What You Will Learn in This Article
- What is dandelion?
- Dandelion’s historical uses and herbal actions
- Dandelion health benefits: hormonal, liver and detoxification, and gut health
- Incorporating dandelion into your life (including community-favorite recipes)
Dandelions often add more frustration to life than any flower ever should. The plants quickly take over your lawn, and soon, their little yellow flower heads are popping up all over the place, reminding you that it’s time to mow, yet again. These flowers tend to represent the futility of keeping a beautiful lawn, and many people turn to weed killers, like the dangerous RoundUp® (glyphosate), to get rid of them. (To learn more about the dangers of glyphosate on your health and hormones, read this article on detoxing your lawn.)
While people tend to think of dandelions as nothing more than useless weeds, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, dandelion is your local lawn-based superfood that houses powerful benefits for detoxification AND for hormone balancing. This article will do its best to show you that dandelion is more than a pesky weed that should rightly earn a place in your lawn—and in your tea cabinet.
What is Dandelion? (More Than a Weed)
According to 19th century writer and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, a weed is simply “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
While those seeking beautiful lawns will get rid of dandelions, those seeking health will find ways to get more dandelions in their lives. This is nothing new. For generations, dandelions were a highly valued crop. It’s only in more recent decades that dandelion has been considered a weed.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has long been considered a valuable herbal medicine. In Jordan folk medicine, it’s used for the treatment of eye inflammation, chronic constipation, and diabetes. Herbalists there also prescribe the extract to enhance fertility in men. (1, 2)
- Liver disorders
- Kidney disorders
- Spleen complaints
- Heartburn and indigestion
- Women’s diseases, including breast cancer and uterine cancer
There’s a reason why dandelion is on our top herbs for liver health and estrogen detoxification. Dandelion’s scientifically confirmed herbal actions—or, what an herb does inside the body—include:
- Liver protection (4, 5)
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (6)
- Diuretic effects (7)
- Acting as a blood thinner (8)
- Lowering blood sugar (9)
- Increasing bile production as a good source of kynurenic acid (10, 11)
- Prebiotic effects (12)
- Pain-relieving (13)
- Anti-cancer effects (14, 15, 16, 17, 18)
Dandelion is a powerful herb with beneficial effects on many systems of the body, including the liver, kidneys, immune system, and circulatory system—all which serve to lower inflammation, open detoxification pathways, and make room for hormonal balance.
Dandelion and your hormonal health
Dandelion is especially supportive to the detoxification systems of the body, including the liver & gallbladder, kidneys, and intestines.
Besides supporting the liver in removing metabolized estrogens, dandelion can help with hormone balance in other ways.
The main way dandelion can help with hormone balance is through its positive effects on the liver and estrogen detoxification. Bitter greens like dandelion leaf help produce bile to “flush” out metabolized estrogens. I recommend a minimum of 1 serving/day of bitter greens.
Addressing estrogen dominance can have a massive effect on the rest of your hormones, including thyroid and adrenal hormones. It can also help reduce your chances of developing estrogen receptor-positive cancers.
Liver & Detoxification
Dandelion root has been shown to stimulate bile production, which supports the liver’s detoxification process. It helps the liver “flush out” estrogen and other steroid hormones and their byproducts so that they are removed from the body normally through excretion (bowel movements).
Dandelion leaf acts as a natural diuretic that stimulates detoxification through the kidneys. In a small pilot study, dandelion increased urination over the 5 hours following the first dose of dandelion leaf extract. (7)
Both dandelion leaves and the root serve as digestive bitters and prebiotic fibers, so the whole plant is great for improving digestive function. More on that below:
Dandelion is considered a bitter herb. Bitter herbs help stimulate the production of digestive enzymes, which are important for breaking down food into smaller molecules. It’s only in the broken-down form that foods can be fully digested and absorbed by the body. Without enough digestive enzymes, your body can’t get the nutrients it needs and the undigested food causes all sorts of digestive distress.
Both dandelion leaves and the root serve as digestive bitters, and, as mentioned earlier, bitters also stimulate bile production, another important aspect of digestion. Having adequate bile production and flow then helps “flush out” estrogen and other steroid hormones. Read more about digestive bitters here.
Dandelions can serve as a prebiotic for the gut bacteria, improving digestion. Prebiotics are fibers, such as inulin and oligofructose, which act as fuel for the good bacteria in your gut. They help stimulate the growth and activity of these bacteria. Prebiotic fibers appear to improve intestinal function and mineral absorption and may reduce gastrointestinal infections and have beneficial effects on your immune system.
In a study of leafy greens and the effects they have on lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, dandelion stimulated the growth of three out of four strains. (12)
How to Incorporate Dandelion Into Your Life
Here are some ideas for incorporating dandelion into your daily life, plus a few safety considerations.
Best Ways to Take Dandelion
Because you can use dandelion root and leaf, and because it’s so versatile, it’s fairly easy to get it into your diet. Here are a few ideas:
Enjoy the raw leaves in a salad. Dandelion leaves can be incorporated into a salad. Because the leaves are so bitter, you’ll probably want to combine the dandelion leaves with spinach leaves, lettuce, or some other more neutral-tasting leafy green. Dress the salad with orange and/or lemon juice to balance out the flavors. Try our orange fennel salad recipe.
Sauté the leaves as a side dish. You can also sauté dandelion leaves like you would spinach or collards. Use some high-quality olive oil and/or ghee and add some garlic and shallots. (You’ll find a recipe below.)
