Most people think of a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and all they see is a weed that they can’t get rid of.

Herbalists think much differently. They consider it a valuable herb with both culinary and medicinal uses. Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc. The young leaves can be added to salads or a sandwich, much like lettuce. It can also be used as a tea. The roots make a wonderful “earthy” coffee substitute. You can drink it alone, or add it to your favorite coffee. The flower heads can be eaten or made into dandelion wine.

We make fried dandelion flowers that you would swear were fried mushrooms. Yummy!

Dandelion flowers are sensitive to light, so they open with the sun in the morning and close in the evening. The best time to pick them is after the morning dew has passed. Be sure to wash in cool water. Pick the leaves while they are young. Older, they get a bit tough. The roots are picked and dried after the 2nd year of growth. You can dry them in a low oven, or in a dehydrator. Make sure to pick where you know that insecticide sprays have not been used!

Traditional herbal medicine uses dandelion roots and leaves to treat liver problems. It is mainly used for an appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and for liver and gallbladder function. Dandelion leaves are used as a diuretic to stimulate the excretion of urine.

Dandelion roots act as an antiviral agent, appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and may help promote gastrointestinal health. Dandelion flower has antioxidant properties. Herbalists and other alternative health care providers clinically use dandelion root to promote liver detoxification.

Dandelion leaf is a natural diuretic that increases urine production by promoting the excretion of salts and water from the kidney. Dandelion may be used for a wide range of conditions requiring mild diuretic treatment, such as poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure. Dandelion contains potassium, am important nutrient for our bodies, that is often lost when taking chemical diuretics.

Fresh or dried dandelion herb is also used as a mild appetite stimulant and to improve upset stomach. The root of the dandelion plant is believed to have mild laxative effects and is often used to improve digestion. Studies show that dandelion root may improve the health and function of natural bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract may help improve liver and gallbladder function.

So, when spring comes, and you see those dandelions in your yard, go pick them and eat them. You’ll be doing your liver a favor.

You can also buy the dried herb, but that isn't as much fun as being outside in a beautiful field of dandelions.

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