Dandelion is well-known as a sturdy, prolific weed that often grows unwanted in gardens, lawns, fields and playgrounds, but it’s actually an herb that has many benefits. From the dandelion leaves and roots to its stems and flowers, every part of this plant is useful. Read on to find out more about the benefits of dandelion herb and the ways you can use it to your health’s advantage.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is an herbaceous perennial that belongs to the Asteraceae family of plants,1 along with daises and sunflowers.2 Native to Europe, dandelion seeds were brought by American colonists to America, where they were initially planted for culinary and therapeutic use. They have since spread far and wide.3
There are many plants that look similar to dandelion, such as cat’s ear and false dandelion. If you’re planning to use this herb, it’s important to be able to tell it apart from its lookalikes. Known for its bright yellow blossoms, dandelion also has smooth, deeply toothed leaves and hollow stems that neither branch out nor produce multiple flowers.4
According to The Spruce Eats, the teeth of dandelion leaves “point back toward the center of the basal rosette,” unlike its plant lookalikes whose teeth “point forward, out and away from the center of the plant.”5 Its leaves also protect it against being pulled out, making it harder for you to extract dandelions when they grow in areas where you don’t want them.6
Dandelion is a resilient plant that can grow in any kind of soil, regardless of drainage or exposure to sunlight. To keep it from sowing itself and taking over your garden, it’s recommended that you harvest it regularly.7
Dandelion has a dark brown, fleshy and brittle taproot that is 2 to 3 centimeters (approximately 1 inch) wide and at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) long. Although dandelion root is available all year-round, it’s best to harvest it before it seeds, preferably during early spring or late fall, since this is when it has higher amounts of nutrients.8
According to the Journal of the Society for Biomedical Diabetes Research, dandelion root contains carotenoids, minerals, vitamins and various bioactive components, including sesquiterpene lactones, chlorogenic acid (CGA) and chicoric acid (CRA), to name a few.9 These compounds contribute to dandelion root’s medicinal properties, which include:10,11,12
Dandelion root can be roasted, ground and used as a coffee substitute. When used as a vegetable, it has a mild flavor that some may find uninteresting.13 Dried dandelion root is also used to make dandelion root tea.14
Different parts of the dandelion plant can be used as:
1. Food ingredients — Besides consuming dandelion root as a vegetable or using it to make coffee and tea, you can use the leaves of this plant like any leafy green. Dandelion greens have a fresh and slightly bitter flavor, making them a good substitute for spinach. However, their taste can become overpowering as the weather becomes warmer. If they’re too bitter for your taste, you can blanch the leaves to make them more palatable.
Unopened dandelion flowers can also be pickled, boiled or eaten raw in salads. Open flowers, on the other hand, can be used to make wine, jelly, cookies and bread. Be sure to remove the calyces at their base before adding the flowers to your food, as they taste bitter.15
2. Infused oils — You can make infused dandelion oil from the plant’s flowers and use it topically to help relieve muscle pain. You can also use it to make a salve or balm, which can be scented by blending it with other essential oils like lavender.16
3. Ornamental plants — While many gardeners would eradicate dandelions before they spread, this ornamental plant can be a good addition to your flower or herb garden if you want a splash of cheerful, bright yellow color. Just be sure to harvest it regularly to keep it under control.17
You’ll also play a part in protecting nature by letting some dandelions grow in your garden. According to The Guardian, dandelions are an “easily available source of food” for pollinators, including bees, hoverflies, butterflies, beetles and even birds.18
4. Fertilizer — If you harvested more dandelions than you can use, don’t throw the excess out just yet. Instead, use them as an herbal fertilizer. They contain micronutrients that can enrich your garden’s soil.19
Dandelion has a long history of medicinal use, particularly in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as well as traditional Arabic, Indian and Russian medical systems.20,21 This herb may be beneficial for your well-being by helping to:
1. Fight free radicals — Studies have shown that dandelion extract contains phenolic components that may help inhibit oxidative damage.22,23,24
2. Reduce the risk for cancer — According to a study published in the journal Oncotarget, aqueous dandelion root extract may be a safe and effective alternative to chemotherapies, as it “efficiently and selectively triggers programmed cell death pathways.”25