Use the root to make tea. Dandelion root makes a tea of similar consistency and earthiness as coffee. Dandy Blend is one popular option that also includes barley, rye, chicory, and sugar beetroot. However, despite it being gluten-free, some people still report being sensitive to the barley. Try this Simple Dandelion Tea, a community favorite.
Rasa Koffee, out of Boulder, Colorado, tastes like coffee but is made from dandelion root, chicory, burdock root, and a few tonic mushrooms and adaptogens. It’s a superfood coffee substitute that not only helps detox the liver but supports balanced energy levels.
There are also other plain dandelion teas out there, either loose or in teabags. You’ll find my go-to Dandelion Tea recipe at the end of this article.
Use tinctures containing dandelion root. Tinctures are an easy way to take dandelion. Alcohol-based dandelion root tinctures are the best version if you’re looking for a dandelion-based source of digestive bitters.
Here are a few Hormones Balance recipes for enjoying this amazing herbal detoxifier:
- Spinach Peach Smoothie
- Hormone Balancing Pumpkin Smoothie Breakfast Recipe
- Nourishing Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe – PFF Friendly
- Beetroot Tarragon Salad
- Orange Fennel Salad Recipe
- Bitter Greens with Sauteed Mushrooms Salad Recipe
- Chilled Herb and Cucumber Soup
As you can see, there are many ways to get this bitter herb into your daily life while still enjoying delicious food! However, there are some safety considerations to keep in mind.
As they say in the pharma world, dandelion isn’t for everyone. Because they are strong diuretics, those who are on pharmaceutical diuretics or other diuretic supplements should be cautious and consult with their healthcare practitioner.
If you’re going to harvest your own dandelion greens or roots, keep in mind the environment surrounding them. If they are growing in the city or even the suburbs, they could easily have been sprayed or exposed to pesticides, which defeats the whole purpose of using them for detoxification. If you are harvesting them yourself, the best place is your own yard because you know it hasn’t been treated with pesticides. You can also ask like-minded friends to harvest from their yard, too.
Dandelion is a fermentable fiber, which means it’s on the “high FODMAP” food list. If you suffer from SIBO or IBS, be careful as you add dandelion to see how it affects your digestion. Along those same lines, dandelion root tea can have a strong laxative effect in some people, so beware. This is great if you suffer from constipation, but not if you are dealing with IBS-D (diarrhea-dominant).
Ready to go beyond dandelion? Learn about the many top herbs for liver health and estrogen detoxification.
- Tahtamouni, Lubna H et al. “Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) decreases male rat fertility in vivo.” Journal of ethnopharmacology. 2011.
- Schütz, Katrin et al. “Taraxacum–a review on its phytochemical and pharmacological profile.” Journal of ethnopharmacology. 2006.
- Hfaiedh, Mbarka et al. “Hepatoprotective effect of Taraxacum officinale leaf extract on sodium dichromate-induced liver injury in rats.” Environmental toxicology. 2016.
- Gulfraz, Muhammad et al. “Effect of leaf extracts of Taraxacum officinale on CCl4 induced hepatotoxicity in rats, in vivo study.” Pakistan journal of pharmaceutical sciences. 2014.
- Nazari, A et al. “Chemical composition and hepatoprotective activity of ethanolic root extract of Taraxacum Syriacum Boiss against acetaminophen intoxication in rats.” Bratislavske lekarske listy. 2015.
- Davaatseren, Munkhtugs et al. “Dandelion leaf extract protects against liver injury induced by methionine- and choline-deficient diet in mice.” Journal of medicinal food. 2013.
- Clare, Bevin A et al. “The diuretic effect in human subjects of an extract of Taraxacum officinale folium over a single day.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y. 2009.
- Jedrejek, Dariusz et al. “Comparative phytochemical, cytotoxicity, antioxidant and haemostatic studies of Taraxacum officinale root preparations.” Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association. 2019.
- Wirngo, Fonyuy E et al. “The Physiological Effects of Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) in Type 2 Diabetes.” The review of diabetic studies. 2016.
- Turski, Michal P et al. “Distribution, synthesis, and absorption of kynurenic acid in plants.” Planta medica. 2011.
- Paluszkiewicz, Piotr et al. “High concentration of kynurenic acid in bile and pancreatic juice.” Amino acids vol. 37,4 (2009): 637-41. doi:10.1007/s00726-008-0183-x
- Kassim, Muhammad Arshad et al. “Effect of traditional leafy vegetables on the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition vol. 65,8 (2014): 977-80. doi:10.3109/09637486.2014.945155
- Jeon, Hye-Jin et al. “Anti-inflammatory activity of Taraxacum officinale.” Journal of ethnopharmacology. 2008.
- Van Trinh, N. et al. Taraxacum officinale dandelion extracts efficiently inhibited the breast cancer stem cell proliferation. Biomedical Research and Therapy. 2016.
- Sigstedt, Sophia C et al. “Evaluation of aqueous extracts of Taraxacum officinale on growth and invasion of breast and prostate cancer cells.” International journal of oncology. 2008.
- Rehman, Gauhar et al. “Effect of Methanolic Extract of Dandelion Roots on Cancer Cell Lines and AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Pathway.” Frontiers in pharmacology. Nov. 2017.
- Ovadje, Pamela et al. “Selective induction of apoptosis and autophagy through treatment with dandelion root extract in human pancreatic cancer cells.” Pancreas. 2012.
- Ovadje, Pamela et al. “Dandelion root extract affects colorectal cancer proliferation and survival through the activation of multiple death signalling pathways.” Oncotarget. 2016