Dandelion Greens are Edible and Linked to Health Benefits
Traditionally, dandelions have been seen as an unwelcome, invasive weed in the vegetable garden. But as the interest in edible wild plants grows, the perception of dandelion greens among health-conscious gardeners begins to change. You see, young dandelion greens are completely edible, and eating these strong-tasting greens in salads or consuming them in the form of naturally caffeine-free dandelion leaf tea can offer some interesting health benefits. Dandelion greens are supercharged with a slew of health-giving nutrients and phytochemicals, including carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, inulin fiber, vitamin K, several B vitamins, potassium, calcium and iron – and that's just to mention a few of the beneficial compounds these underappreciated medicinal supergreens contain.
6 Health Benefits of Dandelion Leaves (as Tea or as Food)
Here's a lowdown of the potential health benefits of fresh dandelion greens and herbal infusions made from dried dandelion leaves, ranging from diuretic, detoxifying, and acne-fighting properties to protection against eye diseases, cardiovascular illnesses, and intestinal problems:
Dandelion greens contain inulin, a prebiotic fiber that feeds 'friendly' gut bacteria
If you are a regular visitor to HealWithFood.org, you may already know that along with chicory root, burdock root, sunchokes, salsify and yacon root, dandelion root is one of the best natural sources of inulin in the world. But according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 1999, also dandelion greens – whether eaten raw or cooked – contain significant amounts of inulin.
But what exactly is inulin, and why is it considered so good for you?
Simply put, inulin is a prebiotic fiber that promotes the growth of bifidobacteria in the gut. Bifidobacteria, in turn, are beneficial bacteria that are thought to boost gut health through a number of mechanisms, including by destroying 'un-friendly' intestinal bacteria, facilitating bowel movement through its mild laxative effects, and improving the host's immune function. There is also some evidence suggesting that bifidobacteria may reduce the levels of certain colonic enzymes that convert pro-carcinogenic substances into carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).
Diuretic properties proven by studies
Dandelion leaf tea has a long history of use as diuretic in folk medicine, but now there is also scientific evidence to support the use of dandelion leaves as a natural diuretic. A pilot study published in the August 2009 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that an ethanol extract of fresh leaves of the Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) resulted in significant increases in both urinary frequency and volume in human volunteers. Great news for those who suffer from pre-menstrual bloating, cellulite or water retention in general!
Dandelion leaf tea – a popular detox drink
Many folk healers and practitioners of modern herbal medicine believe dandelion leaves can detoxify the body by cleansing the liver and gallbladder. This has led to the use of dandelion products, particularly dandelion leaf tea, as a treatment for health problems linked to a sluggish liver, including fatigue, constipation, and headaches. However, at the writing of this article, scientific studies evaluating the potential health benefits of dandelion greens on the liver and gallbladder are still scant.
Dandelion may also offer some benefits for the skin
In herbal medicine, foods that are said to detoxify the liver are also thought to be good for the skin. This assumption has led to the wide use of dandelion leaf tea as a treatment for acne, and many people who use dandelion leaf tea as a natural acne remedy swear by its beneficial effects on the skin. While no scientific study conducted to date has neither proven nor disproven that dandelion leaves can fight acne, analysis of the nutritional composition of dandelion reveals that this unsung superfood is loaded with potential anti-acne nutrients. Just one cup of chopped, raw dandelion greens (about 55 grams or 2 oz) provides a whopping 112% of the Daily Value for vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) and 9% of the Daily Value for vitamin E. In addition, dandelion greens contain extremely high levels of vitamin C – 19.3 mg or 32% of the Daily Value per one cup of chopped greens. Vitamin C plays a key role in maintaining healthy skin by stimulating collagen production and by providing antioxidant protection.
Carotenoids in dandelion greens are good for your eyes
In addition to providing benefits for your skin, the carotenoids in dandelion greens are also good for your eyes. And, as dandelion greens are packed with more carotenoids than an equivalent amount of carrots, they may well be one of the best green smoothie ingredients or salad ingredients for people who are looking for natural ways to reduce their risk of developing eye-related health problems, including macular degeneration. A case-control study published in the November 1994 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that those in the highest quintile of carotenoid intake had a 43% lower risk for age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the UK and US.
Superfood packed with heart healthy nutrients
Supercharged with both vitamin C and vitamin K, dandelion greens may also provide significant health benefits for people who are looking to reduce their risk of heart disease or other cardiovascular illnesses. A study published in the April 2004 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that study participants who received a daily Vitamin C supplement showed a 24% drop in their plasma CRP (C-reactive protein) levels after just two months, indicative of a significant reduction in heart disease risk. The vitamin K in dandelion greens, in turn, may help protect cardiovascular health by pushing calcium into the bones, instead of directing it into the arteries.
Where to Get Dandelion Leaves (and What to Keep in Mind)
Fresh greens: Although dandelion leaves are not usually sold in supermarkets or at farmers' markets, you shouldn't have much trouble finding fresh dandelion greens as these edible greens grow wild in almost every corner of the world. If you're planning to pick wild dandelion greens for consumption as food, only collect leaves from an area that has not been exposed to pesticides, herbicides, or pollution from traffic and exhaust fumes. It is also easy to grow dandelion greens in containers, even indoors.
Dried leaves for tea: If you are DIY-inclined, pick young, chemical-free dandelion leaves in Spring and dry them in a food dehydrator (HealWithFood.org recommends using a stainless steel food dehydrator). You can also buy dandelion leaf tea in many health food stores (and even in some supermarkets) as well as online. The online retailer Amazon, for example, sells Celebration Herbals' organic dandelion leaf tea here ( for US residents) and here ( for UK shoppers).
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