3. Lower cholesterol levels — An animal study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences evaluated the potential hypolipidemic properties of dandelion root and leaf extract. Researchers found that it may help improve levels of high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) while reducing serum total cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol).26
4. Reduce the risk for Type 2 diabetes — According to a study published in the Journal of the Society for Biomedical Diabetes Research, the bioactive components in dandelion, which includes sesquiterpene lactones, taraxasterol (TS), taraxerol, CGA and CRA, may have potential antidiabetic actions.27
5. Inhibit inflammation — The sesquiterpene lactones and other phenolic substances present in dandelion have been found to contribute to its anti-inflammatory properties.28 By fighting inflammation, dandelion may help reduce the risk for inflammation-related diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.29
6. Regulate blood pressure levels — Dandelion may help lower blood pressure levels and reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases with its hypolipidemic property.30 It’s also a good source of potassium,31 which may help normalize blood pressure levels by regulating the effects of sodium and easing the tension of the blood vessel walls.32
7. Maintain healthy weight — According to a study published in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners, bitter herbs like dandelion root may be taken as a liquid or tea before eating to help “stimulate gastric secretions and promote fat and cholesterol breakdown.”33
8. Improve digestion — An animal study in the journal Neurogastroenterology and Motility found that dandelion contains compounds that may help decrease the resistance of food moving from the stomach to the small intestine, ultimately accelerating the gastric emptying rate.34
9. Boost immune function — Dandelion may help support optimal immune health with its antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.35
10. Alleviate arthritis symptoms — According to an animal study published in the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, the taraxasterol component of dandelion may help reduce the symptoms of arthritis by modulating inflammatory responses.36
11. Reduce the risk for urinary tract infections (UTI) — A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests that dandelion extract may be a potential alternative to antibiotics for the management of UTI because of its “antibacterial activity against uropathogenic clinical bacteria.”37
12. Support healthy liver function — A study published in the journal Environmental Toxicology found that dandelion leaf extract exerts hepatoprotective properties against sodium dichromate, a pollutant that may cause acute liver damage, hepatocyte necrosis and DNA fragmentation.38
13. Promote healthy skin — Based on the study in the Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity journal, dandelion leaf and flower extract may help reduce the risk for skin photoaging by protecting against UVB damage and suppressing the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS).39
14. Reduce the risk for anemia — A study published in the journal Advances in Hematology investigated dandelion’s traditional use for managing anemia by evaluating its effects on the blood cells of mice. Results show that dandelion extract may help increase levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin.40
15. Provide natural diuretic properties — According to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, the ethanolic extract of dandelion “shows promise as a diuretic in humans.” Diuretics are used to help decrease the sodium in your body or to manage water retention.41
16. Improve bone health — Dandelion greens are an excellent source of vitamin K and calcium,42 which are nutrients that may help improve bone density, inhibit bone loss and reduce the risk for osteoporosis and bone fracture.43,44
If you have freshly harvested dandelions from your garden, use them to create these delicious and healthy recipe ideas:
Dandelion and Fennel Salad
For the salad:
• 1 bunch finely chopped dandelion greens
• 1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
• 2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
• 1/2 cup bean sprouts
For the dressing:
- Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
- Mix all the dressing ingredients together, pour over the top, toss lightly, and enjoy!
(Recipe from "Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type" by Dr. Mercola)
Dandelion Greens With Garlic
- 1 pound dandelion greens
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 whole small dried hot chili pepper, seeds removed and crushed
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Parmesan cheese for garnish
- Wash the dandelion greens well in salted water, then cut into 2-inch pieces.
- Cook the leaves in a small amount of salted water in an uncovered saucepan until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic and chili pepper, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent.
