Dandelion – A Backyard Herb with Many Benefits
Did you know you’ve probably pulled, stomped or sprayed a natural superfood that grows in your backyard? Dandelion is mostly known as a backyard weed, but it has amazing nutrient qualities and health promoting properties.
All the parts of the plant can be used in various ways though the roots and leaves are the most commonly used as herbs. Who knew that this plant with puffy flowers that grant childhood wishes could offer so much benefit?
Dandelion Root and Leaves
Dandelion is a source of a variety of nutrients and the leaves and root contain Vitamins (like A, C, K and B-vitamins) as well as minerals (including magnesium, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium and choline). The various parts of the plant have a long history of use as an herbal remedy, and every documented population in areas where it grows naturally has used it medicinally.
It also serves as an abundant natural food source, as all parts of the plant can be eaten. The root is often roasted and used in teas or consumed whole. The leaves make a great addition to salads or other dishes requiring greens and the flowers (while still yellow), can be eaten raw, cooked or even made into wine!
Traditional cultures have used dandelion to support digestive and hormone health and it was often consumed to support lactation or to help remedy issues like urinary tract infections.
Benefits of Dandelion
According to the How To Herb Book, this backyard superfood is beneficial in many ways, including:
Liver Support and Detoxification
Dandelion has been used for years by various cultures to support healthy liver function and natural detoxification in the body. Though it hasn’t been well studied, many people with hepatitis turn to it to help support the liver. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that:
In the past, roots and leaves were used to treat liver problems. Native Americans also boiled dandelion in water and took it to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and upset stomach. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it has been used to treat stomach problems, appendicitis, and breast problems, such as inflammation or lack of milk flow. In Europe, dandelion was used in remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.
Personal Note: Was just reading an article about Nick Polizzi’s 3 favorite herbs and dandelion made the list. Here’s part of what he wrote:
Its common name is a corruption of the French “Dent de Lion” or “lions tooth” – a reference to its jagged, toothlike leaves.
My friend and wild food expert, Daniel Vitalis, says that the herbs that our body needs the most tend to grow within a mile of us, just another way that mother earth looks out for her children.
To put it simply, dandelions are your liver’s best friend. Yes, your liver, the second largest organ in your body, which among many other duties serves as your body’s filter. If you have been eating “naughtily” and feel as though you have gunkily guk (my own scientific term) built up inside of you, the first course of action is to a) change your diet and b) nurture your liver so that it can process the toxins you’ve ingested and safely remove them from your system.
The best liver cleanser I know of is freshly brewed dandelion root tea. And I’m not alone in this theory. Folk healers and doctors were prescribing this long before our time. Another delicious way to promote liver health is to add dandelion greens to salads or sauté them alongside your protein.
Female Health and Hormone Balance
Due to its high levels of various nutrients and potential ability to help support the body’s natural detoxification systems, dandelion is often used by those with hormone imbalance, urinary infection and recurrent mastitis. Though not well studied, there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence from women who have used it to help remedy recurring UTIs or other infections.
Due to its natural magnesium and zinc content and its potential ability to support detoxification, dandelion is also know as being good for the skin. It can be used topically in applications like tinctures and poultices and many people also take it in capsule or tea form to help support healthy skin.
Good Source of Nutrients
Dandelion is a great source of many important vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants and nutritive salts, which may help support blood health and increase iron absorption. I personally often add dried leaves to teas for a nutrient boost or use dandelion root in place of coffee.
Blood Sugar Balance
The University of Maryland Medical Center also reports that:
Preliminary animal studies suggest that dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and lower total cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL (good) cholesterol in diabetic mice. Researchers need to see if dandelion will work in people. A few animal studies also suggest that dandelion might help fight inflammation.
Uses of Dandelion Root and Leaves
Perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to remove this “backyard weed” if we were more familiar with the myriad of uses it has. The entire dandelion plant can be used and if you have a safe (non-sprayed) source in your yard or community, you can consider harvesting it yourself.
Here are some of the ways to use dandelion:
Dandelion root is tougher and more hardy than the leaf and is often used in decoctions and tinctures for this reason. The powder is often added in coffee substitutes (my favorite is Dandy Blend). The root is considered a natural diuretic and is sometimes used for this purpose.
Dandelion root and leaf are often listed as the ingredients of teas and poultices for abscesses and sores, especially on the breast and in female health remedies as they can help support lactation and remedy urinary issues.
