Dandelion

Dandelion has a bad reputation as an invasive weed, but it actually has great nutritional and medicinal value. Learn all about its many benefits.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Dandelion, common dandelion
  • Scientific nameTaraxacum officinale
  • Geographic distributionTemperate regions worldwide
  • Plant typeHerb
  • Native regionWestern Europe, Eastern or Central Europe, Central Asia, East Asia
  • Main Economic UseMedicinal, Food industry
Dandelion

The first appearance of dandelion is subject to debate, but most scientists agree that the species emerged from Eurasia and was later introduced to other regions, resulting in its current naturalization on every verdant continent in the world. Its dates of immigration are unknown. Arabian physicians coined the word that later became its scientific name, calling the plant "taraxacon," while its common name comes from the French term dent de lion, which means "lion's tooth" and refers to the shape of its leaves and petals. Today, many consider it a nuisance and an eyesore, but its commercial value is increasing as scientific innovations develop.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionDiuretic, Hepatoprotective
  • Key constituentssesquiterpene lactones, inulin, bitter compounds
  • Ways to useCapsules, Decoctions, Hot infusions/tisanes, Liquid extracts, Food, Tincture
  • Medicinal rating(2) Minorly useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe
Dandelion

Health Benefits of Dandelion

Because dandelion was disregarded for so much of recent history, many of its folk uses remain unconfirmed. Its main traditional uses include:

  • Stimulating urination. The diuretic properties of dandelion aid the elimination of excessive body fluids and toxins through the urine.

  • Improving liver function. Dandelion has been traditionally used to treat poor digestion due to a sluggish liver.

Additionally, the bitter compounds in dandelion help increase appetite. The herb is also thought to promote bowel movements; however, its mechanism of action is yet to be understood.

How It Works

Dandelion has garnered fresh popularity in recent years thanks to its impressive nutritional profile. It is rich in vitamins A (retinol), B, and C (ascorbic acid), and well as the minerals iron, calcium, potassium, and zinc, including traces of boron, copper, and silicon.

While the mechanisms behind dandelion's diuretic and hepatoprotective properties are yet to be explained, the herb boasts phytochemical compounds that may be responsible for many of its medicinal actions. 

It is thought that the major medicinal compounds in dandelion are sesquiterpene lactones, and it has been observed that dandelion leaf extract can inhibit the production of inflammatory substances in the body; however, not much is known about the mechanism of action behind these beneficial effects.

On the other hand, the roots of dandelion are rich in inulin, a type of carbohydrate that supports healthy gut flora and has been suggested to be responsible for the digestive properties of the herb. Inulin is not digested by the human body, so when it passes to the colon gets fermented and feeds the intestinal microbiota, thus contributing to a better digestion and regular bowel movements.

Additionally like many leafy herbs, dandelion contains bitter compounds, which help increase appetite.

Celery and cucumber also exhibit diuretic properties, and similar hepatoprotective benefits can be found in chicory and peony.

Dandelion Side Effects

Side effects when consuming dandelion are rare. However, there have been reports of some people experiencing kidney problems and gallbladder-related issues after eating dandelion. Due to the diuretic effects of dandelion, it may interact with certain medications.

How to Consume Dandelion

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsFlowers, Leaves
  • TasteBitter, Earthy

Dandelion leaves can be consumed raw or cooked, and supplements have become available in light of the discovery of dandelion's medicinal uses. The root is the part typically used in medicinal preparations.

Remedies

Main preparations: capsules, decoction, infusion, tincture

Dandelion's capsules. In order to make the most of the hepatoprotective and diuretic properties of dandelion, the dried and ground roots can be inserted into gelatin capsules to be taken orally in medicinal doses.

Dandelion's decoction. This preparation is obtained by boiling the roots of dandelion in water for few minutes in order to concentrate its bitter compounds and diuretic benefits.

Dandelion's infusion. The roasted roots of dandelion can be made into an herbal tea or tisane, and can be mixed with other herbs to potentiate its digestive, hepatoprotective effects.

Dandelion's tincture. The whole plant is submerged in a neutral alcohol and kept in a dark cabinet for about a month in order to extract its medicinal properties. Few drops of dandelion tincture, diluted in a glass of water, can be used as a liver and gallbladder tonic. This preparation is not recommended for during pregnancy. 

Food

Main preparations: Fresh, cooked, roasted

Dandelion is not common fare on contemporary menus, but it is quite edible and indeed nutritious. in old times the leaves of the herb were eaten for their many benefits, and this practice is slowly coming back to the fore. 