- Drain the greens thoroughly, and then add them into the onion-garlic mixture.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve the dandelion greens with grated or shredded Parmesan cheese.
(Recipe adapted from The Spruce45)
Dandelion Pumpkin Seed Pesto
- 3/4 cup unsalted hulled green pumpkin seeds
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 bunch dandelion greens (about 2 cups, loosely packed)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Black pepper, to taste
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the pumpkin seeds onto a shallow-rimmed baking sheet and roast until just fragrant, about five minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Pulse the garlic and pumpkin seeds together in a food processor until finely chopped.
- Add in the Parmesan cheese, dandelion greens and lemon juice, and process continuously until combined. Stop the processor occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The pesto will be very thick and difficult to process after a while.
- With the blade running, slowly pour in the olive oil and process until the pesto is smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
(Recipe adapted from The Kitchn46)
Appalachian Style Fried Dandelions
- 2 cups coconut flour
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 4 organic, free-range eggs
- 80 unopened dandelion blossoms, stems removed
- 1/2 cup grass fed butter
- Combine the coconut flour, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and set aside.
- Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl, then add in in the dandelion blossoms. Mix well until the flowers are completely coated.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Remove half the dandelions from the egg mixture, allowing the excess egg to drip away.
- Toss the flowers in seasoned coconut flour until completely coated, then toss them between your hands to remove the excess flour.
- Cook the flowers in melted butter until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about five minutes.
- Set them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess butter. Repeat with the remaining dandelion flowers.
(Recipe adapted from All Recipes47)
Dandelion tea is an herbal infusion often made from the dandelion leaves and roots.48 If you want a milder flavor, you should use its blossoms instead.49 The part of the plant used to make tea affects the health benefits it bestows. For instance, dandelion leaf tea has diuretic and anti-inflammatory affects, whereas dandelion root tea may help aid digestion and immune function.50
If you want to know how to make dandelion tea and discover more about the benefits it offers, check out the article, “9 Health Benefits of Dandelion Tea.”
While dandelion leaves and roots are often consumed cooked or raw, they also can be used to make an herbal supplement in capsule and extract form. According to the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health, “dandelion as a dietary supplement is used as a blood ‘tonic,’ as a diuretic, for minor digestive problems, and for other purposes.”51
Although dandelions offer a number of potential health benefits, not all of them are safe to consume. Dandelions found in backyards, lawns and other open areas may be contaminated with herbicides, pesticides and other pollutants, so it’s best to steer clear of them unless you know for certain that they haven’t been exposed to any contaminants.52
If possible, you can buy dandelions from the local farmers market instead to make sure they’re safe to consume or, better yet, grow your own organic dandelions at home.
Q: How do you get rid of dandelions?
A: The most common method for eradicating dandelions is by using herbicides, but this isn’t recommended, as these chemicals can be harmful not only for you but also for the environment.53 You can eradicate dandelions from your garden without using harmful chemicals by pulling them out by hand. Follow these steps:54
1. Water the soil to make the plant easier to pull out.
2. Using a garden spade or a pitchfork, make an incision around the taproot, wiggling the tool to loosen the soil.
3. Grip the leaves of the plant then pull it out gently. Continue tugging on the leaves until the plant breaks free. If the taproot breaks, be sure to remove the part left in the soil, as it can regenerate into a size larger than the one you’re trying to remove.55
Q: Can you eat dandelions?
A: Yes, you can eat every part of the dandelion, from its roots to its blossoms.56
Q: Are dandelions poisonous to dogs?
A: Dandelions are not poisonous to dogs.57 To find out which plants are harmful for pets, check out the article, “Just Sniffing This Poisonous Plant Could Be Deadly to Your Pet.”
Q: What are the side effects of dandelion?
A: Dandelions can cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to ragweed and other related plants, including daisies, chrysanthemums and marigolds.58
Q: Are dandelion flowers poisonous?
A: Dandelion flowers are not poisonous. In fact, they are edible and can be used in salads and for making wine, jellies, cookies and bread.59