Dandelion for Detox, Digestion, and Beyond
Ahh, Spring! You start to survey your yard and are pleased to see the grass greening up, the iris leaves poking up through the ground, and new growth on the trees. But the one thing you may not be pleased to see is dandelions! These plants have gotten a very bad rap due to their fast-growing/fast-spreading nature, a flower that is not often considered beautiful, and the fact that they will pop up in the middle of your lovely grass. But dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) have a surprising number of uses and benefits for health.
Years ago I was taking a class that involved the study of plants and herbs and I created a drawing of the dandelion plant. After researching the plant I was excited to learn that they actually have medicinal properties! Later I proudly shared this newfound information with my Mom, thinking I was opening her eyes to something ground-breaking, but to my surprise she laughed and shared that she knew all about the plant because her Father, my Grandpa used to make dandelion wine! Since then I have looked at dandelions in a whole new delicious light.
Dandelions are actually an incredible source for our bodies in that they are an overall nourishing herb, with uses ranging from detoxification, liver support, digestive aid, and women’s hormone health. And, you can utilize almost the whole plant!
NOTE: dandelions should not be eaten by those with a latex allergy, or an allergy to the aster flower family (asteraceae).
Banish Bloat with Dandelion Leaves
The leaves of a dandelion plant are a diuretic, which means it is a substance that promotes diuresis, the increased production of urine. Diuretics rid the body of excess water, help with water retention, and conditions such as edema (swollen ankles), and reduce bloat in general. Additionally, dandelions support healthy kidney function.
Now, with most diuretic substances, they cause a depletion of potassium in your body. So if you were taking a medication to help with water retention, you would need to be supplementing with potassium as well. But dandelion leaves have potassium already in them, as well as Vitamin E and A and zinc phytosterols, making them a great natural option for the issue of water retention.
An amazing benefit of dandelion leaves is that they are a great hormone regulator for women, especially those experiencing menopause. In fact, I use it in my Transition Time tea which is included in my Menopause Women’s Health Set.
How to use the leaves:
- Use the leaves to make dandelion tea. But only if your yard is clean of pesticides, going back a couple of years to be safe.
- Leaves can be mixed in with a salad. They are bitter; most people prefer to mix them with other greens rather than alone, however if you choose to brave the bitter, add in what we recommend in our Botanical Bites blog Spring Goddess Salad.
- Chop up the leaves and turn into a tincture using apple cider vinegar. Add a touch of honey once it’s complete to create a delectable traditional Irish/Celtic remedy called Honegar.
- Create dandelion bitters to help with digestion, balance the hydrochloric acid production, and regulate pH balance.
It’s best to harvest in the earlier springtime when the leaves are smaller because they are tastier at this point, and do become more bitter as they get larger.
Getting to the Root of it All
Spring is the perfect time to look for dandelions, and you can view them as a spring detox in your life.
Dandelion root is high in polysaccharides, which help to balance out blood sugar levels, making it a great herb for those with diabetes. The root also contains inulin, a soluble plant fiber that helps to regulate blood sugar especially in prediabetic individuals according to studies such as this one by the Nutrition and Dietic Research Group of Imperial College in London. If you are on medication for diabetes, consult with your medical practitioner before taking dandelion root.
Dandelions are an alterative herb. Alterative herbs help to restore the body’s elimation process by supporting the liver, kidneys, and skin. I like to think of these are ‘blood herbs’ as they help to clean the blood of impurities by helping the liver to perform better. Dandelion root helps the liver along so it’s not overworked. Always remember that what you eat goes into your stomach and intestines, and the capillaries associated with villi transfer nutrients into blood, which is then processed by the liver. Bowel problems, IBS, hepatitis, and jaundice are all conditions that my be benefited by dandelion root along with other alteratives, by way of the liver.
Skin conditions such as eczema, and rashes, can also often be related to the blood. Taking alterative herbs like dandelion root may help to clear up skin.
Along with being a liver tonic, dandelion root is also a cholagogue, which helps stimulate the bile production in body and is also responsible for helping to metabolize and break down the unnecessary fats in your body.
How to use the root:
- Chop the root and roast it with burdock, my favorite way is sautéd lightly with olive oil
- As a detoxification remedy, you can use in a tincture or tea. The root can taste quite earthy so I recommend mixing it with licorice root because it’s sweet, and burdock root to balance it out. You could also blend with sarsaparilla, cinnamon bark, or fennel for a rich delicious blend.
- Use as a coffee alternative. ‘Dandy Blend’, sold in health-food stores, is good alternative to caffeinated coffee.
- You can also candy the root just as you do with carrots!
A good way to ensure you are not ingesting pesticides from a local yard, is to harvest dandelions on wild land, the mountains of Colorado, etc. However always be sure to check the regulations of the land management agency whose land you will be visiting to see if harvesting is permitted.
Pick Those Dandelion Flowers – And Eat Them!
As a teacher of mine once said, dandelion flowers are not to be vanquished. Think about what the flower brings to mind. The bright yellow and cheery flowers are like a round sunburst. They are energetically positive and can lift the mood just by shifting your perspective to view them this way.
How to use the flower:
- Pluck the individual petals out and put into salad
- Add the petals in pancake fritters
- Can make a dandelion petal glycerite, and it becomes a tincture
- Dandelion wine! Sorry, my Grandpa’s recipe is a family secret!
If you do not wish to eat the flowers, then try to restrain from pulling them and trashing them as dandelions are very loved by bees!
I hope you now have a different perspective on dandelions and will put them to use as natural health remedies soon.
Check out my Spring Goddess Salad recipe that incorporates dandelion leaves. Happy harvesting!