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Secrets of the Dandelion

It’s pretty amazing that the very plant often pictured on herbicide labels may hold health benefits no one ever thought possible. Years ago, before technology allowed for year round availability of fresh green vegetables and fruit, my great grandmother used a dandelion spring tonic for her family. In early spring when the dandelions were sprouting leaves, she would go out and collect them and feed them to her family.


As it turns out, she was right on in doing that because the lowly dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a miracle veggie loaded with nutrients. When you eat dandelion leaves here’s what you get: folate, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, vitamins A, C, E (Alpha Tocopherol), K, B6, thiamin, riboflavin and fiber. Wow! No wonder she used dandelion as a tonic.

But wait there’s more. Dandelion root is also renowned for its ability to cure various types of cancer. It’s been used for this purpose along with other medicinal uses in Chinese medicine, Arabian medicine, Native Americans and my great grandmother. Now there’s scientific evidence that all those stories may be true. In a study conducted at the Laboratory of Biochemical and Biomedical Research, Department of Chemistry, New Mexico Tech indicates dandelion may offer effective treatment for breast and prostate cancer. How cool is that.

The evidence

The New Mexico study used a water extract of dandelion root, leaves, and flowers. However there is convincing anecdotal evidence indicating dandelion cured lung and other cancers using the powdered dry root. Some say that the powdered root purchased in the health food stores doesn’t work due to the way it is processed. I can neither substantiate nor deny this claim.

There are other studies on the health benefits of dandelion and I encourage you to check them out at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez.

If you’ve read the other posts on SpaFromScratch, you know I am a firm believer in scientific evidence to back any claim of therapeutic benefits of an essential oil, herb or cosmetic. However, if a plant, in this case dandelion is being used by different people in different geographical locations for the same purpose, maybe it works. And, if it doesn’t cause harm, I see no reason not to try it.

How to prepare dandelion

 

If you decide to try dandelions, be sure and select plants that are in untreated parts of the garden or lawn. It is also advisable to avoid plants subjected to sprays of pollutants such as roadsides.

Dandelion greens

Dandelion greens should be picked early in the spring. If you wait until summer when the plants are mature, they will be awfully bitter. I have found even the new leaves growing on the mature plants to be bitter in the summer. Some people disagree with that assessment. You’ll have to test it out for yourself.

Dandelion greens can be steamed or eaten raw in a salad.

Dandelion root

The dandelion root is that part of the dandelion used most frequently to treat cancer. It should be dried at 100 F until it is brittle. Once the root is ready, it should be ground into a fine powder. One individual who says dandelion cured his prostate cancer says he uses ½ teaspoon a day in juice or water. The dandelion root is extremely bitter so if you decide to give it a try, you might want to use juice.

Dandelion flowers

You can eat them raw or use them as a pretty garnish in salads. Make sure you completely remove the green part from the flower. I think it tastes awful. I made dandelion wine from the flowers once. Just once!! It was a huge job. Pick the flowers open then race home before they close up and get the green off them was a trick. Plus it took a zillion flowers to make the wine. The hard work was worth it. The wine was sweet with a wonderful light bouquet.

Conclusion

It seems to me that all too often we discount the value of something simply because it is common. The dandelion is a perfect example of that. We have a wonderful and awesome plant growing everywhere. So, what do we do? We try to eradicate it. I’m just as guilty as the next person, but I’ll never look at those dandelions growing in my yard the same way again.  From now on they will get all the respect they deserve.

Health Note: Before using dandelion root you should consult with your physician if you have a medical condition or are nursing or pregnant.

Now go have fun and relax.

 

4 Comments on Secrets of the Dandelion

  1. Guest

    My grandmother used to make a salve out of them for scratches….Pestle the leaves well, and mix with a tiny bit of Crisco and apply. Stung like all get out, but they never got infected. My grandfather used to make the wine…it was so good, but like you said, it takes a zillion flowers! Guess who got to pick them…the grandkids.

  2. SpaFromScratch

    We can learn a lot from our the old timers. Let’s hope our grandkids are as lucky.

  3. Guest

    MY GRANDMA USED TO MAKE VEGGIES BURGERS WITH DANDELIONS LEAVES (COOKED FIRST), YOU KNOW, THEN MIX, EGG, BREAD CRUMBS, SPICES, AND MAKE THEM INTO PATTIES, AND FRY THEM, I REMEMBER THEM TO BE DELISCIOUS AS A CHILD.

    MY GRANDFATHER WOULD MAKE THE DANDELION WINE AS WELL, I TRIED IT AS A CHILD IT TOO WAS SO DELISCIOUS.

    • SpaFromScratch

      Thanks for the idea. We’ll have to give your grandma’s recipe a try. Do you know what spices she used?

      Dandelion wine is indeed delicious. I can personally attest to that. It’s a trick to make it though because if you don’t get all the green off the flower, the wine turns out bitter. I can attest to that too.