We all see the bright yellow blooms every spring. The fuzzy globes of golden sunshine lawn care companies would have you believe are the bane of every American household. Yes – I am referring to dandelions. Dandelions are the first flower picked by small children for their mothers and an early food source for bees. However there is a lot more to know about this plant than just that.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) have a rich history of being a food source for not just animals, but humans, too. According to legend, Theseus ate a dandelion salad after killing the Minotaur. It was consumed by the Romans, Gauls, Greeks, and the Celts. It was not uncommon for seeds of this plant to be included in the garden staples brought along by early settlers. It is no surprise why it was so popular. Today we know it is very nutritious. Dandelion greens (leaves) are an excellent source of vitamins K, C, A and smaller amounts of vitamin E, assorted B vitamins, and folate. They contain an impressive amount of iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These contents may help to build healthy bones and muscles. Dandelion greens can be eaten both raw or cooked. Take care where you gather your dandelions. It is not suggested to gather those that have been sprayed with chemical herbicides nor those found along heavily polluted roads (think car exhaust – yuck).
Many names have been hung on dandelion over the years. Piss-a-lint, Piss-the-bed and other names hint at its historical use as a diuretic. Many sources, both traditional and modern medical refer to dandelion as being able to rid the body of excess fluids. Susan Weed writes about dandelion with great love in her herbals. As with any diuretic, consult with a medical professional before mixing with prescription medications.
Small, but promising, studies show dandelion may have protective effect on the liver when exposed to toxic substances. Although these are small studies in animals, they offer great promise for future research. Also needing more research is the small evidence that dandelion may help reduce the amount of fat stored in the liver. The presence of chologenic acid is thought to increase metabolism in mice. Mouse metabolism is different than that of humans so more research is needed to investigate the possibility of this effect in humans. However, there is no doubt in the high antioxidant content of dandelion. The high levels of vitamins A and C along with betacarotene and polypehnols present in dandelion provide protection from oxidative stress and tissue damage in a cellular level from free radicals.
Dandelion root contains fiber, called inulin, considered to be a prebiotic. It supplies a proper environment for healthy, beneficial bacteria to grow. Consuming dandelion may stimulate colon contractions, thereby reducing constipation.
There are many great Nature’s Sunshine Products containing dandelion. Feel free to click under the image that might interest you to learn more about the product.