How Dandelion Is A Healthy Food, Herb And Form of Traditional Medicine For Centuries ?
Updated: Oct 24, 2022
Humans have used dandelion leaves, stems, flowers, and roots for food, as an herb and in many forms of traditional medicine for centuries. From root to flower, dandelions are highly nutritious plants loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They were well known to ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and are recorded to have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over a thousand years. The plant was used as food and medicine by Native Americans.
Taraxacum is the scientific name for dandelions, a large genus of flowering plant in the family Asteraceae. Taraxacum officinale is the common known dandelion and Taraxacum erythrospermum is the red-seeded dandelion, now propagate as wildflowers. The name dandelion means 'lion's tooth' and are thought to have evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia. With their golden flowers in the early spring, dandelions represent the return of life, the rebirth of growth and green after a harsh winter, and a display of abundant strength and power.
Dandelion greens have been a part of traditional Kashmiri cuisine, Spanish cuisine, Italian cuisine, Albanian cuisine, Slovenian, Sephardic Jewish, Chinese, Greek cuisine and Korean cuisines. Leaves are used to add flavor to salads, sandwiches, and teas, roots are used in some coffee substitutes, and the flowers are used to make wines. Dandelion was also traditionally used to make the British soft drink dandelion and burdock, and is one of the ingredients of root beer.
Not only can the leaves, roots, and flower add a pop of color to your plate, but they’re also often found in herbal teas and supplements, where they’re used as a natural remedy to support blood sugar management and boost skin, liver, and heart health. The entire plant, including the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots, is edible and nutritious, with nutrients such as raw dandelion greens contain high amounts of vitamins A, C, and K, and are moderate sources of calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese. Raw dandelion greens are 86% water, 9% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and 1% fat.
In the past, dandelion roots and leaves were used to treat liver problems. Native Americans also boiled dandelion in water and took it to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and upset stomach. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), dandelion has been used to treat stomach problems, appendicitis, and breast problems, such as inflammation or lack of milk flow. In Europe, dandelion was used in remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.
Dandelions are also rich source of beta carotene and polyphenol compounds, both of which may neutralize harmful free radicals and protect against chronic disease. The root of the dandelion is rich in the carbohydrate inulin, a type of soluble fiber found in plants that supports the growth and maintenance of healthy gut bacteria supporting bowel regularity, among other digestive benefits. It's leaves are used as a diuretic to help the body get rid of too much fluid.
Dandelion plants have low toxicity and are likely safe for most people, especially when consumed as food. However, keep in mind that there have not been any quality scientific studies on dandelion and therefore isn’t entirely risk-free.
Except used as a healthy food, many folklore superstitions also been attached to dandelions over the years. It has been a western tradition for someone to blow out a dandelion seedhead and think of a wish they want to come true. Legend has it that, if you can blow all the seeds off a dandelion with a single breath, then the person you love will love you back. If seeds remain, then the object of your affection may have reservations about their feelings toward you. In addition to granting wishes, many people believe that dandelion seeds will carry your thoughts and dreams to loved ones when you blow them into the air.