Dandelions have a reputation as both a granter of wishes and a dreaded weed and lawn nuisance. However, did you know that dandelion root is loaded with nutrients and boast a variety of benefits to your health — just like dandelion greens and dandelion tea?
Dandelion is low in calories but high in fiber as well as vitamin K, vitamin Aand vitamin C. The root has also been shown to have some pretty impressive health benefits and may even help reduce cancer growth, lower cholesterol levels and support liver function.
In addition to being rich in many vitamins and minerals, dandelion is also readily available, easy to add to your diet and full of flavor.
What Is Dandelion?
Dandelions, also known as Taraxacum officinale, are a type of flowering plant native to Europe, Asia and North America.
As a member of the daisy family of plants, dandelions are related to dahlias, thistle, ragweed, lettuce, artichokes and sunflowers.
Dandelions produce many small yellow flowers, called florets, which collectively form one flower head. Once it has finished flowering, the flower head dries out, the florets drop off and a seed head is formed. The dandelion seeds are then naturally dispersed by the wind … or those looking to score a free wish.
Although dandelion is often overlooked as just a pesky weed, it can actually be a useful addition to both your kitchen and your medicine cabinet. Both the root and greens are packed with health-promoting properties and can be used to make everything from dandelion tea to super-nutritious salads.
Just like other roots such as burdock and ashwagandha, dandelion root also has a rich history in its use in traditional medicine. In fact, the origins of dandelion as a natural remedy can be traced all the way back to 659 B.C. in ancient China. It was also used in Arabic, Welsh and European medicine and was eaten raw or made into a juice or tonic.
Traditional uses of the dandelion ranged from promoting better digestion to healing the liver. Some Native American tribes chewed on dandelion root to relieve pain while others steamed the leaves and applied topically to ease sore throats.
However, the benefits of dandelion extend way beyond the root. In fact, dandelion leaves, seeds and flowers can all be used in a variety of recipes and each boast a unique set of nutrients and health-promoting properties.
1. May Kill Cancer Cells
Interestingly enough, several studies show dandelion root may be useful in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
For instance, a 2011 study out of University of Windsor in Canada treated skin cancer cells with dandelion extract and found that it started killing off cancer cells within just 48 hours of treatment.
Another study in Oncotarget showed that dandelion root extract was able to kill 95 percent of colon cancer cells within two days.
2. Reduces Cholesterol
High cholesterol is one of the major contributors to coronary heart disease. This waxy substance can build up in the blood vessels, causing arteries to become hardened and narrow and making it harder for blood to flow through.
Changing your diet is one of the easiest ways to prevent high cholesterol. Along with limiting your intake of processed foods, including more whole foods like fruits and vegetables can help lower cholesterol.
Dandelion root has also been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. In one study, rabbits were fed a high-cholesterol diet and supplemented with dandelion root. Dandelion led to a reduction in total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad LDL cholesterol as well as an increase in beneficial HDL cholesterol.
3. Rich in Antioxidants
Free radicals are compounds that form in your body as a result of things like stress, pollution and a poor diet. Over time, the accumulation of free radicals can lead to cell damage and chronic disease. Antioxidants can help neutralize these harmful compounds and have been shown to reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Studies show that dandelion root is especially high in antioxidants, which may account for its many potent health benefits.
4. Supports Liver Health
From filtering toxins to metabolizing drugs, the liver is essential to many aspects of health. Dandelion root benefits your liver, helping protect it and keep it working effectively.
One study by the Department of Food and Nutrition at Chonnam National University in the Republic of Korea showed that the extract of Taraxacum officinale prevented damage to the liver caused by alcohol toxicity in both liver cells and mice.
These protective effects are likely due to the amount of antioxidants found in dandelion root as well as its ability to prevent cell damage.
5. Fights Bacteria
In addition to its many other health benefits, dandelion root also possesses antimicrobial properties that can help stop the growth of disease-causing bacteria.
A study in Ireland published in Phytotherapy Research showed that dandelion root was especially effective against certain strains of bacteria that are responsible for staph infections and food-borne illness.
Although more research is needed, dandelion root may be a useful natural method for fighting off bacterial infections.
