Dandelions are vibrant, charming little flowers. And they’re pretty easy to find in yards or on the side of the road. Chances are, you plucked them and played with them as a child. But did you know this seemingly inconsequential plant yields powerful properties that can potentially boost your health?
Dandelion root (usually in the form of tea, liquid extract, or capsules) has been used for centuries as a health-promoting tool, especially in traditional Native American, Chinese, and Arabic medicine systems. Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, A.P, doctor of Chinese and integrative medicine, says dandelion root mainly helps promote liver function and aid the digestive process.
Many people turn to teas, like Alvita Dandelion Root Tea or Traditional Medicinals’ Roasted Dandelion Tea, to support their digestion and to ward off water retention, as a study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shows.
And a study of dandelion’s benefits in Integrative Medicine showed promise in a variety of clinical applications—including in gastrointestinal complaints. According to the study, it “demonstrated remarkable symptomatic improvement in terms of stool normalization and pain reduction.”
Dandelion is also an antioxidant, which means it helps to boost immunity and support overall health. A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences shows that dandelion can help fight oxidative stress.
On top of that, another study in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that dandelion root extract may help promote cellular health.
Want to try dandelion? Best to go with a supplement. While you may have a yard dotted with dandelions, it’s safest to buy dandelion products from a trusted source rather than gather it yourself, as soil and chemical treatment conditions can vary from area to area.
“Unless you are a very skilled herb forager, it is a safer bet to purchase high-grade, organic dandelion root extract,” Trattner says. “I am a fan of liquid extracts, as they are usually more potent and have standardized amounts of active compounds.”
That said, if you do get your hands on dandelion greens from a trusted source—like an organic grocery shop—you should eat them! They contain vitamins C and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, folate, potassium, and manganese. Here are all the ways you can use dandelion in the kitchen.
The tea, like Organic Dandelion Root Tea, also makes a terrific coffee substitute. It’s caffeine-free, but looks and tastes a bit like your favorite cup of joe (it’s bold!), so it’s useful if you’re trying to wean off those sugary daily lattes.
Take note: According to the National Institutes of Health, people who are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies, may want to avoid dandelion. As Trattner advises, if you want to use dandelion, it’s best to speak with your health practitioner first.