Once considered a weed, dandelion (taraxacum officinale) is now a coveted superfood, sold in farmer's markets and health food shops worldwide!
But while dandelion can be an acquired taste for a modern palate that has become accustomed to a sweet-salty dichotomy, dandelion were revered as food and medicine by many ancient cultures including the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Persians and Chinese. In fact, it is believed that dandelion was deliberately brought to America for nutritional and medicinal purposes.
It's clear that we've known about dandelion's benefits for quite some time, but somewhere along the way our taste buds and our desire for the "perfect" lawn, led to it being classified as a weed. However, with more and more people getting into organic food, natural medicine and foraging, our palates are finally catching up, opening the way for a revival of chicory, mustard greens and our beloved dandelion!
A nutricional powerhouse!
Nutritionally, dandelion is one of the best foods you can eat. They are full of:
Dietary fibre: To help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease
Calcium: One cup of dandelion greens has 10% of the daily recommended value of calcium, which is ideal for strong bones and teeth, preventing osteoporosis and proper functioning of muscles and nerves.
Iron: One cup of dandelions has 9% of the recommended daily intake of iron, which is important for healthy red blood cells, brain function and the immune system. Very good news for vegetarians, vegans and pregnant women!
Protein: Dandelions have more protein per serving than spinach, which is essential for the function of cells, organs and the entire body.
Vitamins: A (for healthy skin and tissues and to reduce the risk of lung cancer), B vitamins (for the brain, nervous system, skin and hair), C (acts as an antioxidant, boosts the immune system and reduces the risk of some cancers), E (another antioxidant) and K (activates proteins and calcium essential for blood clotting).
Other essential minerals such as copper, magnesium, potassium, manganese and zinc
As you can see, dandelions have practically everything!
In addition to its nutritional properties, dandelion has also been used traditionally to promote health and wellness through a series of herbal healing traditions. Today it is believed that dandelions treat the following systems:
Urinary: Different species of Taraxacum (to which dandelion belongs) have been used as a diuretic for more than 2,000 years both in traditional Chinese medicine and in Ayurvedic medicine, as well as throughout Europe for several hundred years. And today, research shows that the diuretic effect of dandelion leaf is comparable to pharmaceutical equivalents such as furosemide.
However, unlike other diuretics (which deplete electrolytes), dandelion is naturally rich in potassium, so it does not produce serious side effects such as potassium depletion, hepatic coma (in patients with liver problems) , circulatory collapse and transmission through breast milk. As such, herbalists use it to treat kidney ailments, water retention, high blood pressure and urinary tract infections (along with Uva Ursi).
Digestion: Herbalists also use dandelion (root and leaf) to promote the excretion of bile from the liver. This helps the body process food and liquids more efficiently, metabolise fat and optimise cholesterol levels. It is also believed to reduce the risk of liver diseases such as jaundice, gallstones and hepatitis and support the function of the entire digestive system, helping to treat minor digestive discomforts, such as constipation, trapped gas and swelling. As a liver cleanser, dandelion is also believed to have a beneficial effect on skin disorders such as acne, eczema and hives.
How to prepare dandelion?
Dandelion leaves can be eaten in salads, sauteéd like spinach or prepared as an infusion. While the roots can be used to make a decoction or tincture.