Dandelions: Weed, Soil Enhancer, Food, or Medicine?

Dandelions are such cheerful, unsung little flowers that pop up in our yards every spring. They can be seen as just a nuisance that needs to be taken care of. In reality they are a work horse, working to improve your soil, providing pollen for bees, and butterflies. Along with providing a useful flower that nearly everyone can identify. Every part of the dandelion is useful, roots, leaves, and flowers. Dandelions have been used for coloring, food, and medicine.

Dandelions are known as pioneer plants, as they are some of the first plants to become established in land that has been disturbed, such as in a wildfire. In your yard, dandelions are working to increase the calcium closer to the surface of the ground. Dandelions have a strong tap root that, in general extends, 6-18 inches, but can be as long as 10-15 feet! This strong taproot loosens your soil and accesses calcium. The calcium is then available for other plants.

Dandelion greens can be eaten as long as the area has not been sprayed with any chemicals. We enjoy picking the leaves in early spring and adding them to our salads. Dandelion greens are a great source of vitamins A, C, and K. Dandelion greens also contain a substantial amount of iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. In the greens there is a fair amount of beta carotene, which protects your cells from oxidation and damage at the cellular level. Dandelion greens are also great sauteed lightly with crushed garlic. So, start small and try including some dandelions in your diet.

The root of dandelions also has use as a food and as a medicine. The root can be roasted and made into a coffee substitute. The roots also contain carbohydrates, carotenoids, and fatty acids to name a few beneficial compounds. The fiber contained in the root, inulin is a fruct-oligosaccharieds (FOS). This type of fiber can increase the bifido bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. The bifido bacteria help to keep pathogenic bacteria in check. The fiber in the dandelion root can also help to stabilize blood sugars.

Dandelions have been used in folklore to help with liver health. This is an ongoing area of research with some promise being shown. There are studies looking into the effect of the flowers, leaves and root on liver health. Studies in mice and small studies in humans show an improvement in liver enzymes due to normalization of liver tissue.

Dandelion is a great plant to add into your life. Below is a simple recipe for dandelion salad. When choosing greens, the young, new leaves will be less bitter. This recipe was adapted from Lavender and Macaroons.

Dandelion Salad Recipe

1 ¼ cup of water
1 cup of couscous
4 cups of dandelion greens washed, you can do a mixture of greens.
2 ripe avocado
2 crushed cloves of garlic
6 tablespoons of almond yogurt
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice
½ English cucumber julienned or diced
1 red pepper diced
4 green onions, finely chopped

Salt to taste

  • In a medium pot combine water, pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in couscous, replace the lid and allow to sit.
  • In a medium bowl mash the avocado, add garlic, yogurt, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and salt to taste. Mix the dressing ingredients, until smooth. Taste and add additional lemon juice if desired. Add salt to taste.
  • Remove the tough stems from the dandelion and discard. Chop the greens and place in a large salad bowl.
  • Add in remaining chopped vegetables.
  • Fluff couscous with a fork and add it to the salad bowl.
  • Pour the avocado dressing into the salad and toss to evenly coat.
  • Serve immediately

If you are gluten free, 1 ½ cups of cooked quinoa can be substituted for the couscous.

I hope this short newsletter on dandelions sparked your interest to try some dandelion’s this spring. Let us know what you try!

May Your Health Prosper,

Elizabeth Perry, DNP

1) Hu, C. (2018). Taraxacum: Phytochemistry and health benefits. Chinese Herbal Medicines10(4), 353-361.

2) Wirngo, F. E., Lambert, M. N., & Jeppesen, P. B. (2016). The physiological effects of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) in type 2 diabetes. The review of diabetic studies: RDS13(2-3), 113.


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