6. Strengthens Bones
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a great source of vitamin K, an important nutrient that plays a key role in bone health. This essential vitamin increases levels of a specific protein needed to help build strong bones, which is exactly why lower intakes of vitamin K have been linked to an increased risk of fractures and reduced bone density.
Dandelion also contains calcium, which forms the structure of the bones and teeth to help keep them strong. According to a paper published in The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, approximately 99 percent of the body’s calcium is found directly in the bones.
7. Promotes Skin Health
Each serving of dandelion supplies a hearty dose of antioxidants, which can protect skin cells against damage to slow signs of aging and keep you looking (and feeling) your best.
Not only that, but a 2015 in vitro study out of Canada also showed that applying extracts of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) to skin cells helped protect against harmful ultraviolet damage.
Some research also shows that dandelion could possess powerful antimicrobial properties, which can help block bacterial growth to prevent skin infections.
8. High in Fiber
Fiber has been associated with several health benefits, especially when it comes to regulating blood sugar levels. Because fiber moves through the body undigested, it helps slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, which can help improve long-term blood sugar control.
In addition to maintaining steady blood sugar levels, fiber can also protect against a multitude of digestive issues, including constipation, hemorrhoids, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and stomach ulcers.
Dosage and Preparation
Dandelions are abundant throughout backyards and grocery stores alike. While it is safe to pick dandelions from your own yard and use them, you should be sure to avoid areas where weed killer or pesticides have been sprayed and remember to wash thoroughly.
Be sure to use the roots by digging a bit deeper and pulling out all of the stems it may be attached to. Wash the roots well to make sure all dirt is removed before using.
The flowers of the plant can be used to make dandelion wine or dandelion jelly and the greens can be added to soups, salads and pasta dishes.
The roots of the plant can be used in a wide array of dandelion recipes as well, but many choose to brew dandelion root into a tasty tea or soothing coffee substitute.
There are many different methods available for how to make dandelion root tea, but it generally involves pouring hot water over the root and letting it steep for 5–10 minutes before straining. To make dandelion coffee, simply roast the root first by baking for around 10–15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dandelion root tea and coffee are both natural, caffeine-free beverages that can help start your day off on the right foot. Plus, the potential dandelion tea benefits are similar to the benefits of the root, which makes it an effortless way to get in your fix in the morning.
Dandelion root pills and liquid extract are also available at many pharmacies and health stores. If you decide to supplement with dandelion, make sure to look for a reputable brand with minimal added ingredients and fillers.
Although there’s no official recommended dosage for dandelion root capsules, most supplements contain between 500–1,500 milligrams of dandelion root extract per serving. For best results, start with a lower dose and work your way up to assess your tolerance and prevent any potential side effects.
Side Effects and Drug Interactions
For most healthy adults, adding this powerful herb to your diet can be a safe and healthy way to take advantage of the many potential benefits of dandelion. However, there are several side effects that need to be considered as well.
For starters, dandelion may cause allergic reactions in some people when eaten or applied to the skin. If you have a sensitivity to other plants in the same family of plants, such as ragweed, daisies or thistle, you may also have a sensitivity to dandelion.
If you experience symptoms like swelling, itching or redness, you should discontinue use immediately and talk to your health care provider.
Dandelion is also high in vitamin K, which may impact blood clotting. If you’re taking Warfarin or another blood thinner, you need to maintain consistent vitamin K intake to prevent interfering with your medication.
If you have any underlying health conditions such as liver disease, diabetes or kidney problems, it’s best to talk to your doctor before starting supplementation or making any major changes to your diet.
- Dandelion, also known as Taraxacum officinale, is a type of plant that belongs to the daisy family.
- Despite being considered little more than a weed by many, dandelion packs in some impressive health benefits.
- In fact, the root of the plant has been associated with many dandelion benefits, including protection against liver disease, lower cholesterol levels and increased bone health.
- Other potential benefits of dandelion include decreased growth of cancer cells and bacteria, better blood sugar control and enhanced skin health.
- Dandelion root can be taken in supplement form or used to brew a hot cup of caffeine-free coffee or tea.
- Next time, think twice about whipping out the weed killer when you notice a yellow dandelion flower popping up in your yard and consider giving these nutritious plants a try instead to take advantage of the many potential dandelion benefits.