Even if you’ve never eaten dandelions, you have most certainly walked by them or played with their flowers as a kid. Dandelions do grow as “weeds” because they pop up all over the place – whether on your front lawn, the playground or a flower bed. Their small, circular, bright yellow flowers are unmistakable, as is the greyish/white color the flowers turn into as they wither and die.
As a kid, I remember picking these out of the yard and blowing away the dying flower, watching the seeds and dry leaves gently float through the air. But enough reminiscing for now; we’re here to talk about the wonderful health benefits of dandelion greens and all they have to offer!
If you’re interested in a particular aspect of Dandelion Greens, you can quickly jump to a specific section of the article using the links below:
- Nutritional Information
- Health Benefits of Dandelion Greens
- How to Cook with Dandelion Greens – Recipes
- Scientific Studies Involving Dandelion Greens
- Dandelion Greens FAQs
Facts About Dandelion Greens
Dandelion is thought to have first sprouted up in Central Asia, with its seeds traveling through the centuries and making their way all over the world. They are part of the Sunflower family – which is one of the largest families of plants and includes over 22,000 species.
Dandelion has been used by many cultures for many centuries. Apparently, the Arabians have the first recorded use of it. The Greek name of the plant is Taraxacum, which means “disorder remedy”. The Chinese and Arabians also used it, and so did several tribes of American Indians.
While often considered to be nothing but a weed, this plant is probably about the healthiest thing growing in your yard – and may even be healthier than most of the things growing in your garden.
Although we use the dandelion greens in cooking, nearly all parts of the plant have their uses. The roots, flowers and stems have been used for centuries as part of natural remedies to treat a variety of conditions including digestive disorders and high blood pressure. Parts of the plant also have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, which help to relieve pain and swelling.
Dandelion greens are an excellent source of vitamins, dietary fiber and other key nutrients from which we could all benefit.
The greens are bitter to the taste – not unlike many other types of earthy, leafy greens. But don’t worry; that bitter taste can be overcome with a little bit of additional flavor and creativity, which you’ll find in our Dandelion Greens Recipes section.
The dandelion is a rugged, vigorous plant. It doesn’t need optimal conditions to grow and can tough out droughts and lack of light for extended periods of time as compared to other plants. This is one of the reasons why the dandelion plant isn’t hard to find.
Nutritional Information for Dandelion Greens
Loaded with Vitamins K, A and C and low in both cholesterol and saturated fat, dandelion greens are a great, healthy addition to any meal. They are also an excellent source of Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Magnesium and Dietary Fiber (1). Check out the details of the nutrition facts below:
Health Benefits of Dandelion Greens
1. Contains Many Vitamins and Nutrients
The dandelion plant contains many different vitamins. This may surprise some people, but it contains more vitamins than many of the vegetables you eat for the purpose of nutrition. For instance, dandelion has 7.5 times the amount of vitamin K as broccoli, four times the amount of calcium, and 1.5 times as much vitamin A as broccoli. It also has twice the iron as spinach, and it will supply you with 17 percent of the daily amount you need of vitamin E – of which there is none at all in spinach.
They also contain vitamin B, C, and D, as well as potassium, calcium, iron and zinc. It also has some nutrients in it that promote good health, such as alkaloids, triterpenoids and steroids. When it comes to vitamins and nutrients, dandelion contains a lot of them, which will be hard to beat almost anywhere. It also contains thiamin, niacin, B6, copper, manganese, magnesium, and more.
2. A Digestive Aid
Dandelion can help with the digestion of your food because it can increase the amount of acid produced in your stomach. It also helps to produce more bile, which enables your digestive system to break down fats. The plant also will increase your appetite and help to balance the natural bacteria in your intestines.
When you need a diuretic, dandelion is the natural way to go. It helps you to urinate more, which enables the body to eliminate more water, waste, and salt. It also helps to control growth of microbes in your urinary tract, acting as a disinfectant, and it also adds potassium to your body. This enables it to help those who have problems with their kidneys, liver, and gallbladder. Those who suffer from kidney stones may also find that dandelions will help you to pass them, too, by breaking them up.
Juice made from dandelions helps to increase the production of insulin, which will enable blood sugar to be kept under control. Because it also acts as a diuretic, it will help the body to eliminate excess sugar faster, which can also help to prevent sugar buildup in the kidneys. The slight bitter taste of the dandelion will lower blood sugar levels, which is a property of all bitter herbs. If you are already taking some kind of medicine for diabetes, you want to be careful when getting introduced to dandelion. The combination may drop your sugar too low too fast, which could cause a serious problem.
