By Abrar Al-Shaer
With the spring season upon us, backyards and open fields are filled with a sea of yellow. Dandelions are often thought of as the household weed; however, this backyard plant contains hundreds of health benefits, and all for free! Each part of the dandelion plant is edible, containing various phytochemicals and nutrients. The yellow dandelion flower contains many antioxidants, such as beta-carotenes, giving it the yellow pigment. Antioxidants are important for maintaining healthy cells in our bodies and preventing diseases such as cancer. One cup of the flower along with the leaves and stem also contain 150% of the daily requirement for vitamin A, an essential vitamin for healthy eyesight and immunity. If you are unsure of how to consume these nutritious dandelion flowers, fear not, they can be deliciously enjoyed in dandelion fritters. You may wonder, is there any health benefit of the dandelion flower once it turns white and puffy? Remarkably, the dandelion plant proves itself to be very resourceful. The dandelion fluff provides a dandelion seed within each mini-parachute of white fuzz, serving as a source of plant protein and fiber.
Unlike other vegetables, dandelion stems should not be hastily discarded. Dandelion sap, present in both the stem and flower, has been shown to contain antimicrobial and antifungal properties that are effective at treating potential skin infections. Moreover, 1 ½ cups of dandelion stems and leaves contain about 50% of the vitamin C you need daily, which aids in collagen and carnitine production, and acts as a powerful antioxidant. A wonderful way to enjoy dandelion stems while preserving all its nutrients is through fermentation, or a quick and easy dandelion pesto. Fermentation also adds probiotic properties to the dandelion stems, including healthy microbes that stimulate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
As for the dandelion leaf, its fine bitter taste is a great digestive stimulant. Receptors on our tongues that detect bitterness stimulate salivation and release of various digestive enzymes and bile, which promote healthy bowel movements and decrease stagnant digestion. Dandelion leaves and roots are also very nutrient dense, with one cup of leaves containing five times the amount of vitamin K needed in your daily diet. Other nutrients include carotenoids, calcium, potassium, sodium, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, and more! Additionally, dandelion leaves and roots are a great source of the plant fiber, inulin. Fiber has countless benefits including reducing the risk of IBS (inflammatory bowel syndrome) and type 2 diabetes. Impressively, dandelion leaves also provide diuretic health benefits. Research has shown that the dandelion leaf’s diuretic impact could help in conditions such as high blood pressure and edema. Lastly, we come to the most infamous part of the dandelion plant, the roots. Dandelion roots have been shown to significantly improve liver health by reducing inflammation, stagnant blood, and increasing lymphatic circulation. These properties give dandelion its herbal classification as an alterative plant. We often hear dandelion being referred to by its detox properties for this reason. Furthermore, dandelion has been shown in some studies to inhibit oxidative damage in the liver, preventing liver injury and some cases of fatty liver disease.
The dandelion plant is notorious for giving us one of the largest varieties of health benefits. From hepatitis to cancer treatment, dandelion proves itself once again not only to be a resilient plant, but one of the most resourceful foods to incorporate into our everyday cooking. The next time you wish to clear your backyard from this seemingly invading weed, take advantage of its many free health benefits, and try making a dandelion fritter instead!
Peer-reviewed by Yiqing Wang