Our second herb in The Herbal Series is everyone’s favorite weed: dandelion! It still blows my mind to know that there are actually those who seek to kill these as soon as they see them every year. If you aren’t aware of the many benefits of this amazing “weed,” read on to find out. You might be surprised!
I am not a doctor and do not recommend any remedies in any way as an alternative to medical care. If you are having serious health problems, be sure to consult a physician.
Before we even get started learning about what dandelions are good for, it’s most important to note that these flowers are the first food for bees, and for that reason alone, should be left alone. I don’t even harvest them right away until the bees have had a chance to have at them.
Without bees, there would be no pollinations, no gardens, and eventually, no “us”. Of course, as we all are, bees are God’s creation, and He will protect them, but I believe that as stewards of the earth in general, we should consider this fundamental fact most of all.
Every part of a dandelion plant is edible. That’s right! Roots, stems, leaves, and flowers are all a nutritious addition to any diet and grow without assistance, right in most of our yards!
They are a part of the sunflower family, and up until some time in the 1800s, some people would actually remove large patches of their grass to plant them.
If we were only to consider dandelion for its nutritional content alone, that would be pretty impressive. In just one cup of chopped, fresh dandelion, you’ll get:
- Vitamins: K, A, C, E, B1, B2, B3, B6, & B9.
- Minerals: iron, copper, calcium, manganese, potassium, magnesium, sodium, and zinc.
- 47 grams of water
- 1.49 grams of protein
- 5.06 grams of carbs
- 0.39 grams of natural sugars
Dandelion Health Benefits
Years ago, the dandelion was renowned for its health benefits, and some still use it this way today. I personally use it in a salve form and make at least one batch of oil each year. When I harvest my lot this coming spring, I am going to try making dandelion jelly and dandelion honey, and I’m excited about it!
If you have severe bee allergies, dandelion honey can be an excellent substitution. Many people use it that way. Others just want to make frugal use of an overabundance of these beautiful flowers.
But there are lots of reasons to utilize dandelions. Here are just a few interesting facts about how they can be beneficial to your health:
- It has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that help treat eczema, bacterial skin infections, and boils. These anti-inflammatory properties further aid in the detoxification of the liver and help treat colitis. For internal ailments, you can use the plant to make a tea, and for skin issues, you can use either the salve or oil form. Some even make a raw poultice and put it directly on skin flareups.
- As a powerful antioxidant, dandelion helps decrease the destruction caused by free radicals in your body. This not only helps combat the effects of aging but fights some diseases as well.
- Studies have shown that dandelion contains bioactive compounds that can help lower blood sugar levels. Specifically, it helps the pancreas to create and secrete insulin while also causing sugar to be better absorbed by muscle tissue.
- As a powerful diuretic, this plant can get rid of excess fluid throughout the body, which in turn leads to lower blood pressure. Lower blood pressure can also come from more potassium, which dandelions have an abundance of.
- This plan can help restore hydration and balance the body’s electrolytes, which can be really important for people who like to work out. It’s also great for those who work in nature, generally speaking, such as farmers, construction workers, and so forth.
As with any herb, dandelion can cause adverse effects as well. The most common ones include stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and heartburn.
Dandelions are also known to interact with certain medications. For example, blood thinners are hindered, as vitamin K is known to help the blood clot. It will also interfere with the effectiveness of certain diuretics, lithium, and Cipro.
If you are currently on regular medication, especially for liver function or specific blood conditions, be SURE to do your own research into how dandelion could interact with them. Adverse effects are rare, but they do happen, and we want you in better health, not worse!
You might think it’s pretty easy to identify dandelion, and for most, it is. However, the Catsear (Cat’s Ear), or False Dandelion, looks so much like the real thing you may not know the difference right away!
In the picture above, you’ll note a few immediate differences in the Cat’s Ear. For one, the stem is hairy and rough, and it branches off in some places. The dandelion stem is smooth, slick, full of milky sap, and never branches.
The flowers are also different in that Cat’s Ear has smooth flat petals, and dandelion flowers look fuller and fluffier. Cat’s Ear flowers also do not go into the white, puffy seeds that dandelions do.
Cat’s Ear is safely edible, but the leaves don’t taste nearly as good as dandelion’s. This makes them much less popular for salads, teas, and other dishes.
Foraging For and Harvesting Dandelion
It’s not hard to find the dandelion. In fact, you’re likely to have an abundance of them right in your own yard. They come up very early in spring and produce more flowers if they happen to get mowed down before you can harvest your first batch.
As I said before, try to leave that first run for the bees. After that, feel free to harvest as much of the plant as you want, up to and including the stems and roots. However, be sure to harvest roots in more than one location so they can grow back. They are actually the longest producing flower and will continue to yield well into the summer.
Once you have harvested your bounty, gently wash them and lay them out in a single layer to dry. If you’re going to create salves, oils, salads, or fresh teas, be sure to store some away as they are. This is also the state you’ll use to create your recipes for jelly and honey if you choose to.
However, if you intend to use them throughout the year, I have found the best way to preserve them is by dehydrating, sealing them in an amber-colored jar, and storing them with a desiccant pack. You can also use the dehydration method to create powders, which many people do with the root portion. You can even purchase empty plastic pill pockets to create your own supplements using the powers you create.
Please see my post on Purple Dead Nettle, where I linked the products I use.
Doing Your Own Research
To learn more about this or any herb, you can always do a simple web search. However, be sure to do thorough research instead of simply going with the first thing you find. While some web engines do give great results, some are manipulated by keyword usage and false page-clicks to get a higher page ranking. When this happens, you can wind up with false information. So try to use websites that are trustworthy and coincide with multiple search results.
There are also a wealth of Facebook groups dedicated to teaching about herbs and their nutritional and medicinal uses. I’ve always said that first-hand knowledge trumps book learning every day of the week. I’d much rather learn from someone who has done something with successful results than to learn from someone who simply has a paper degree!
Thank you for joining me for the second issue of The Herbal Series! If you found the information helpful, be sure to consider sharing it via email or social media, and don’t forget to meet me back here next Monday for another installment!
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