In several studies, dandelion continues to show promise in its ability to defeat cancer. The reason for this is that the plant is rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that are beneficial in the fight against cancer. One ingredient that is especially helpful is luteolin. This substance is poisonous to cancer cells when it attaches to them, and makes them unable to reproduce – making them ineffective. So far, it has been shown to be most effective against prostate cancer. A study reported in the International Journal of Oncology in May 2008, reported that dandelion leaf extract was able to decrease the growth in breast cancer cells and it stopped growth in prostate cancer. Other cancers that dandelion has helped fight includes: colon cancer, liver, and lung cancer. So far, it has not been known to be helpful against skin or brain cancer.
6. High Blood Pressure
Because dandelion is a diuretic, the increased urination helps remove salt and other compounds that can raise your blood pressure. Organic Facts says that besides the diuretic effect, two other ingredients in dandelion will also help control it – potassium and fiber. Fiber helps to reduce cholesterol, which is one of the factors that raise it. Potassium replaces the sodium, which will help to reduce blood pressure even more.
7. Weight Loss
As a natural diuretic, dandelion will help you remove water weight and some fats along with it. Urine has about 4 percent of fat in it, so it makes sense that the more you urinate, the more fat you will lose. As you continue to lose weight, the many minerals and vitamins in dandelion will help you stay healthy by ensuring you have what you need. Care does need to be given, however, if you also take water pills for other purposes, as this may cause an excessive loss of nutrients. Dandelion greens can be added to salads, but it can also be added to many foods – and cooked, too, in soups, stir fry, and stews. Some body builders will use dandelion to help provide greater muscle definition. A number of weight loss and fat burner products contain dandelion.
8. Liver Function
The dandelion has shown that it is beneficial in providing strong support for liver function. It has been found, according to a study conducted in 2013 (2), that it helped to provide animals with better lipid profiles, reduced fat accumulations in the liver, and increased the effect of insulin in the liver, too. It has also been observed that dandelion may offer some protection against toxicity from acetaminophen. This problem can be very serious, but dandelions seem to be able to offer an alternative therapy, and two antioxidants in dandelion: vitamin C and luteolin help to treat hemorrhaging that may occur in the liver.
Damage from oxidation in the human body can lead to all kinds of health problems. While this is especially true in the case of the liver and gallbladder, other problems can also stem from this root. The antioxidant properties of dandelion have been shown to be able to reverse some of the damage already done in the body and to the organs. It also has been shown to slow down something everyone faces – the effects of aging. In one study on rats that had liver damage from a coolant chemical (CC14) used in refrigerators and fire extinguishers, researchers found that the dandelion extract had been able to reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation in their livers.
Research performed in 2011 revealed that tea made from the roots of dandelions suggests that it contains a “kill switch” for receptors on leukemia cells. This means that it causes the leukemia cells to commit suicide (apoptosis). This action did not have the same effect on healthy cells, reported Dr. Mercola. Studies have shown that this effect takes place rather quickly.
11. Immune System
Your immune system has a lot to do with your staying healthy, including helping to fight cancer cells. An immune system needs to be healthy in order to help fight off illnesses – and cancer. Dandelion boosts your immune system and will also help your system to fight off things like fungi and microbes. It is also helpful in reducing inflammation by suppressing nitric oxide, cytokines, prostaglandins, and COX-2 enzymes, all of which are responsible for inflammation.
12. Bone Health
The dandelion plant can help people have good bone health. Dandelions contain calcium, and vitamin K. Vitamin K is one of the most beneficial vitamins to help with bone health, because it is necessary for the calcium to be absorbed into the bones. Dandelion contains a huge amount of the vitamin – about 535 percent of the daily recommended amount. These vitamins and minerals will also help to protect your bones from damage related to aging.
How to Cook with Dandelion Greens – Recipes
Sauteed Dandelion Greens
A simple saute with some basic ingredients is one of the most popular and easiest ways to eat dandelion greens – it’s also my personal favorite.
- Dandelion greens (a “bunch” is fine, but use as many as you want for leftovers)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Olive oil
Heat up the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, toss in your minced garlic. Mix it around gently and make sure it doesn’t burn. Once you start to smell that the garlic is cooking, add in your dandelion greens. They’ll start to wilt within a few minutes, at which point you can take them off the heat. Sprinkle on your salt to taste and squeeze on a wedge of a lemon.
Spicy Dandelion Greens
Like your dishes spicy? This one’s for you. Not only will all the additional ingredients add some nice heat and flavor, they’ll also work to cover up the naturally bitter taste of the greens.
