The herb for the day is one that many of us have tried to eradicate from our green lawns every spring, but maybe we shouldn’t. Dandelion is a well known weed that grows rapidly and wildly in most yards and what many of us don’t realize is that it’s good for you in so many different ways. Let’s start with the high vitamin content. Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) contain twenty five times more vitamin A than tomato juice, and 50 times more than asparagus. They are also rich in fiber, vitamin D, zinc, potassium,iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, silicon, B vitamins, thiamine,riboflavin, and a good source of protein. This is pretty impressive for a “weed”!
I first began taking this herb when I was pregnant with my son 22 years ago. I was very anemic at the time yet couldn’t handle the strong iron pills the Doctor prescribed. A dear friend of mine gave me a book called Herbally Yours by Penny C. Royal. This is what began my journey into the wonderful healing world of plants and herbs. A plant that I had been forced to pull from our yard as a child was the one plant my body could tolerate to help insure a healthy pregnancy. The list of issues and conditions that PennyC. Royal states that dandelion helps are numerous. Some of the things listed are: acne, age spots, anemia, blood pressure, blood purifying, cleansing,constipation, digestive disorders, eczema, endurance, fatigue, gall bladder,gall stones, hypoglycemia, kidney, liver, pancreas issues, and water retention (1).
Scientific studies that have been conducted on this plant include its benefits to the liver and gallbladder for their anti-proliferation activity and their anti-oxidant effects (2). In other studies that I have discovered dandelion has an ability to decrease the growth of breast cancer cells (3). Dandelion root and leaf can protect against oxidative stress and therefore hardening of the arteries (4). This plant has also been effective in reducing the spread of melanoma cells (5). Dandelion also possesses anti-inflammatory abilities and antioxidant properties making it a good general tonic to utilize(6). All of this and gentle enough to take while pregnant, seems like an easy addition to ensure health to me!
Ways to take dandelion are in extract form, pill form, tea, or eat the flowers and the greens in a salad. If you plan on eating the leaves let me recommend the young leaves to consume because as they age they tend to become bitter! Make sure the dandelions you are consuming are organic and have not been sprayed with any chemicals. Be cautious when taking dandelion if you have any ragweed allergies as this may not be the plant for you. Dandelions are likely safe for most people but always consult your physician before beginning any herbs, plants or vitamins and use caution if using with children,chronically ill, elderly or while pregnant. If you are taking antibiotics dandelion might decrease how much antibiotic your body absorbs, the same thing occurs with liver medications, water pills, and acetaminophen. Please, always consult your doctor with any concerns and to ensure safety with any prescriptions you may currently be taking.
Please return next week when we talk about another health herb to consider adding to your cabinet.
1)Royal,Penny C. Herbally Yours. 3 edition. Payson, Utah: Sound Nutrition, 1982.