Most people think of the dandelion as a bothersome weed, but this lawn menace may be more valuable than one would think. Dandelion leaves are used as healthy ingredients in salads, sandwiches and in teas, and the flowers are used for the creation of wine. They are rich in vitamins A, B, C and D and minerals like iron, potassium and zinc.
Dandelion is an abundant perennial that grows up to 12 inches in height. Hundreds of species can be found in Asia, Europe and North America. The spatula-like leaves are shiny and deeply notched and the flowers are bright yellow, opening with morning sun and closing in the evening or during periods of cold and cloudy weather.
In the past, dandelion roots and leaves were used by Native Americans as a remedy for problems of the liver. In addition, the plant was boiled in water to relieve heartburn, kidney disease, skin problems, swelling, and upset stomach. Dandelion has also been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat appendicitis and problems of the breast like lack of milk flow or inflammation. Early Europeans used dandelion for boils, diabetes, diarrhea, eye problems and fever.
Medicinal Use Today:
Today dandelion roots are used for stimulation of the appetite, to enhance digestion, and to detoxify the liver and gall bladder. Dandelion tea made from the leaves is said to boost function of the kidneys. Acting as a mild diuretic, it helps rid the body of excess water. In addition, the tea stimulates bile, which helps metabolize fatty meals that can cause bloating. Drinking one cup of dandelion tea per day is recommended by many herbalists to help with these problems.
Animals, rather than people, have been targeted in preliminary dandelion research. Some early studies have suggested that dandelion may help stimulate healthy liver and gallbladder function, but a better design is needed in future studies for confirmation.
Early studies on diabetic mice also suggest that dandelion may help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation. In addition, it may lower total cholesterol and triglycerides and raise HDL cholesterol. However, not all of these animal studies came to the same conclusion about blood sugar, so further research is needed.
Dandelion can occasionally be found fresh in the produce section of natural food stores. Also, it is available in tinctures, liquid extract, teas, tablets and capsules. Dandelion can be found as a single product or blended with other natural supplements. These forms of dandelion can be found at a local natural foods store or online through natural supplements websites.
While the use of herbs can strengthen the body in many ways, some can trigger side effects or interact with medications. Generally, dandelion is considered healthy and safe however, some people may be allergic, particularly those who are already allergic to chamomile, chrysanthemums, daisies, marigold, ragweed, yarrow, or iodine.
People with kidney or gallbladder issues or those taking any regular medications should check with a health care provider before consuming dandelion. Medications that can interact with dandelion are antacids, blood-thinners, diuretics, lithium, ciproflaxin and medications for diabetes.