Did you know that dandelions are often considered an incredibly medicinal plant and play a very important role in our ecosystems?! Not only that, they can help support the body when struggling with anxiety, and best of all, there’s SO much you can do with them in the kitchen!
In this blog post you’ll learn more about some of the potential health benefits of Dandelion (including how they can support the body with anxiety), how to harvest wild Dandelions, and uses for them in the kitchen!
But before you get into all of it, we should clarify – that yes – when we say Dandelions, we are most definitely talking about those little yellow flowers that grow just about anywhere, that sadly, most people view as unwanted weeds!
Potential Health Benefits of Dandelions
Dandelions are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. They also contain vitamin E, folate and small amounts of other B vitamins.
Dandelion greens provide a substantial amount of iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Dandelion roots contain inulin– a type of dietary fiber which make them an excellent prebiotic
Potential Medicinal Benefits of Dandelions:
- Thanks to their bitter properties, Dandelions can help with a wide variety of digestive disorders including; heartburn, constipation, and indigestion
- Dandelions can help to stimulate appetite (when needed) and increase the natural production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach (important for protein digestion).
- Dandelions can help to improve the diversity of beneficial bacteria found in the gut.
- Dandelions have been found to have an anti-inflammatory action within the body
- Dandelions are a potassium sparing diuretic (a property unique to Dandelion) and therefore can support the kidneys in reducing unwanted water retention.
- When taken prior to menstruation, they can help to alleviate certain symptoms associated with PMS
- Dandelions can help to support bile production from the liver and increase its flow throughout the body
- Dandelions may support weight loss because of their ability to improve carbohydrate metabolism and reduce fat absorption
- The Dandelion stem is filled with a substance that can be used topically on warts and other skin conditions.
How Can Dandelions Support Anxiety?
Dandelion is known to be a mild sedative, and therefore can have a very calming effect on the body and mind (3).
As mentioned above, Dandelions are also loaded with important trace nutrients such as vitamin A, C, K, and magnesium – all of which can be very supportive for keeping anxiety levels at bay.
On top of this, we can’t have a conversation about Dandelion’s supportive role on anxiety without mentioning how they can be a great caffeine free substitute to coffee. Thanks to the bitter, rich, coffee-like taste, that ground Dandelion root possesses, it makes for an excellent calming morning drink, as opposed to coffee – which contains high levels of caffeine!
For those who aren’t aware, it’s important to note that the high caffeine content in coffee can often be a trigger for those who are anxiety prone, hence why substituting a ‘Dandelion Root Latte’ or morning ‘Dandy Blend‘ elixir, can be a great morning drink alternative, for those hoping to curb their anxiety levels.
Lastly, Dandelion leaves, are high in folate (Vitamin B9), which is a necessary vitamin to support dopamine and serotonin production – which are 2 of the MOST important mood boosting neurotransmitters! (4)
How to Harvest Dandelions
Where to Find Dandelions?
Good news! Dandelions are relatively easy to identify and one of the most prevalent urban plants in and amongst many places within North America!
Some of the best places to look for Dandelions Include:
- Unmaintained parks
- The edge of forest trails
- Non busy roadsides
- Any area with recently “disturbed” soil
- Parks/ anywhere you know pesticides haven’t been sprayed
Where to Avoid Harvesting?
- Stay away from busy roadsides as the Dandelions growing here could be contaminated with more pollutants
- Stay away from areas where pesticides could have been sprayed (such as a maintained city park or city lawns)
- Stay away from areas where dogs are walked frequently (to avoid pee)
NOTE: if you are not absolutely sure if the Dandelions you find are safe to eat, it’s a good idea to look for them from a Farmers Market or health food store instead – where you will most likely be able to find Dandelion greens.
How to Harvest?
- When heading out to harvest Dandelion roots, bring a gardening tool called a Hori Hori, or a small hand shovel. A tool is not necessary if you’re only planning on harvesting the leaves or heads/ petals
- If you only want to harvest the leaves or the heads, you can pull straight from the plant (no tools necessary). If you’re planning to harvest roots, stick your tool close to the base of the plant, and lightly begin to dig down, disturbing the soil as little as possible. You might be surprised just how far the roots go down!
- It is best to harvest on a sunny day if you want the flower heads or petals; as they tend to close up when it is rainy or cloudy out.
- Although often thought of as weeds, like all other plants, Dandelions are sacred! Be sure to respect the plant while harvesting and offer a moment of gratitude before doing so.
- Because they are highly prolific, over harvesting Dandelion is not a huge issue, however, as a rule of thumb when wild harvesting, you never want to take more than 10- 20% of a plant species in a given area.
- Dandelions are highly visited by important pollinators (especially bees) in early spring. Keep that in mind as you’re harvesting!
- Be especially mindful when you are choosing to harvest roots as doing so can be much more invasive to an ecosystem than just harvesting the heads or leaves.
How to Use Dandelions in the Kitchen
There are SO many ways you can use dandelions in the kitchen – the sky is truly the limit!
Some of my favourite ways are listed below:
- Add young greens to smoothies (be careful not to add too much as they are quite bitter!)
- Roast well cleaned roots, and then grind them, to make a ‘Dandelion Root Latte’
- Saute the greens and/or heads for a pasta or stir fry
- Add the heads fresh to a nourish bowl as an edible garnish (pictured below)
- Add dandelion petals to cornbread or pancakes – like this recipe
Want more recipes and goodness? Be sure to check out my e-book called, ‘Your Guide to Delicious & Detoxifying Dandelions‘.
Happy Dandelion Harvesting!
Article edited and contributed to by: McKenna Garrison
- The Boreal Herbal by Beverly Gray
- The Way of Herbs- Michael Tierra