Dandelions are certainly not mysterious herbs. They are everywhere, and even a very young child can spot them with their cheery yellow flowers or fluffy white puffballs.
Common as they are though, dandelions can be an excellent addition to the herbal medicine chest and even in the kitchen! What may be a pesky lawn weed to some is actually a truly beneficial plant with many uses.
As I want to tie in more of my herbal education to this blog, I’ll now be featuring a new herb at the beginning of every month. We’ll first go over some basic information about the herb, and then cover how to use it or when you shouldn’t.
There’s also a great bonus at the bottom of the post, so don’t miss that.
My goal is to bring you some practical foundational information that will spur you on to learn more about the wonderful herbs around us. Hopefully you’ll then be able to better understand how they can be used in your home.
And now, let’s take a closer look at dandelion!
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Most of us don’t need a description of dandelions. The deeply-toothed leaves of the plant grow out in a rosette close to the ground, and each leaf has a thick middle rib. From the center of the rosette grows bright yellow flowers with many petals (and actually, dandelions are composite flowers, meaning that each “petal” we see is really a complete miniature flower) on hollow stems. The flowers later become the white spherical puffballs that will disperse many seeds on the wind. The white tap root of the dandelion is often thick, similar to a carrot, and sometimes will branch out in tough soil.
In herbalism, the leaves and the root are most often used. However, the flowers and flower petals are also sometimes used for culinary purposes.
An indirect benefit of dandelions: they attract honeybees!
Actions in the Body
- Dandelion is a well-established liver tonic.
- It contains bitter compounds that aid digestion and encourage a healthy appetite.
- It is also a powerful diuretic. However, whereas most diuretics will also pull minerals out from the body, dandelion does not. It is very high in minerals, especially potassium, and does not lead to mineral deficiency.
- The roots are high in inulin, a compound that promotes mineral absorption and healthy gut flora.
- The herb provides minerals for healthy breastmilk and encourages milk production.
Dandelion leaf and root may both be used in teas and extracts. The roasted root also makes for an excellent coffee substitute!
To make an infusion, pour 1 cup of boiled water over 1-2 teaspoons dried dandelion leaf (1-2 tablespoons fresh) and steep for 10-15 minutes. To use the roots, make a decoction by placing 2-3 teaspoons dried roots in 1 cup cold water, then bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Both can be enjoyed 3 times a day.
Dandelion leaf is a common ingredient in some “bitters” formulas, meant to encourage healthy digestion and appetite. A single dandelion extract, usually a tincture, can also be taken.
Dandelion flower petals are excellent ingredients to salads, soups, stews, casseroles, and baked goods.
Young dandelion leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach. They are less bitter if they have been simmered for about 10 minutes.
Dandelion is a generally safe herb, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women, young children, and the elderly.
If problems with the bile ducts, gallbladder, or gallstones are present, check with a physical before using dandelion.
Also, if foraging for dandelion, it is extremely important to be absolutely sure that the plant has not been sprayed with pesticides. Only use foraged dandelions when they have been sourced from a spray-free area.
Have you ever used dandelion? Did you realize it is so beneficial?
Fritchey, Philip. Practical Herbalism. Whitman Publications, Warsaw, Indiana. 2004. (found here)
Hawkins, Jessie. Botanical Medicine in the Home. Vintage Remedies, Franklin, Tennessee. 2013. (found here)
Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont. 2003. (found here)
Dandelion root with herb. American Botanical Council Commission E and Expanded Commission E, online.