We all think of dandelions as those bright yellow flowers our kids love to pick and bring to us by the handful, or those white fluffy weeds that with a single puff send seeds scattering on the wind. They crop up overnight in a freshly mown yard, and spread faster than you can spray weed killer. They are one of the most common yard weeds in many parts of the country, since they do spread and grow so very quickly. But before you reach for the Round-Up, did you know that all of the parts of the dandelion are edible? That’s right, they all can be used for medicinal purposes, and for cooking and eating. That annoying little weed could provide you with valuable nutrition if you are in a survival situation.
Dandelions have been used for generations in cooking and medical treatments. That’s because when you break it down, they really are one of nature’s super foods. Dandelions are chock full of beta carotene, which the body needs to make vitamin A. They are also full of anti-oxidants, Vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, and a host of other minerals, too. They have a lot of protien in them, as well – more than a serving of spinach would contain. Sounds more like a pretty healthy snack and less like a bothersome yard weed to me!
What can dandelions be used to treat? Most of the recent research surrounding the medicinal use of dandelions hasn’t been done on humans, but on animals. That being said, there is significant animal research showing their success as a natural medicine, and as noted before, they have been used in natural medicines for years. Since they have so many amazing ingredients, here is a small list of how they have been found to help keep you healthy and the ailments they can address:
- Kidney Function. Since dandelions can be a mild diuretic, they can help keep the kidneys working well, which keeps bacteria out of the urinary tract.
- Diabetes. There have been recent trials and studies showing dandelions to be a help in stabilizing the levels of insulin and blood sugar in the body
- Gallbladder Function. Dandelions help your body to make more bile – something your liver and gallbladder need to work properly.
- Cancer prevention. Dandelion leaves are bursting with antioxidants, which makes them a cancer fighting super food.
- Immune System Booster. Research on animals has shown dandelions to help ward off fungus growth and bacteria growth, and that they can make your immune system stronger.
- Nausea or Upset Stomach – Dandelions have been used by Native Americans for centuries to help treat upset stomach. It has also been reported to have laxative properties.
So, how do you eat dandelions? Well, there are several things you can do. You can blanch the leaves and eat them in a salad or eaten alone. The plant does have a bitter taste, but cooking usually helps to make it a little more mild to the taste. You can purchase dandelion tea at many health food stores. I even saw a recipe using the petals of dandelions to make dandelion bread at this website. On that same site, you can find recipes for dandelion coffee and dandelion wine. Different, for sure, but worth a shot given all of the nutritional value that they possess!
Dandelions can be eaten out in the wild if you are in need of food. They are a great find if you are hungry, and need a high protein, nutrient rich food to help keep you going. Most likely those in the wild are less likely to have been sprayed with harmful herbicides, too. If you find that you don’t have many dandelions growing on your property, you can dry and preserve seeds from ones you do find in the wild – since they are probably not chemically treated. They can be planted in planter boxes, or containers – but don’t just scatter them in the yard and hope for the best. If you are planning to use them medicinally or to eat, you want to control their growing environment as best you can to help keep them herbicide free. Anyone can grow dandelions – we all know they are resilient little plants, and it doesn’t take much effort to grow a full crop of them.
As you have seen here – there are many uses for this bright yellow flower. The next time you find yourself lamenting over the growth of dandelions on your property or on a hike, remember this article and how useful those little weeds really can be. You might find yourself collecting some of the seeds to dry and plant at home.
Have you ever used dandelions in cooking or as medicine? Do you have any other uses not discussed here?