The Mighty Lion in Dandelion
The Mighty Lion in Dandelion
Common name: Dandelion, Lion’s Tooth, Blow Ball, Puffball, Cankerwort, Monk’s Head, Priest’s Crown, Fairy Clock, Peasant’s Clock, Doonheadclock, Fortuneteller, Irish Daisy, Swine Snort, Pissabed
Botanical name: Taraxacum officinale
Family: Compositae/ Asteraceae (Sunflower family)
Dandelion plants grow in a rosette fashion, with all the leaves arising from a very compact stem (crown) just below the soil surface. The main stem never elongates. Some plants produce leaves that are upright and almost vertical, while others produce ground-hugging leaves that are horizontal. The leaves are smooth (no hairs), grow directly from the crown of the plant, and they have irregular, jagged teeth. The jagged teeth on the leaves led to the name dandelion. Dandelion is derived from the French dent de lion (tooth of a lion).
The dandelion taproot is long, white, and fleshy with an amazing capacity for regeneration. If part of a root remains underground after a plant is pulled or cut from the soil, it will develop new crowns and leaves. The root stores reserve energy for the plant and taps moisture and nutrition from below the soil surface. Dandelion taproots can extend 6 feet! This improves the soil for other plants in the community by breaking through compacted subsoil and moving nutrients closer to the surface.
There are no poisonous look-alikes. Other very similar (and edible) Taraxacum species, as well as chicory and wild lettuce only resemble dandelions in the early spring.
Spotted catsear (Hypochaeris radicata), also called false dandelion, is a common lawn weed in the northwestern United States. lt has branched stems and each stem has numerous small yellow flower heads. Each flower stem of the dandelion(Taraxacum officinale) has a single large yellow flower head.
The leaves of chicory (Chichorum intybus) are very similar to those of dandelion. However, chicory grows a tall, leaf-covered stalk from the middle of its rosette, while dandelion does not. When chicory blossoms it will have bright blue flowers that confirm it is not a dandelion.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago Jarfara) produces a flower that looks like a dandelion but its flower stem has reddish scales. The dandelion has a perfectly smooth stem. Coltsfoot blossoms in early spring before its leaves emerge. Leaves appear later and are large and round instead of long and narrow like dandelion leaves.
Environmental Benefits (some) of Dandelions
– The seeds are a food source for birds like canaries and goldfinches.
– They provide nectar and pollen for bees.
– Larvae of some butterflies and moths use them for food.
– They are a source of nectar for butterflies in the spring.
– The taproot brings up nutrients for shallower-rooting plant and adds minerals and nitrogen to the soil.
Health Benefits for Humans
Dandelion plants provide a gentle cleansing and nutritive boost in the body. Their arrival in the spring should be considered a blessing. They have been used by humans for food and as a herb for much of recorded history. It is so well respected that it appears in the U.S. National Formulatory, and in the Pharmacopeias of Hungary, Poland, Switzerland, and the Soviet Union.
Dandelions are ranked in the top 4 green vegetables for overall nutritional value and they are nature’s richest green vegetable source of beta-carotene. Dandelion leaves are rich in minerals and vitamin like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, copper, boron,vitamins A, B, C, D, K, lutein, zeaxanthin and more.
This humble backyard herb provides
(%of RDA/100g = 3.5oz by weight=about 1.5 cups)
9% of dietary fiber
19% of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine)
20% of Riboflavin
58% of vitamin C
338% of vitamin A
649% of vitamin K
39% of iron
19% of calcium
The flowers contain powerful antioxidant flavonoids. Add the flowers to you salad, stir-fry them with your vegetables, or dehydrate the flowers and make a tea. To harvest, simply pick off the flowers. Wash with cold water and let the flowers dry a bit before you remove the petals or the petals stick to your fingers. When the flowers are dry, remove as much of the green parts as possible without making the flowers fall apart.
Dandelion roots are also full of vitamins and minerals and they contain a substance called inulin. Inulin increases calcium absorption while promoting the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. Dandelion roots may be roasted to make a tasty coffee substitute, added to soup stock or steamed with other vegetables. Dandelion roots would be considered a root vegetable.
Dandelion (roots and leaves) is one of the safest and most popular herbal remedies. The decoction is a traditional tonic used to strengthen the entire body, especially the liver and gallbladder where it promotes the flow of bile and reduces inflammation in the liver and the bile duct. In traditional Chinese medicine, dandelion is used during instances when there is liver involvement with heat and toxins in the blood. These conditions include jaundice, hepatitis, urinary tract infections, red or swollen eyes, and abscesses.
Dandelion roots contain bitter glycosides (taraxacin), tannins, triterpenes (including taraxol and taraxsterol), phytosterols, volatile oil, choline, asparagine, carbohydrates (including inulin, up to 40% in autumn, 2% in spring; sugars), pectin, phenolic acids, vitamins, potassium.
Young leaves have bitter properties that stimulate bile production and improve digestion. The sulfur-based compounds naturally support detoxification pathways. Sulfur is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, about half concentrated in your muscles, skin and bones. It is needed for insulin production, cellular detoxification, and it promotes flexibility of the cells in the arteries and veins.
Both the roots and mature leaves provice a gentle diuretic action that helps the kidneys clear out waste, salt, and excess water. This also inhibits microbial growth in the urinary system. Unlike pharmaceuticals diuretics, dandelion does not leach potassium from the body. Improved general health and clear skin result from improved kidney function.
Dandelions are also good for the bladder, spleen, pancreas, stomach and intestines. Excellent for the stressed-out, internally sluggish, and sedentary people.
Enjoy the wonderful food known as Dandelion,
Sharlene Peterson, BS Biology, HHP, MH
May 18, 2014
Because dandelion stimulates production of bile it should not be used if you have an obstruction of the bile ducts. For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.