Dandelion - Taraxacum officinale

Why Get to know this plant:

Dandelion flower; new flowers can be eaten in a stir fry, make sure to remove all the green part as it is quite bitter.

Dandelion flower; new flowers can be eaten in a stir fry, make sure to remove all the green part as it is quite bitter.

Not only is dandelion the international symbol for an organic lawn, dandelion is one of the most blood purifying and cleansing herbs there is through its support to the kidneys, liver and gallbladder. In fact every part of this plant is beautiful, useful, edible and medicinal. The freshest green leaves gathered early in the spring or from a young fresh plant can be eaten in a salad (although are bitter so should be mixed in with lettuce or leaf with gentler flavours). The bitter compounds in the leaves and root help stimulate digestion, and help the body to release digestive juices and enzymes and act as mild laxatives. The bitters also help to increase bile production and flow for proper fat digestion and metabolism (may have a role in cholesterol management). The root also contains a fair amount of inulin, which is a compound that helps to maintain healthy gut flora, and intestinal health.

 

Where This Plant grows:

Pollen seen here is an abundant part of the dandelion flower and is a big reason why bees love these flowers!

Pollen seen here is an abundant part of the dandelion flower and is a big reason why bees love these flowers!

We all know dandelion and probably have some growing in our own backyards. In Northern temperate zones, it grows in pastures, meadows, lawns, roadsides and pathways. Be aware of where you are harvesting and the health of the ecosystem there, do not expose yourself to vehicle exhaust, herbicides or chemical run off if you are harvesting in urban areas.

 

How to Identify dandelion:

Perennial plant, the leaves grow round in a rosette, close to the ground. Leaves are shiny without hairs and margins of the leaves have great jagged teeth. Flowers are yellow and grow straight up from the root in hollow stalks that are lined in a sticky white sap. One bright dandelion flower is actually composed of hundreds of individual flowers all maturing to seeds that created that magical white puffball. The roots are long taproots, dark brown on the outside and white on the inside, with a white latex when cut open.

Parts Used:

Leaf and Root are both used but for different purposes: leaves are generally eaten as bitters in salads or made for tea to support kidney function. The taproot is geared towards liver health and can be dried, roasted and ground into a coffee like drink. The flower heads can be harvested fresh and fried in a stir fry. Flower are edible and make a great addition to salads or can be fried in butter for a yummy crunchy treat!

Seeds! Who doesn't love  blowing these little guys into the wind?

Seeds! Who doesn't love  blowing these little guys into the wind?

All parts of the dandelion are edible and if eaten together form a complete protein since all amino acids are covered if combining all parts of the plant.  The flowers also have a plethora of pollen with is a highly nutrient-rich food for humans and bees alike. It contains a vast array of B vitamins, proteins and trace minerals.

 

Medicinal Actions:

Leaf: diuretic, choleretic, anti-inflammatory, bitter

Root: cholerectic, cholagogue, antirheumatic, bitter, alternative, depurative

 

Tips from Experience:

Make sure to wash the leaves well before eating fresh or wanting to dry off since dandelion often has dirt. The root is best dug up in the fall after the plant has gone through it’s summer growth and flowering. Be conscientious of where you harvest and give thought to herbicide use. If a park or yard has been sprayed with herbicide, it is better to avoid harvesting there.

Dandelion growing in round rosette along the ground. 

Dandelion growing in round rosette along the ground. 

 

Caution: 

Safe herb, however it is not recommended in people who are suffering from irritable conditions of the stomach or bowels, where it can aggravate the irritated symptoms. Also not to be used in lithium patients as it can enhance drug strength.

 

Constituents in the plant:

Sesquiterpene lactones are the bitter substance, triterpenes and lactones; polysaccharides such as inulin; flavonoids, mucilage, phenolic acids, protein, sugars, pectin, choline.

Dandelion is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals that include, beta carotene, vitamin C and D, B-complex vitamins, iron, choline, silicon, sodium, manganese, magnesium, potassium (up to 4.5%), zinc, copper and phosphorus.

Dandelion leaves jagged on edges, these leaves are too old to eat but could be used in tea. 

Dandelion leaves jagged on edges, these leaves are too old to eat but could be used in tea. 

 

References:

Blair, Katrina. (2014) The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. Chelsea Green Publishing. White River Junction, VT.

Gray, Beverly (2011) The Boreal Herbal: Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North. Aroma Borealis Press. Yukon Canada.

Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press. Rochester, Vermont, USA

Keane, Kahlee (2015) The Standing People: Wild Medicinal Plants of British Columbia. Save our Species. Canada.

Pizzorno, J. et al. The Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd ed. Churchill Livingstone, NY 1999