Did you know that the dandelion has been used as food and medicine for much of recorded history? Yes, I am talking about that pesky weed that is the bain of your lawns existence. Since you just can’t stop trying to get rid of them, you might as well make some use of them. In this article I am going to detail a few ways to utilize this under appreciated plant.
Dandelion as a Food
As per Wildman Steve Brill’s website:
The leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They’re higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc by using a tasty, free vegetable that grows on virtually every lawn. The root contains the sugar inulin, plus many medicinal substances.
The leaves are the most frequently eaten section of the plant, and they are edible in both raw and cooked form. The flowers and roots may also be eaten, however, typically cooked to mitigate their more bitter flavor. I like to cook the bitter greens italian style by sauteing some garlic and red pepper flakes in some olive oil, adding some lemon juice and adding the dandelion greens to saute for a minute or two.
The best time to harvest the greens is the beginning of spring (before the flower starts to bud). Wash the leaves and dry them and they are ready to be used in a salad or cooked.
Dandelion as Medicine
In traditional medicine, dandelion roots and leaves were used to treat liver problems. Native Americans also used dandelion decoctions (liquid made by boiling down the herb in water) to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and stomach upset. Chinese medicinal practitioners traditionally used dandelion to treat digestive disorders, appendicitis, and breast problems (such as inflammation or lack of milk flow). In Europe, herbalists incorporated it into remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.
Today, dandelion roots are mainly used as an appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and for liver and gallbladder function. Dandelion leaves are used as a diuretic to stimulate the excretion of urine.
Dandelion is a natural diuretic that increases urine production by promoting the excretion of salts and water from the kidney. Dandelion may be used for a wide range of conditions requiring mild diuretic treatment, such as poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure. Dandelion is a source of potassium, a nutrient often lost through the use of other natural and synthetic diuretics.
Fresh or dried dandelion herb is also used as a mild appetite stimulant and to improve upset stomach (such as feelings of fullness, flatulence, and constipation). The root of the dandelion plant is believed to have mild laxative effects and is often used to improve digestion. Research suggests that dandelion root may improve the health and function of natural bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Studies have also reported that dandelion root may help improve liver and gallbladder function.
Some preliminary animal studies also suggest that dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and improve lipid profiles (lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL, “good,” cholesterol) in diabetic mice. However, not all animal studies have shown the same positive effect on blood sugar. In addition, research needs to be done on people to determine if this traditional use for diabetes has modern-day merit.
Last year I made a dandelion tincture. It is very easy to make and can be used for people with indigestion, liver and gallbladder complaints, infections of the urinary tract, and loss of appetite.
Some people take dandelion root tincture daily in early spring for a couple weeks as a cleanse for the liver.
Pull a bunch of dandelion roots and wash and dry them (best time to harvest is early spring or late fall). Put them in a jar and cover them with 100 proof vodka ( I use 125 proof – mix of 100 and 150 proof). Cover and place in dark place for a few weeks. Shake each day (twice a day if possible). After two weeks, strain and place into amber dropper bottles. When ready to use, place a dropper full into a cup of water. Use regularly or when necessary.
Notice of Importance: Make sure the dandelions you harvest are grown in soil that has not been treated with chemicals and pesticides. DO NOT consume dandelion that has been exposed to such toxins.
As seen in the store, dandelion tea uses the root (sometimes roasted until dry). You can use that technique or use the fresh plant as well. Use the root, the leaves or both. Some instructions I found interesting from dandeliontea.com:
I have dug the roots, roasted them until they were dry, chocolaty brown and crumbly, and ground them in a coffee grinder. I enjoy the coffee-like taste. A dandelion beverage makes a great coffee substitute, homemade or store-bought. Usually every day, I make dandelion tea of some sort. I especially like using the whole plant. It is very versatile.
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