stems that neither branch out nor produce multiple flowers.4
According to The Spruce Eats, the teeth of dandelion leaves “point back toward the center of the basal rosette,” unlike its plant lookalikes whose teeth “point forward, out and away from the center of the plant.”5 Its leaves also protect it against being pulled out, making it harder for you to extract dandelions when they grow in areas where you don’t want them.6
Dandelion is a resilient plant that can grow in any kind of soil, regardless of drainage or exposure to sunlight. To keep it from sowing itself and taking over your garden, it’s recommended that you harvest it regularly.7
Dandelion Root’s Benefits and Uses
Dandelion has a dark brown, fleshy and brittle taproot that is 2 to 3 centimeters (approximately 1 inch) wide and at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) long. Although dandelion root is available all year-round, it’s best to harvest it before it seeds, preferably during early spring or late fall, since this is when it has higher amounts of nutrients.8
According to the Journal of the Society for Biomedical Diabetes Research, dandelion root contains carotenoids, minerals, vitamins and various bioactive components, including sesquiterpene lactones, chlorogenic acid (CGA) and chicoric acid (CRA), to name a few.9 These compounds contribute to dandelion root’s medicinal properties, which include:10,11,12
Dandelion root can be roasted, ground and used as a coffee substitute. When used as a vegetable, it has a mild flavor that some may find uninteresting.13 Dried dandelion root is also used to make dandelion root tea.1
Dandelion Uses for Your Home and Health
Different parts of the dandelion plant can be used as:
1. Food ingredients — Besides consuming dandelion root as a vegetable or using it to make coffee and tea, you can use the leaves of this plant like any leafy green. Dandelion greens have a fresh and slightly bitter flavor, making them a good substitute for spinach. However, their taste can become overpowering as the weather becomes warmer. If they’re too bitter for your taste, you can blanch the leaves to make them more palatable.
Unopened dandelion flowers can also be pickled, boiled or eaten raw in salads. Open flowers, on the other hand, can be used to make wine, jelly, cookies and bread. Be sure to remove the calyces at their base before adding the flowers to your food, as they taste bitter.15
2. Infused oils — You can make infused dandelion oil from the plant’s flowers and use it topically to help relieve muscle pain. You can also use it to make a salve or balm, which can be scented by blending it with other essential oils like lavender.16
3. Ornamental plants — While many gardeners would eradicate dandelions before they spread, this ornamental plant can be a good addition to your flower or herb garden if you want a splash of cheerful, bright yellow color. Just be sure to harvest it regularly to keep it under control.17
You’ll also play a part in protecting nature by letting some dandelions grow in your garden. According to The Guardian, dandelions are an “easily available source of food” for pollinators, including bees, hoverflies, butterflies, beetles and even birds.18
4. Fertilizer — If you harvested more dandelions than you can use, don’t throw the excess out just yet. Instead, use them as an herbal fertilizer. They contain micronutrients that can enrich your garden’s soil.19
16 Dandelion Benefits You Should Know About
Dandelion has a long history of medicinal use, particularly in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as well as traditional Arabic, Indian and Russian medical systems.20,21 This herb may be beneficial for your well-being by helping to:
1. Fight free radicals — Studies have shown that dandelion extract contains phenolic components that may help inhibit oxidative damage.22,23,24
2. Reduce the risk for cancer — According to a study published in the journal Oncotarget, aqueous dandelion root extract may be a safe and effective alternative to chemotherapies, as it “efficiently and selectively triggers programmed cell death pathways.”25
3. Lower cholesterol levels — An animal study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences evaluated the potential hypolipidemic properties of dandelion root and leaf extract. Researchers found that it may help improve levels of high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) while reducing serum total cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol).26
4. Reduce the risk for Type 2 diabetes — According to a study published in the Journal of the Society for Biomedical Diabetes Research, the bioactive components in dandelion, which includes sesquiterpene lactones, taraxasterol (TS), taraxerol, CGA and CRA, may have potential antidiabetic actions.27″
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