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The Dandelion – health, nutrition & tea

dandelion seeds

Dandelions

The humble dandelion, considered a ‘weed’ in many parts of the world is infact a very useful little flower. In this article we will discuss the Dandelions’ many uses and why it was once grown as a source of nutrition & medicine.

The Dandelion is a plant that is native to Europe, Asia and North America (basically anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere) and can be found nearly all year round. Its latin name is Taraxacum Officinale although other varieties do exist, this is the most common species.

The dandelion is an edible plant that has been used for a long time for a source of sustenance and even medicine. The idea that this simple weed could be medically viable was once considered ‘poppycock’ by contemporary scientists – but this is currently changing, the plant has been studied further in recent years discovering its potential.

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Dandelion Tea

Dandelion tea is popular everywhere it grows from North America to Asia & Europe where it is considered a great herbal remedy that can be used to:

  • Help treat the common cold
  • Detox your body of free radicals 
  • Treat UTIs (Urinary Tract infections)
  • Treat inflammation 

Dandelion tea can be made from the leaves, flowers or roots. The respective parts are simply dried and used in a tea strainer with hot water, the roots can be roasted to make a caffeine free coffee like substitute. This is the most common hot drink made from the dandelion plant, the roots are roasted and then added to hot water either ground or whole. 

Field of Dandelions UK

What does dandelion tea taste like?

Different parts of the plant can be used to make tea and each have their own characteristics, some teas are made with individual parts of a dandelion’s anatomy or it can be used whole. The distinct flavours for each teas are:

Dandelion root tea (Dandelion Coffee) is a very robust drink that tastes earthy, toasty and bitter very much like coffee, hence its nickname as ‘dandelion coffee’. 

Tea made from dandelion leaves tastes earthy and leafy which favours sweetening with citrus or other teas.

The dandelion flowers can also be used to make tea, this usually has a sweet & delicate flowery taste. It is second in popularity to dandelion root coffee, but both are full of natural benefits.

Dandelion in seed

Dandelion health benefits

There are multiple health benefits to introducing dandelions into your diet, they are nutritious and taste great! Both in salads or in teas. We will run through some of the health benefits and how to get them.

Dandelion root tea is the most popular brew to make from dandelions. It is arguably the most flavourful and beneficial as it contains potassium. Its most active ingredient though is called taraxacin, it’s the compound that gives dandelion coffee its bitter flavour. Taraxacin stimulates the gallbladder causing it to contract which increases bile flow – detoxifying the liver and gallbladder. 

The Dandelion is also rich in the vitamins A, B1, B2 B3, C, E, K which are all beneficial to the human body. Dandelions are also rich in minerals such as calcium, sodium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and selenium. As well as Inulin, a prebiotic fibre that nourishes the bacterial flora and improves intestinal transit. 

Other active ingredients include;

  • Alpha and beta carotene;
  • Beta-cryptoxanthin;
  • Lutein;
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Tannins
  • Caffeic & coumaric acid

Flavonoids and potassium in dandelion tea have a draining action in the kidney and stimulate the production of urine and the drainage of excess fluids which is beneficial to the body.

*Note – There are some medical conditions where drinking dandelion tea is not recommended, if you have any kind of medical condition make sure you check before consuming dandelions. 

Dandelion Root tea

The benefits that drinking Dandelion root tea bring are multiple, the most important active ingredient is taraxacin. This is the bitter compound that stimulates the gallbladder which in turn increases bile flow. 

This secretory action is not limited to only bile, but also stimulates the secretions of all the glands of the human gastrointestinal system. These systems include your saliva, gastric, pancreatic &  intestinal juices. Taraxacin also stimulates the muscles of the digestive system, slightly promoting the secondary laxative action. 

If you want to know how to make Dandelion root tea please see our guide here.

Does Dandelion root tea contain caffeine?

No, Dandelion coffee does not contain caffeine, it does contain an array of vitamins and minerals that do give a boost to your health. Whether or not you can physically feel this is yet to be researched by science. 

