One dandelion has all the nutrients you need in one day.
Dandelions are bright little pops of sunshine that can grow anywhere it seems. Even cracks in sidewalks are not spared. In fact, they seem to be relished by the ever tenacious dandelion. Because of this, they’ve always been seen as an evil invader weed intent on destroying the perfection of your lawn, yet cherished by children, herbalists, foragers, and pollinators alike. Dandelions are not only one of the first food sources for pollinators such as bees, but wonderful food and medicine for us, as well. The entire plant from flower to roots can be utilized. They’re nutrient rich, containing “substantial levels of vitamins A, C, D, and B complex as well as iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, copper, choline, calcium, boron, and silicon,” according to Mountain Rose Herbs. In fact, one dandelion has all the nutrients you need in one day! This is a plant that offers so much and should be revered not sprayed into Roundup oblivion.
An overtaxed liver and dandelion root go together like peanut butter and jelly.
An overtaxed liver, which is most livers nowadays, benefits greatly from dandelion root. When consumed, it gently stimulates the production of bile, giving a boost to the digestion process. I prefer my roots roasted because it tastes remarkably similar to coffee, which I love, without all the caffeine that makes my heart jittery. My favorite blend for “un-coffee” has roasted dandelion roots, roasted chicory root, cinnamon, and Califia brand Toasted Coconut Almond milk. Sometimes I add burdock root, if my liver is really struggling that day or if I’ve had an especially fatty meal. Unroasted dandelion root makes a nice addition to soups and stews along with the aforementioned burdock root.
The leaves won’t leach your potassium and they’re a nice addition to salads.
In the herbal community dandelion leaves are a well known diuretic, which means they increase urination. The great thing about them, though, is that unlike most diuretics, especially pharmaceutical diuretics, they don’t leach away your potassium. In fact, they actually replenish it! Of all the kidney herbs, dandelion leaf is my favorite to work with because it does not intensify my headaches.
The leaves also make a nice, albeit bitter addition to salad. My great-grandmother used to make a dandelion green salad with a sweet bacon and onion dressing. Growing up eating and enjoying this, my dad was excited to share it with me, when I first started getting into herbalism and foraging. We used the leaves from my yard, but the mid-Summer greens were just too bitter and tough, and the dressing was overly sweet. My plan this year is to harvest the leaves while they’re young and breathe new life into this Depression Era side dish that my great-grandma and dad enjoyed together. I’m thinking a mixed greens salad with dandelion leaves, dandelion flower petals, and a dandelion flower vinaigrette. It will be a dandelion powerhouse! Stay tuned for that!
The flowers are the tastiest part of the plant.
While just as versatile as the roots and leaves, the flowers are hands down the most palatable part of the plant. The petals have a flavor similar to that of honey and work nicely in a variety of baked goods, jellies, vinegar, and make a nice, bright addition to your salad as mentioned above. Topically the flowers make lotions and salves great for alleviating dry, chapped hands and sore muscles.
If I had to pick a favorite way to utilize the flowers, though, I would say it would be in the form of a flower essence. Dandelion flower essence is one of my absolute favorites as it helps one let go of control issues that can lead to anxiety, which describes a good chunk of the world’s population. So if you’re someone who experiences a lot of anxiety and maybe, just maybe it’s because you like to control all the things, a bottle of dandelion flower essence would do your soul good. It has helped me so very much that I rarely need it anymore, although I still will have a few drops before a particularly nerve wracking class or presentation.
Mindful harvesting even for this abundant plant
So when you see these yellow beauties popping up as the days grow warmer, admire them, hang out with them, harvest some for your health and chewing pleasure, get creative! If you choose to harvest, please remember to do so mindfully, remembering that dandelions feed many other insects and animals and probably more humans than just yourself. Also being mindful that not all areas are safe to harvest from. Some say to stick to the “rule of thirds”, when wild-harvesting or foraging– one third for humans, one third for the animals, and one third for the plant. With the dandelion you can harvest a bit more liberally than other plants because they are so abundant, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Be mindful, use your discernment and intuition, but do go out there and experience this plant for yourself!