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Herb Spotlight - Dandelion

Herb Spotlight - Dandelion

This is the fourth edition of our Herbal Spotlight Series. Today, we’ll explore the dandelion. On our homestead, we are passionate about this cheery little bloom. I personally consider them the quintessential flower of childhood, as well as essential food and medicine, but many consider them a nuisance weed. It was one of the first plants I learned to work with, and each spring, I eagerly anticipate the arrival of our dandies. Read on to see why we love them so, and hopefully, by the end of the article, they won’t be considered weeds in your home anymore. 

What Are Dandelions?

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are in the (Asteraceae) aster, daisy, composite, or sunflower family. They are one of the first things to arrive each spring, and it’s unlikely you’ve missed seeing them. Other names include Blowball, Cankerwort, Cochet, Common Dandelion, Diente de Leon, Dudal, Endive Sauvage, Fairy Clocks, Lion's Tooth, Priest's Crown, and Wild Endive. One of my favorite things about dandelions is that from root to crown, every part of them is both edible and medicinal. 

Long before the concept of lawns was invented, the yellow blossoms and lion-toothed leaves were once praised. In fact, gardeners used to remove grass to make room for dandelions!  It wasn’t until around the twentieth century, that the dandelion was deemed a weed. 

Foraging and Storing Dandelion

Many people declare war on dandelions each spring, so you may be asking, why would I need to harvest them sustainably? But the dandelion serves its purpose in nature. Pollinators love them, and they are an essential early food source for our buzzy little friends. Leave the first blossoms for the bees. More will come. 

If you want to use the leaves for culinary purposes, harvest them early when they are young and bright. Older leaves will be more bitter. When using the roots for culinary purposes (they make a lovely coffee substitute), wait until the plant is mature and the roots are larger. Medicinally, you can harvest any part of the plant at any time. 

Dandelions are bee food, so remember never to decimate a single patch. Harvest only what you need. If you see the little puffs of seeds while harvesting, let them be so they can grow new plants. 

To store dandelion, you will first need to dry it. Typically, I harvest the entire plant and separate it into batches of roots, leaves, and flowers. I hang the leaves dry in bundles and dry the roots and flowers flat on screens. Once fully dried, you can store dandelion flowers, leaves, or roots in an airtight container for 9-12 months or until they begin to lose color. 

Dandelion Tincture

History and Folklore of the Dandelion

The humble Dandelion has a long history of medicine, magic, and folklore. The first record of dandelion use in medicinal practices dates back to the Xinxiu or Tang Bencao, one of the oldest medical texts written in the Tang Dynasty (657–659 AD). Since then, it has been used in traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to purify the blood, boost the immune system, and reduce pain. By the eleventh century, Arabic cultures had adopted it to treat liver and kidney issues. News of dandelion's medicinal value spread almost as quickly as its seeds, and it wasn’t long before all of Europe was using dandelion in their kitchens and medicine cabinets.

Dandelion folklore has been held and passed down by children for centuries. Ask any six-year-old, and they will tell you that the seeds will carry your wish if you blow on a dandelion puff. Children have also referred to them as “Fairy Clocks” because their flowers open and close predictably. Another folk tale says the number of seeds remaining after blowing might tell you the time in fairyland. 

Another fun folk tale says that if you blow a seed head, the number of seeds remaining is the number of children you will have. In Victorian Flower language, the dandelion symbolizes love, wishes, welcome, faithfulness, divination, grief, bitterness, and the sun. 

Constituents, Actions and Energies

Constituents of Dandelion

Dandelion contains sesquiterpene lactones, lactucopicrin (taraxacin), triterpenoids, and phytosterol. It also contains vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium, iron, iodine, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Herbal Actions of Dandelion

Alterative (mild), Bitters, Cholagogue, Choleretic, Diuretic, Hepatoprotective (mild), Laxative, and Tonic

Herbal Energies of Dandelion

Bitter, sweet, and cooling.

Precautions, Contra-indications, and Interactions

Dandelion is generally considered safe. However, some people have reported gastrointestinal side effects, including gas, heartburn, diarrhea, and upset stomach, with overuse. Others have experienced skin irritation. Dandelions also contain iodine and latex, so avoid them if you are allergic to either.

Nursing or pregnant women are advised to avoid dandelion due to a lack of research into their long-term safety. Dandelion should also be avoided if the gallbladder is inflamed or bile ducts are blocked. In the case of gallstones, use only after consultation with a physician, and of course, avoid if you’re allergic.

Typical Usage of Dandelion

As a bitter herb, dandelion is most commonly used to aid digestive health. It can help with digestion, constipation, mineral absorption, and stomach lining issues. Some evidence suggests that dandelion can help control blood sugar by reducing fasting blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

As a hepatoprotective, choleretic, and diuretic herb, it helps the liver and kidneys by aiding the body in eliminating waste and reducing the retention of toxins. Dandelion is also a heart-health powerhouse that has been used to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. 

Dandelion also has topical qualities that have been shown to reduce the signs of aging, protect the skin from sun damage, reduce acne, and even soothe skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and rashes. We use it in our Dandy of a Day Serum as well as our Dandy of a Day Salve.

What is a Weed Anyway?

What is a weed anyway? The simplest definition is “ a plant that is not valued where it is growing.” By that vague definition, even a rose could be considered a “weed” if it grew obtrusively in a path. So, the next time you see those tell-tale golden blooms, sure – you could try to get rid of them. But considering all that they have to offer, wouldn’t it be better to embrace them and reap the benefits they have to offer you?

If you already use Dandelion, what is your favorite way to use it? As food, medicine, or both? I love it in our Dandy of a Day Serum and live for Dandelion jelly each spring.  Tell us your favorite uses in the comments below, and we would love to see your recipes as well! Until next time,

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Herb Spotlight - Dandelion


Content from is meant to be informational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Remember that just because something is “natural” does not always mean it is safe for every person. When it comes to herbal medicine, many plants should be avoided when pregnant or nursing, and some can cause extreme interactions with prescription and over-the-counter medicine. 

While we strive to be 100% accurate, utilizing information from scientific studies, trusted sources, and verified publications, we are not health professionals, medical doctors, or nutritionists. It is solely up to the reader to verify nutritional information and health benefits with qualified professionals for all edible plants listed on this website and to ensure proper plant identification. 

The information provided by this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Before using herbal preparations, always research, speak to a professional regarding any significant concerns, and never fail to seek medical advice when needed.

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