If you have a garden, you probably have mixed feelings about dandelions! Those broad leaves and bright yellow flowers are usually considered a weed and are often subject to various kinds of chemical or physical removal. Take a look in your local garden store and you’ll find a wide selection of tools designed just for that purpose.
However, before you demonize the humble dandelion, be aware that it can have some tremendous health benefits. Dandelions have been used for thousands of years, in both East and West, to promote liver health and aid detoxification. For anyone suffering from Candida overgrowth or other digestive disorders, dandelion could be a useful addition to your diet.
The role of dandelions in traditional medicine
Dandelions have formed an important part of traditional medicine in every geographic area where they are naturally found. For example, early European medics used dandelion to treat a wide range of conditions, ranging from fever and eye complaints to diabetes and diarrhea.
Dandelion was (and still is) an important part of traditional Chinese medicine, where it is used to treat inflammation, liver complaints, and digestive problems. In North America, Native Americans brewed dandelion tea for stomach problems, heartburn, kidney disease, and more. As you can see, it is a remedy that has been well tested and frequently used over the centuries.
Dandelions are a highly nutritious food
Before discussing the specific health benefits of dandelions, the first thing to note about them is that they are packed full of healthy vitamins and minerals. Whether you consume the root or the leaf, you will be getting a significant dose of vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as iron, potassium, and zinc.
Adding wild dandelion greens to your salads is a fantastic way to boost the nutritional value of your meals. Throw in a few of the yellow flowers too, for color and an extra nutritional boost. Try to pick the younger plants if possible, as the leaves on the older plants can get quite bitter.
Dandelions can support a healthy liver
For Candida sufferers, a healthy functioning liver is particularly important. Candida albicans releases a large number of toxic substances, including uric acid, acetaldehyde and ethanol. We rely largely on the liver to remove these from our bodies.
You will find dandelion root extract in many liver and detox supplements, and in fact this has been the main use for dandelion in traditional medicine. It acts as a tonic to stimulate an underperforming liver, as well as stimulating digestion and acting as a mild laxative. The fiber found in the root and leaves is another way that dandelion promotes healthy digestion and detoxification.
Dandelion leaf is also a natural diuretic, meaning that it stimulates urine production. This is often helpful for those suffering from liver or kidney problems. One of the benefits of dandelion is that it contains potassium and other minerals, helping to replace any that are lost through increased urine flow.
Lastly, the inulin found in dandelion root is a natural prebiotic that can help to restore a healthy balance of microorganisms to your gut. Other good sources of inulin are leeks, asparagus, and especially chicory root.
Where can you find dandelions?
For many of us, it’s not at all difficult to find a good selection of dandelions. Come spring the newly sprouting grass is dotted with these yellow beauties. They might be a source of irritation to some, but for herbalists they are a very welcome sight.
Dandelions tend to thrive well in shady areas and where the ground has been compacted. When foraging for dandelions it’s really important to find a source that has not been subjected to pesticides or other chemicals.
Make sure that you properly clean and prepare your dandelions before using them in any recipes or teas. When harvesting, pay attention to all the parts of the plant that you can use. This includes the head, stem, leaves, and root. Within the head you are going to find the crown which is just as wonderful as the other components of the plant. Don’t forget about the roots either – they are arguably the part with the most health benefits.
A few simple recipes
Here are a some suggestions for getting the most from your dandelions.
While a lot of people toss dandelion greens in with their salads, they are just as tasty when they are sautéed. Add some garlic and lemon juice to make a delicious side dish:
Everyone loves a good pesto, and this one makes liberal use of dandelion greens and pumpkin seeds. A super-healthy, nutritious combination.
Dandelion root coffee
OK, you can buy this from the store too. But if you want to get ambitious and try making your own dandelion root coffee, you can totally do it. There are a few different steps involved, as you can see in this excellent guide:
Other ways to get your dandelion fix
Not everyone has the time to go dandelion picking or able to prepare the foods that it could be used in. That’s no problem, as there are plenty of other ways to glean the benefits of this amazing plant.
The easiest way is to just head to your local health food store and buy some dandelion root coffee or dandelion leaf tea. A cup of dandelion coffee is a great way to start your day. The bitter, coffee-like taste is also great for your digestion, so it’s a good idea to take it after meals. It has many of the health benefits of coffee but without the caffeine.
There are also supplements available that contain dandelion root or dandelion root extract. These should be easy to find at your local health food store or online. If the dandelion leaves or the flavors in the teas and coffees don’t appeal to you, supplementation can be a good alternative. Just be aware that dandelion may have interactions with blood thinners, Cipro, Lithium and other medications (more here).
There are many opportunities available to you to find and make use of the dandelion. It may take a little while getting your family used to consuming this wonderful natural commodity, but they soon will adjust to it, and most likely soon report that they are feeling the healthy benefits that this newly added food staple is affording them.