- Dandelion greens
- 1 tsp. cayenne powder
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Olive oil
- 1/4 cup onions, minced
Heat up your olive oil in a pan and set to medium heat. Add in minced garlic and onions and after 3-4 minutes when they start to cook, add in your dandelion greens. Immediately sprinkle on your cayenne powder and toss around, making sure everything gets coated. In another 3-5 minutes, your greens should be wilted and ready to go. Sprinkle on some salt to taste and enjoy!
Dandelion Greens Salad
When in doubt, you could always add dandelion greens in place of lettuce in your favorite salad mixture. But if you’re looking for some inspiration, try out the recipe below.
- Dandelion greens
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Olive oil
- Red wine vinegar
- Approximately 1 dozen cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
In a large mixing or salad bowl, start by adding in your dandelion greens. Next, add in your chopped red onion and cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper to your taste and toss the salad. The dressing is a simple olive oil & vinegar, which you can add based on your taste. For a single serving, I would recommend 1 tbsp. of each. Toss the salad once more after you’ve added the dressing and it’s ready to eat.
Cautions About Eating Dandelions
Eating dandelion is generally considered to be safe, and all of the plant may be eaten, even the flower. Some people, however, may be allergic to it. It does give some people mouth sores, or another kind of allergic reaction. People who are allergic to plants such as ragweed, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, chrysanthemums, or iodine, should probably avoid eating it. Those who have health problems with their kidneys or gallstones should consult a doctor before using.
Recipes with Dandelion Greens as an Ingredient
For further inspiration, we’ve compiled a list of delicious meals that use dandelion greens as part of larger, more complex dishes.
Not a fan of anything above? Well then it’s time to get creative! Try adding dandelion greens to your favorite veggie lasagna, quiche or omelet. They can act as a substitute in any recipe that calls for greens, so don’t be shy in using them as a replacement.
Scientific Studies and Medical Information
This study, published in the Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity Journal, showed that Dandelion leaf and flower extracts proved significantly beneficial in terms of protecting skin cells from the damaging effects of UV radiation.
The International Journal of Biological Macromolecules published a study in 2014 which showed that oligosaccharides prepared from the dandelion plant exhibited potent antibacterial activity when tested on the following bacteria: Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilis.
This study, published in 2011 in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, showed that Dandelion Root Extract can potentially help to fight drug-resistant melanoma. The study showed evidence of apoptosis (programmatic cell death) of malignant melanoma cells without harming healthy cells.
The University of Maryland Medical Center warns that some medications may also interact with dandelion. This includes medications to thin the blood, lithium, diabetic medicines, Ciproflaxin and antacids.
Dandelion Greens FAQs
Can I Forage for Dandelion Greens?
Absolutely! Since they’re so popular and easy to find, you can typically pick them right from your own yard. Foraging on public land may be allowed as well, but check with your local laws before doing so as it may be considered illegal. Avoid picking from any areas that have been sprayed with weed killer or other pesticides and also areas around train tracks, telephone poles and highways.
When you go to pick dandelion greens, Colorado State University advises that you select plants that are still young. The larger plants will be tougher and more bitter. It will also help you avoid plants that have been exposed to insecticides. The best time to pick them will be in the spring and fall, when they are less bitter.
Where Can I Buy Dandelion Greens?
Surprisingly, many supermarkets don’t actually carry them! You may need to visit a specialty health food store or a grocer that specializes in organic produce like Whole Foods. Your local farmer’s market may also carry them.
Can I Eat Dandelion Greens Raw?
Yes – just make sure you wash them first under some cool water.
Do Dandelion Greens Taste Good?
Well, that all depends. Many people enjoy them raw as part of a simple salad. But to most, they have a bitter, earthy taste as do most green leafy vegetables when consumed raw. Adding some healthy dressing or using them as an ingredient in a more complex dish is typically how most people enjoy them.
Can I Add Dandelion Greens to my Juice or Smoothie?
Yes. They’re a great addition to any juice or smoothie because they’re loaded with antioxidants, key vitamins and minerals. And when blending them with other fruits and vegetables, you’ll mask the bitter taste.
When Will Dandelion Greens Go Bad?
As a general rule of thumb, most greens last between 3 and 5 days. When refrigerated, they can last up to a week depending on their freshness. Just make sure you inspect the leaves before eating to ensure they haven’t turned.
Is it Better to Eat Dandelion Greens Raw or Cooked?
This is simply a matter of personal preference. Any time you cook something, some of the nutrients are inevitably cooked away. So if you want the full benefit they have to offer, eat them raw. If you’re OK with sacrificing some of the nutrients (believe me, you’ll still be left with plenty) then you’re better off cooking them for additional flavor.