Dandelion Identification, Benefits and Uses
I grew up thinking that the dandelion was an obnoxious and poisonous weed. Now that I am older, I know better. The whole dandelion plant is not only edible, but highly nutritious and loaded with medicinal properties. I enjoy foraging around my cabin in the early mornings looking for fresh young dandelion greens to add to my daily smoothie and want to help you learn the identification benefits and uses.
Name: Common Dandelion
Other Names: lion’s tooth, dent de lion, wet-a-bed (diuretic action), blowball
Botanical, Scientific or Latin Name: Taraxacum officinale
Plant Family: Asteraceae (daisy or sunflower)
The entire plant, including the root, stem, leaves and flowers are edible.
- Aperient – used to relieve constipation
- Depurative – helps detox and purify the blood
- Diuretic – increases urination
- Hepatic – helps with liver issues
- Tonic – tones the body
- Stomachic- helps digestion and increase appetite
This amazing plant was used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The Chinese have been using dandelions as medicine for over a thousand years. The biggest health benefit that I get from eating dandelion is with my liver. The main function of the liver is to produce a liquid called bile and dandelion helps the liver increase bible production. Bile helps with digestion by breaking down fats in the small intestines, carrying away waste, and filtering the blood before passing it to the rest of your body.
- Excellent source of vitamins A, B-complex, C, D and K.
- High in iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, silicon, proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
- The leaves have the highest vitamin A content of all greens.
- Contains almost as much iron as spinach.
- Powerful diuretic that increases urine, helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.
- The high iron content helps with anemia.
Jethro Kloss states that anemia is caused by a deficiency of proper nutrients in the blood. Dandelion is high in nutritive salts, which purify the blood and help neutralize acids in the blood. It is also one of the old well-known remedies of anemia (Back to Eden, page 123) .
How To Identify
This is a perennial plant that grows to 12 inches tall. Its deeply toothed leaves are hairless and grow in a rosette close to the ground. The yellow flower matures into a white puff-ball containing seeds.
- The green leaves are deeply-toothed, hairless and grow in a rosette close to the ground.
- The yellow flower matures into a white puff-ball containing seeds. The petals are square at the tips. The flower opens in the morning and close in evening.
- The stem is hollow and does not have leaves, only a single yellow flower.
You will find look-a-likes however, they are all edible. Chicory (Cichorium intybus) and Cat’s Ear (Hypochaeris) grow with dandelion on our land. They look alike when the leaves are young but not so much as the plants mature. The easiest way to tell them apart is by looking for hairs on the leaves.
- Dandelion – no hairs on the leaves.
- Chicory – hairs on the back of the leaves.
- Cat’s Ear – hairs on the back and front of the leaves.
Where To Find in the Wild
This nutritious herb is available all year and grows throughout North America. Look for dandelion in your backyard, local park, walking trails, country roads and fields. You should always check to make sure the area has not been sprayed with chemicals before harvesting and you should never eat a wild plant unless you are 100% positive of the identification.
Where To Find Online
How To Use
All parts of the plant can be used. Drying the plant and storing it in your pantry is a great way to add nutrition to your diet during the winter months.
- The root can be grated and added to soups or roasted for a nutritious coffee alternative.
- The fresh stem has a milky sap that will help boost the immune system. The stem makes a fun drinking straw.
- The fresh leaves can be added to salads, soups, smoothies or juiced. Tea is made using fresh or dried leaves.
- The flowers can be added to a salad, soup, sandwich or smoothie. Tea and wine are made from the fresh flowers.
- Here is a very interesting article on the seeds (the link will take you to another website) Experiments With Dandelion Seeds
How To Make Tea (Infusion)
An infusion is made from fresh or dried flowers or leaves (whole, cut or powdered). Do not boil the herbs because the flowers and leaves are delicate. The nutrients are easily extracted.
- 1 tsp dried herbs or 1 tablespoon fresh herbs
- 1 cup gently boiling water
Put herbs in a mug or into a tea strainer, pour hot water over herbs, cover and steep 15 minutes for a light tea or longer for a strong tea. Strain and sweeten with honey, if desired. You can find mesh tea balls, strainers, squeezers and infusers at Starwest Botanicals.
How To Make Tea (Decoction)
A decoction is made using the roots. The roots are gently boiled because these parts are more woody and fibrous. The nutrients are harder to extract.
- 2 tablespoon root (cut-up)
- 1 cup water
Boil 1 cup of water. Add roots and bring to a gentle boil, simmer and cover 30 minutes. Strain and save the wet roots. Repeat with saved wet roots. Mix both liquids together. Add honey, if desired.
How To Make Tincture
A tincture is more concentrated than a tea. Is more convenient to use and has a long shelf life. The alcohol extracts the medicinal qualities from the plant and preserves it. I like to store my tinctures in glass amber bottles (with dropper) but any clean glass jar will be good. Store in a cool dark place and they will keep indefinitely.
- Fresh or dried leaves and/or roots
- 80 proof vodka
- Quart jar with lid
Fill a quart glass canning jar halfway with fresh or dried herbs. Pour 80 proof vodka over the herbs filling almost to the top of the jar. Stir well, seal lid tightly and label with herb and date. Keep in a dark place (cabinet) and shake once every day for 2 – 4 weeks. Strain and transfer liquid to glass amber bottles or any clean jar. Sore in a cool dry place.
How To Make Dandelion Root Coffee
Most of us call it dandelion coffee because it looks and tastes like coffee. The dried roots are roasted then steeped in hot water for a caffeine free drink that is highly nutritious.
- 1 teaspoon roasted dandelion root
- 1 cup boiling water
Dig up fresh roots, wash and cut into small pieces. Spread roots on a baking sheet and roast in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes or until dark brown and brittle. Cool and grind until they look like coffee. Add 1 teaspoon grinds to 1 cup boiling water. Steep 10 minutes. Enjoy as is or add your favorite sweetener and creamer.
Simple Steamed Greens Recipe
Boil fresh greens for about 10 minutes and strain. Drizzle with olive oil, squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.
Wild Dandelion Pesto
You can use just about any wild edible green plant for making pesto such as chickweed, cleavers, garlic mustard, lamb’s quarters, red clover leaves and wood sorrel. This is a basic recipe that can be made to your taste.
- 2 cups packed fresh dandelion leaves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pine nuts
- Dash of sea salt
Process the seeds or nuts in a blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients and blend smooth. Great on top of pasta, zucchini noodles or veggie sticks.
“Some people see a weed,
Some people see a wish!”
There is no toxic level and this plant is safe for everyone from babies to elderly. I would recommend using a small amount to see if you have any reactions. This post is for education purposes only and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please consult your physician for advice regarding any health related diagnosis or treatment.