According to Mountain Rose Herbs:
Chopped dandelion root can be combined with myrrh to make a poultice for boils and abscesses, with honeysuckle flowers to make a tea to be drunk to treat boils and abscesses, with skullcap and/or chrysanthemum flowers to make a tea to be drunk to treat sore eyes, or with heal-all to treat hard phlegm in bronchitis. Can also be administered in capsule or extract form for convenience.
The flower can be used to make tea and even to make some types of wine. The leaves and root can also be used in teas, though they have a stronger taste and are often combined with other synergistic herbs for flavor and increased nutrient absorption.
Salads and Greens
The leaves can be consumed fresh on a salad or in recipes as well as substituted for greens like kale and collards in recipes or cooking. The antioxidant rich leaves are the most diuretic part of the plant so while they can be consumed regularly, it is important to maintain hydration too.
It is important to check with a doctor before taking this or any herb, especially in large amounts or if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Though it is generally considered safe, those allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine may not be able to consume it.
Anyone who gathers dandelion from wild sources (like the backyard) should make sure that the area has not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides and that it does not come from an area where pets may have eliminated.
And here’s more about how this powerhouse “weed” fights cancer……
A so-called “weed” growing right in your front and back yards could hold the key to being the most effective cancer-fighting compound in the world.
Previous research, as well as recent research from the University of Windsor in Canada, has found that dandelion root may be especially effective in treating and defeating cancer, and much more so than immune system-destroying chemotherapy.
As noted by the university in a press release, researchers are so sure that they have finally developed the correct dosage of the extract, that they are preparing clinical trials using a specially formulated dandelion tea.
Research director and biochemist Dr. Siyaram Pandey, Ph.D., of the University of Windsor, along with his fellow researchers, have shown successfully in the lab how the dandelion root extract causes cancer cells to go through apoptosis, or cell suicide, while leaving healthy cells intact.
“This is fantastic news,” Pandey said. “We’ve been waiting for this announcement for a long time and now it is real.”
The February 2015 announcement has special meaning for a project that was dedicated to the memory of Kevin Couvillon, who lost a three-year battle with acute myeloid leukemia in November 2010, the university said.
Destroying cancer cells within two days
The following year, his parents, Dave and Donna Couvillon, made a large contribution to Dr. Pandey’s research on natural extracts and potential cancer treatments.
“We strongly feel that Kevin would want us to continue to fight against cancer so that others would be spared such a cruel fate,” said Donna Couvillon. “Natural medicine allows one’s own immune system to be part of healing process and we wholeheartedly support this endeavour and the excellent research done by this team.”
The university press release stated further:
The dandelion root formula in use in the Pandey lab is about five times more concentrated than the extract that can be purchased over the counter and has been proven to kill leukemia, melanoma and pancreatic cancer cells in lab mice.
Caroline Hamm, an oncologist at the Windsor Regional Cancer Center, made an application to Health Canada in 2012 to proceed to human clinical trials
“This is huge, such a big. accomplishment,” says Dave Couvillon. “To see it happening is the first step and now we need to keep our fingers crossed that they get the right kind of results and we’re confident they will.”
The website Healthy Solutions reported last month that the trials found that cancer cells were destroyed within 48 hours.
From the University of Windsor’s Dandelion Root Project website:
Since the commencement of this project, we have been able to successfully assess the effect of a simple water extract of dandelion root in various human cancer cell types, in the lab and we have observed its effectiveness against human T cell leukemia, chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, pancreatic and colon cancers, with no toxicity to non-cancer cells. Furthermore, these efficacy studies have been confirmed in animal models (mice) that have been transplanted with human colon cancer cells.
Additional health benefits
Clinical trials were opened to 30 patients, all of whom had already exhausted all other cancer treatment options.
As we have reported, dandelions have other health benefits as well:
The dandelion greens contain extremely important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin C, iron, calcium, potassium, folate, magnesium and manganese. They may contribute up to 535% of the suggested daily intake of vitamin K, not to mention over 110% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. It is believed that some of its flavonoids such as zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin have specific healing properties. Zeaxanthin seems to provide protection for the retina when confronted by the sun’s UV rays, while cryptoxanthin can potentially defend the body against the development of mouth and lung cancer cells.
For more on dandelion’s cancer-killing properties go here.
A short excerpt from a newsletter by Underground Health Reporter about using dandelion instead of prescription drugs for indigestion and blood cancer:
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid do the exact opposite of what you want them to do. They reduce stomach acid! Long-term use of PPIs may result in mineral and nutrient depletion and cause serious illnesses, including…
- Bone loss
- Hip fractures
- Infection with Clostridium difficile, a harmful intestinal bacteria
If you or someone you love frequently suffers from heartburn or indigestion, turn away from PPIs and look to bitter herbs instead. Bitters such as dandelion and chicory stimulate the production of stomach acid and other digestive juices.