The leaves of dandelion can be utilized raw in salads, cooked into soups, or act as an ingredient in larger seafood or pasta dishes. Ground and roasted dandelion root also functions as a decaffeinated coffee. It is known among chefs as a member of the bitter greens.

Buying

Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySpecialized health stores, Online herb stores

Dandelion grows wild throughout the world, and for many, finding a selection of the plant may be as simple as a walk outside. Its growing season lasts throughout spring and summer, as it can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. Specialized health food stores may carry dried roots and leaves year-round, but supermarkets rarely sell the herb.

Dandelion supplements come in pill, tablet, capsule, and liquid extract form.

Specialized health stores and certain wholesale retailers stock dandelion supplements with other herbal remedies and usually feature the root of the plant, where most of its nutrients reside.  The widest variety can be found online, where consumers can compare prices, forms, and concentrations for the best personal results.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cycleAnnual
  • Harvested partsFlowers, Roots, Leaves
  • Light requirementsFull sun, Partial shade
  • Soil pH6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic), 6.6 – 7.3 (Neutral), 7.4 – 7.8 (Slightly alkaline)
  • Growing habitatTemperate climates
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones3a (From −40 °C (−40 °F) to −37.2 °C (−35 °F)), 3b (From −37.2 °C (−35 °F) to −34.4 °C (−30 °F)), 4a (From −34.4 °C (−30 °F) to −31.7 °C (−25 °F)), 4b (From −31.7 °C (−25 °F) to −28.9 °C (−20 °F)), 5a (From −28.9 °C (−20 °F) to −26.1 °C (−15 °F)), 5b (From −26.1 °C (−15 °F) to −23.3 °C (−10 °F)), 6a (From −23.3 °C (−10 °F) to −20.6 °C (−5 °F)), 6b (From −20.6 °C (−5 °F) to −17.8 °C (0 °F)), 7a (From −17.8 °C (0 °F) to −15 °C (5 °F)), 7b (From −15 °C (5 °F) to −12.2 °C (10 °F)), 8a (From −12.2 °C (10 °F) to −9.4 °C (15 °F)), 8b (From −9.4 °C (15 °F) to −6.7 °C (20 °F)), 9a (From −6.7 °C (20 °F) to −3.9 °C (25 °F)), 9b (From −3.9 °C (25 °F) to −1.1 °C (30 °F))
  • Planting timeEarly spring
  • Plant spacing average0.3 m (0.98 ft)
  • Growing time6 months

Many choose to eliminate dandelion from lawns and gardens, but those who wish to cultivate the herb have very little trouble doing so. 

Growing Guidelines

  • Dandelion can withstand temperatures as low as -38°F (-39°C) in short bursts.

  • It is advisable to plant seeds in early spring, as lower temperatures at the start of germination produce more flowers later on.

  • Moist soil is the only truly key component, as light exposure and pH levels are largely insignificant to the plant's success.

Additional Information

Plan Biology

The unbranched taproot of dandelion can produce more than ten purplish-green stems that grow up to 27 inches (70 cm) tall in the right conditions, though generally they range from 2 - 16 inches (5 - 40 cm) in height. Jagged-edged leaves and the yellow-then-white radiating spores of each flower give the herb its well-known shape.

  • Classification

    Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a member of the Asteraceae family, along with other 23,000 species, notably including artichoke (Cynara cardunculus), chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), lettuce (Lactuca sativa), and marigold (Tagetes erecta).
  • Varieties and Subspecies of Dandelion

    Dandelion taxonomy is unusually complicated, as its reproductive methods are not fully understood. Almost innumerable subspecies and microspecies exist around the world, with roughly 70 recognized in Germany alone. The three most commonly grown are 'rough dandelion', 'wandering dandelion', and 'common dandelion', which differ slightly in their respective native regions.

Historical Information

Dandelion has long been cultivated in its native regions for use in herbal medicine, with its earliest records dating back to the 10th and 11th centuries in the Middle East. India has also used the herb to this effect, as well as Native American tribes in the New World. The herb began to garner culinary interest in France, where it was later used in making wine.

Economic Data

Global ubiquity has created little demand for dandelion cultivation, as the plant can - and will - grow almost anywhere: over 70 million tons of weed killers are applied to lawns and gardens every year in an attempt to curb its spread. New technology, however, has found that the roots of a certain Russian strain of the herb can be made into rubber. This may one day substitute production of the material from fossil fuels, which currently costs the world about $50.4 billion USD annually. Further development may find it to be a major natural ingredient of the future.

Other Uses

Yellow and green dyes can be extracted from dandelion flowers, and the latex from the stems can be used as mosquito repellent.

A rubber-like substance is now produced from the latex stems for car tire manufacturing, though supplies are still limited.

Bibliography