Edible Weeds 101: The Health Benefits of Dandelions

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A common and easy-to-recognize weed, dandelions do more than take over vacant yards (and your front lawn). Before you dismiss this pesky weed, consider its health benefits.

Liver cleanser: A natural diuretic, dandelions cleanse and detoxify the liver by helping flush toxins out of the body.

Vitamins and minerals: Dandelions are packed with essential minerals such as iron, potassium and beta-carotene and vitamins A, C and D. Although many diuretics reduce the amount of potassium in the body, dandelions contain high amounts of potassium, helping to replace what is lost through urination.

Stomach aid: By stimulating the flow of bile, dandelions provide support to the digestive system (as well as the kidneys and liver). This weed can also stimulate appetite and ease stomach pain caused by fullness, constipation and other ailments. Studies have also shown that dandelion root may improve and aid natural bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, helping to relieve stomach problems.

dandelion field 
Harvest dandelions in early spring, before the plants begin to flower. Photo By kh1234567890/Courtesy Flickr.

Diabetes: Although more research is needed, early studies have shown that dandelions may improve diabetic symptoms, including normalizing blood sugar levels, improving cholesterol and reducing the clumping of platelets in blood vessels.

Better skin: Cleansing the liver will result in clearer skin, but dandelion juice, extracted from fresh roots, can also be applied topically and used as a treatment for skin ailments such as open wounds, warts and even acne.

How to Enjoy Dandelions 

Avoid foraging for weeds in areas where pesticides and fertilizers are known to be used. Harvest dandelions in early spring, before the plant flowers, using a stout, sharp knife. Older leaves will have a bitter taste, so always opt for newer leaves.

Add the leaves to a salad, such as this Dandelion Salad with Bacon, sauté the roots and add them to your favorite dish, or steam the leaves with garlic and chili pepper flakes.

For more on harvesting and cooking dandelions, read the article “A Dandelion Celebration: Dany Springtime Greens."