Many people see the dandelion as a weed, but it’s really a backyard powerhouse. The roots, leaves, and flowers of the common dandelion (Taraxacum Asteraceae) are all edible. The leaves and florets are often added to salads. Also known as Lion’s Tooth, the name “dandelion” is a bastardization of the French dent de lion (lion’s tooth). These plants are native to Eurasia and are believed to have evolved approximately 30 million years ago, with fossilized seeds found in southern Belarus.
Dandelions have long been the bane of manicured lawn owners across America. But their herbal and nutritious properties were well-known to ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. This plant was used as medicine and food by First Nation people. It has been a part of the traditional Chinese medical repertoire for over a thousand years.
Raw dandelion greens are nutrition-dense, with high levels of vitamins A, C, and K. They are a moderate source of potassium, calcium, manganese, and iron. The greens are composed of 86% water, 9% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and 1% fat, with a 100-gram, or 3.5 oz., serving to provide 45 calories.*
Similar to its cousin, the calendula, dandelion flowers close on cloudy days and in the evening. They reopen the next morning. The plant is harvested for culinary and wellness uses worldwide. Dandelions grow at altitudes reaching 12,000 feet in the Himalayas, where it is used in Ayurvedic medicine.
Dandelion is frequently used in traditional Chinese medicine to clear the liver and heart. The Chinese believe it soothes the digestive system and uplifts moods.
Dandelion is often drunk as tea or used as a poultice to calm the skin. The common dandelion‘s root contains inulin, a form of prebiotic that is indigestible in the stomach. It fosters healthy bacteria growth in the intestinal system.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, inulin is a soluble fiber that can regulate the bowels. It prevents overeating, improves mental health, and helps repair the gut biome. Inulin helps the gut biome when it’s been damaged by Type 2 diabetes, obesity, gastrointestinal disease, and prolonged appetite suppression. **
Registered dietician Kendra Weekley, RD, noted inulin’s ability to stabilize blood sugars, lower cholesterol and decrease the risk for certain types of cancer.**
Learn about the beneficial health impacts of roadside thriving mullein leaf.
*Nutritiondata.com, Conde Nast Inc. March 2011.
**Cleveland Clinic Inc., March 2022