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Dandelion: The Weed with Many Benefits

Did you know that every time you pluck a pesky dandelion and blow it away in the wind, you’re spreading the seed of a super food all over town? Growing up, dandelion was a nuisance weed to me, not a delightful herb that I now know it as.  Dandelion offers amazing nutrient qualities, from root to whispy tips, the dandelion has been used for thousands of years as food and medicine.

The dandelion is a rich source of beta carotene, rich in vitamin C, and provides many macro and trace minerals such as zinc, potassium, and calming magnesium.  You may also be surprised to know this bitter green also provides protein! When I tell clients about its many benefits, they often expect me to ask them to start using the overstock in their yards, and while that would be convenient, it’s not so much the case.

The ones in your lawn are not the best, as they’ve been exposed to pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals.  If you’re fortunate enough to have access to a mountain meadow, feel free to pluck those, but for the general population, you will find dandelion leaves in your local health food market – fresh on the produce shelves, or in capsules, tinctures, and tea forms.

In my practice, I “prescribe” dandelion for the following benefits:

Liver  Cleanser – Dandelion is rich in vitamin C and vitamin A as beta-carotene and increases the liver’s production of superoxide dismutase, promote optimal functioning, and protect the liver from aging. The duty of the liver is to produce bile, which then helps the body to break down fats, filter and detoxify our blood.  The nutrients in dandelion removes toxins and maintains the release of bile. It can also help to balance electrolytes, due to the vitamin C content.  This reduces inflammaion and decreases risk of disease. Overall, dandelion is a top recommended liver detoxifier.

Digestive Aid – The bile producing benefit of dandelion promotes digestion, increasing the release of stomach acid to aid digestion, especially if you’ve consumed a rich meal.  You can use dandelion as a gentle laxative and overall stomach discomfort.  Dandelion is a high fiber food, adding to the digestive benefit while promoting intestinal health.  Fiber moves food quickly through the digestive tract for optimal function and is essential for preventing irritable bowl syndrome and treating diverticulitis. Dandelion balances beneficial bacteria in the intestines as a preventative measure or in treating more serious gastrointestinal issues.

Boost Antioxidant Activity – The dandelion is rich in antioxidants that prevent free-radical cellular damage, this can slow down aging and prevent damage to our DNA.  The combination of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidanct properties of dandelion help to support blood health and increase iron absorption. The superficial benefit is a reduction in the appearance of fine lines, age spots, and wrinkles, but on a larger scale, antioxidants prevent oxidative cellular damage, damage that can lead to cancer and other diseases.

Bone Health – Dandelion is exceptionally rich in vitamin K, which build bone mass.  In fact, vitamin K is the main vitamin involced in bone mineralization and builds bones better than calcium and a serving of dandelion tea provides 111% of your daily value.  There is evidence that vitamin K can reduce bone fractures, making it an essential nutrient for women at risk for osteoporosis. Free radicals damage your body including your bones, leading to bone frailty and loss of density, incorporating dandelions in your diet can prevent these conditions.

Female Health & Hormone Balancing – Dandelion’s ability to support natural detoxification makes it a natural choice for hormone balancing, as it helps to flush excess  hormones from the body.  The vitamin K in dandelion helps with menstrual bleeding because of its blood-clotting capabilities. Dandelion has also been used for treating recurring UTI’s that many women suffer from, as it helps the kidneys clear out waste and increases urine production while disinfecting and inhibiting bacterial growth.

Promotes clear skin and healthy complexion –  Dandelion is a natural detoxifier and antioxidant.  This combination makes it very effective in treating acne.  Because dandelion is also a good hormone detoxifier, it regulates secretion of hormones and widen the pores, further promoting the removal of toxins through sweating. These benefits paired with high vitamin C content, which reduces inflammation and redness/scarring make dandelion a clear skin elixir that you can consume in tea, capsule, or edible forms.

Immune Function and Cancer Preventative -Dandelion boosts immune function, fights of microbes and fungi, and evidence suggest that the high antioxidant and phytonutrient value can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.  Being a detoxifier, dandelion prevents the development of tumours and cancers. Luteolin, on the other hand, poisons the essential components of cancer cells , thus rendering them ineffective and unable to reproduce. This property is particularly beneficial in the prevention of prostate cancer.

How to use for your health benefit

Dandelion is edible from leaves, flowers, roots, and tips.  It has a bitter flavor that can be minimized if harvested at the right time of year (spring and fall are best to decrease bitterness).  You can even add the leaves to salads or dishes.  Cooking will cut the bitter flavor.  My preferred method for consuming the whole fresh leaves is to juice (I can easily juice a whole bunch, not so easily eat that much!) locally you can find my own Thyroid juice blend at Erewhon Market with dandelion it it.  The flowers are delicious in a cup of Traditional Medicinals Everyday Detox Roasted Dandelion Tea and if tincture capsule form is most convenient for you, Gaia Herbs offers organic options.

Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding something new to their diet. In particular if you are taking antibiotics, dandelion can interfere with the effectiveness.  If you take any medications, check with your doctor in advance.  

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