Dandelion Leaf tea

Dandelion leaves are known to help with kidney function and help with water retention. They are also known as being an aide for digestion. Dandelion leaves also make great additions to salads along with the flower.

Are Dandelions good for you?

Yes, dandelions are very good for the majority of people, like anything they should only be consumed as part of a balanced diet. The leaves make great additions to salads along with the flowers & the roots can be used to make dandelion root tea as we discussed earlier. All of these contain vitamins and minerals that the body uses to maintain itself. 

There are some medical conditions where taking dandelions may not be recommended as they can have an adverse effect with some medication & medical conditions.

Dandelions in all its states

What does dandelion do to your body 

Dandelions, consumed on a regular basis as part of a balanced diet will have some effects on your body due to its potent content of vitamins and minerals. It is also jam packed with a variety of antioxidants which help neutralise free radicals in the body, reducing the risk of chronic illness and disease. 

Like anything medical though, if you have any form of health related issues you should consult your doctor before consuming dandelions on a regular basis. Due to its potency it could have negative effects on people with certain health issues. 

With regular consumption your body will experience

  • A lower blood pressure
  • Anti inflammatory effects
  • Improved liver function
  • Improved immune responses

As an excellent source of Vitamin A dandelions have also shown that they may lower the risk of conditions like cataracts, diarrhoea, measles, and breast cancer. They are also a great source of vitamin C which promotes a strong immune system.

Is dandelion poisonous to humans? 

No, dandelions are safe for humans to consume both as a beverage or as part of a balanced diet. Dandelions are even ok for cats and dogs – although I don’t think they will be easily convinced to eat them in the first place! 

What can Dandelion cure?

As we have discussed, the health benefits to eating dandelions in salads or drinking dandelion root tea are numerous. This is due to the high content of vitamins like A and C as well as minerals like potassium. 

The dandelion’s ability to help with medical conditions like gastric issues, diarrhoea and even diabetes is well known. From the ancients to modern day society across most parts of the world, the dandelion has been used for centuries if not longer.

The main ailments dandelions have been used to help with are:

  • Gastric issues
  • Diarrhoea
  • Diabetes
  • Appendicitis
  • Breast problems (lack of milk/inflammation)
  • Fever
  • Boils
  • Eye problems
  • Supports the production of bile
  • Supports the liver
  • Detoxes the body
  • Weight loss 

Are dandelions edible?

Yes, you can eat dandelions – in fact you can eat the whole plant and it’s all nutritious. Dandelions were once used for both medicine and food the world over and therefore farmed for their flowers, leaves and roots. The leaves & flowers can be used in salad, the roots can be used like carrots or potatoes. Not only are they nutritious, they are also prolific and easy to grow with fields being taken over quite easily by a crop of dandelions with little human intervention. 

Do bees like Dandelions?

Yes! Bees love dandelions and it is an even more important reason to let them grow than for our own consumption. What makes the Dandelion even more important to bees is that at certain times of the year it is their only source of food and pollen, it is also usually the first food source available in early spring. Each dandelion can contain over 100 little flowers, each containing a meal for the bees & other great pollinators. It is important to note that dandelions are not nutritious enough to sustain bees alone.

Dandelion seeds

Dandelion seeds are what people sometimes refer to as dandelion fairies. When a dandelion goes into seed it becomes a giant ball of fluff, when the wind catches this the seeds are dislodged and carried with the breeze. You will likely have spent many hours blowing dandelion seeds everywhere as a kid in places where dandelions grow. They do indeed resemble a fairy-like image when being blown through the air. 

Sources

https://blog.yamamotonutrition.com/en/dandelion-benefits-active-ingredients-and-contraindications-of-dandelion-a786

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dandelion-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3

https://www.webmd.com/diet/dandelion-tea-is-it-good-for-you

https://senchateabar.com/blogs/blog/how-to-make-dandelion-tea#:~:text=Taste,i%20and%20black%20tea%20leaves.

https://senchateabar.com/blogs/blog/dandelion-tea#:~:text=natural%20sleep%20cycles.-,Flavor%20Profile,that%20can%20have%20astringent%20notes.

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