Latin Name: Taraxacum officinale Family: Asteraceae
Description: A popular source of medicine and nutrition used by half of the world, dandelion refuses to quit offering its health benefits in spite of the war waged against it with herbicides by the other half of the world. This tenacious plant isn’t fussy. It grows everywhere, including gardens, lawns, driveways, and cracks in concrete. One of the earliest blooming plants each spring, it offers nectar to the pollinators. Its medicinal and nutritional benefits can be found in all parts of the plant. The leaves are nutrient-dense, containing vitamin C, vitamin K1, potassium, magnesium, and beta-carotene.
Parts Used: root, leaves, flowers
Plant Properties: Diuretic, alterative, nutritive, digestive stimulant, choleretic
Uses: Improve poor digestion, relieve water retention, provide nourishment, relieve skin eruptions, support healthy liver function
All parts of this plant are edible. The edible flowers are used to make wine or jams. The leaves are best in the spring, when young and tender. Older leaves can be eaten, but they will be more bitter. The roots, harvested in the fall, are a classic liver tonic. They can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, if you are trying to avoid caffeine.
As a bitter, dandelion leaves help stimulate digestive secretions which help break down carbohydrates, proteins and fat. The inulin found in dandelion is a prebiotic which improves healthy gut flora. Dandelion also acts as a diuretic, but without causing excessive potassium excretion or deficiency. Dandelion root has long been used to promote liver health by metabolizing hormones and increasing the liver function, while decreasing inflammation.
Plant Preparations: Dandelion can be eaten, or prepared as a tea or tincture. The flowers can be infused in oil for skin care products.
Roasted Dandelion Root – Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop cleaned dandelion roots and spread evenly over a cookie sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the roots are a dark brown. Let cool. Grind in coffee grinder or blender.
Dandelion Mocha (from Kami McBride) – Place 3 Tablespoons of roasted dandelion root and 1 Tablespoon of raw cocoa nibs into 3 cups of cold water. On low heat, bring to a simmer for 30 minutes. Strain, and add ½ cup milk, 1 Tablespoon maple syrup or honey, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp vanilla extract and a dash of nutmeg or clove powder. Stir to combine, reheat if necessary.
Dandelion-infused oil – Pick dandelions from a site that has not been sprayed with herbicides. Let the flowers sit outdoors (out of the sun) for a few hours; this allows all the insects time to leave the plant material. The flowers should dry in a single layer for a few days before making the oil, to avoid potential mold and bacterial contamination. Those that turn to fluff are still OK to use.
To infuse the oil, fill a jar halfway with dandelion flowers, then fill to the top with oil. You can set the jar in a pan of gently warmed water, and continue with the burner set to low for a few hours. Then remove, cool and strain. If you are a patient person, you can also just cover the jar and set in a warm place, like a sunny windowsill, for about four weeks, and then strain.
For a fun project making dandelion lotion bars, see https://thenerdyfarmwife.com/dandelion-lotion-bars/
Wart removal – For external use. Apply the milky latex in the flower stalks directly on the wart several times daily for 2-3 weeks. Make sure you are not allergic to the latex. Quit this treatment if the skin appears to be irritated with this treatment.
When harvesting dandelions, make sure the area has not been treated with herbicides. The milk sap of dandelions should be kept away from the eyes, and has been known to cause itchiness, irritation, or allergic reactions on the skin. Some people have a predisposed sensitivity or allergy to the inulin found in dandelion, and the reaction can be quite severe.