Dandelion For Digestion
The bitter flavor of dandelion amps up saliva production, which helps neutralize stomach acid. Dandelion is also anti-inflammatory, meaning it can further soothe heartburn. Herbalists also recommend dandelion as a treatment for arthritis, gout, diabetes, cancer, and liver issues.
You can eat the greens raw in a salad, cook the greens and/or the root, blend them in your green smoothie… you can even make a coffee substitute. When using as a tincture, take 10-20 drops of dandelion extract at the start of a meal.
The common garden weed Taraxacum officinale is public enemy #1 to homeowners who want a nice lawn …
But instead of spraying these bright yellow flowers with herbicides when they first pop up in spring, you may be better served by pulling them out by the root and eating them.
While most folks spray or pull these yard invaders, a select, savvy few eat dandelion leaves in salads and stir fries, fry the flowers and eat them as snacks, and even enjoy dandelion wine and tea.
In fact, the reason we even have these flowers in American lawns is because Europeans brought them over to use their leaves as salad greens!
They’re also rich in antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and pacify raging free radicals for better overall health.
In modern medicine, dandelion flowers and leaves have been shown to protect skin from damage caused by the sun’s UVB radiation.
These leaf and flower extracts also stimulate glutathione, an important antioxidant used in cell generation.
Dandelion root is most commonly taken as a tea, which you can make yourself by drying and food-processing the root.
New Research on Dandelions and blood cancer underway…..
Most recently, the University of Windsor received approval to continue in a game-changing Phase One human trial … one that could change how mainstream medicine views alternative and complementary cancer treatments forever.
Very soon, 30 people with end-stage blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, who have had no success with conventional treatments, will help the world discover whether a super-potent dandelion tea has the power to save lives.
The dandelion root tea is formulated by Calgary-based natural health products company AOR Inc.
AOR spent about 18 months creating this potent therapeutic tea. The end product is a milled, extracted and freeze-dried dandelion root the color of mustard.
It is six to ten times more powerful than what’s available at a health food or drug store – or in your backyard. The AOR creation is not intended to be used as a supplement or like ordinary tea, but is being tested specifically for its ability to induce apoptosis in cancer cells.4
Health Canada approved the partnership between the University of Windsor and AOR in 2013, and trials are beginning in the next few months, according to our information.
The goal of Phase One trials, being the first of four, are to test the treatment in a small group for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range and to identify any and all side effects.
It will most likely be another year to 18 months before the results are in.
If it works, the researchers will move onto Phase Two trials.
Even though it’ll be a while before a dandelion root-based cancer treatment is available in the marketplace, it’s very exciting that these natural remedies are being taken seriously as medical treatments.
And you don’t have to wait to start enjoying your own gourmet dandelion creations … and take advantage of their health-boosting properties.
If you or someone you know is undergoing cancer treatments, it could be worth trying dandelion tea to relieve symptoms of nausea and to aid in eliminating toxins and waste from your body.
If you’re interested in trying it, do check with your doctor (hopefully one who supports natural treatments). Dandelion root is powerful and you want to avoid any unexpected interactions or side effects.
It’s so easy to make your own tea: just clean the roots and dry them out for a few days. You can process them in a blender and put them into empty teabags, or just steep the roots in water.
You can also purchase high quality dandelion root tea from your favorite health store or retailer. Some farmer’s markets sell dandelions as well.
Source: Cancer Defeated newsletter by Lee Euler, Editor
If you’re interested in making your own dandelion tea, here is a great recipe from Natural News Blogs, and here’s some good information about when and how to harvest dandelions that also includes a recipe for making a soup with them.
p. s. A friend just told me that dandelion is not only good for your body, it is good for the earth as well. The root system drills through compacted soil, opening channels for rain, aeration, and earthworms; the deep roots bring calcium. I also meant to mention that bees like dandelions and they are an important food source for them, especially at certain times of the year. So having dandelions around is definitely a win-win-win situation!
Ever used dandelion? Please share about your experience in the comment section.
4/13/21 UPDATE: Just came across this article about 60 recipes for using all the different parts of dandelions. Love the idea and look of the soap, but will probably never get around to actually making it. Would be nice to find it available to buy somewhere.
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Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.