In the twentieth century, dandelions were a natural medicine, and a food source. People would cultivate them like we grow vegetables today. According to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, “The use of dandelions in the healing arts goes so far back and tracing its history is like trying to catch a dandelion seed as it floats over the grass. For millennia, dandelion tonics have been used to help the body’s filter, the liver, remove toxins from the bloodstream. In olden times, dandelions were prescribed for every ailment from warts to the plague. To this day, herbalists hail the dandelion as the perfect plant medicine: It is a gentle diuretic that provides nutrients and helps the digestive system function at peak efficiency.”
So what do these dandelions do?
Health Benefits of Dandelion
Dandelions are considered to be green like spinach and lettuce. Their ability to heal and nourish the body makes them a plant you want to keep because the health benefits are numerous.
Dandelions are calcium-rich, which is the main element required for the growth of strong, healthy bones. They are also high in antioxidants like Luteolin and Vitamin C, which helps protect the body from loss of bone density and bone weakening (1).
One of the most significant benefits of dandelion is how it nourishes and heals the liver. Dandelion has been shown to improve hepatic function by detoxifying the liver and reestablishing hydration and electrolyte balance. It also increases the production and release of bile
A laboratory study on mice showed the dandelion’s healing ability to slow down the progress of carbon tetrachloride-induced liver fibrosis or scarring.
Dandelion helps stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin and helps regulate blood sugar levels. It is also a natural diuretic, and thus encourages urination. What does this have to do with diabetes? It helps remove excess sugar and salt from the body and reduces sugar build-up in the kidneys. (3).
As mentioned above, dandelions are an excellent natural diuretic, and so they help eliminate toxic build-up in the kidneys and urinary tract. The anti-microbial properties of dandelion also prevent bacterial growth in the urinary system. (4).
Another vital use of dandelion is its powerful effects against cancer. Studies have found that dandelion root extract can be useful in the treatment against leukemia and breast cancer. It acts by inducing apoptosis in leukemia cells while leaving healthy cells alone. It also has a positive impact on cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy.
A 2011 Canadian study found skin cancer cells treated with dandelion root extract started dying up within just 48 hours of treatment. Dandelion root has also been shown to be effective against pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
Thanks to the liver-healing abilities of dandelion, it also helps with jaundice, a disorder of the liver, where it overproduces bile. Dandelion helps regulate bile production, and also promotes urination, helping to get rid of excess bile (5).
Gall Bladder Disorders
Dandelion leaf is great for stimulating a sluggish gallbladder (the organ that stores and excretes bile as the body needs it.
Dandelion contains mucilage and inulin (6), which soothe the digestive tract and make food processing easier. It is also a great source of dietary fiber, which is crucial for proper intestinal health and improving gut flora
The high levels of iron, B-vitamins, and protein in dandelion make it a perfect food to eat if you suffer from anemia or other blood-related disorders. Dandelion is also a natural diuretic, so it helps lower blood pressure by getting rid of excess salt in the body.
Where Do I Get Dandelion?
Picking and processing your dandelions might be an option if you have a yard infested with them. If you don’t have any dandelion in your yard, you can purchase dandelion seeds online and grow a dandelion patch.
Remember the entire dandelion plant is edible, the flower, leaves and even the roots. Dandelion is also available in some grocery stores.
When harvesting dandelion, you want to try and pick the youngest leaves, located on the inside of the growth. The oldest (and bitterest) leaves will always be on the outside. The best greens from the dandelion plant often come before the plant has produced its yellow flowers.
To harvest the leaves dig them out of the ground and collect them in a basket. They’ll keep for a couple of days in the fridge, but the fresher, the better.
There is also a crown called the dandelion crown. The crowns are the densely packed circle of small leaves that are just about to produce a yellow flower. The crowns are the sweetest tasting part of the plant. Pick them before the plant has had a chance to flower. Store the dandelion crowns in the fridge, or dehydrate them for 1-2 days at 115ºF in a dehydrator and then stored in a closed jar.
You can harvest the dandelion flower as well. Try to separate the flower from the green base. You can store the flowers in the fridge, or you can dehydrate them in a dehydrator at 115ºF for 1-2 days until they are completely dried out. Once dried, you can store them in a mason jar and make tea with them throughout the winter months.