When I lived in Greece, my absolute favorite memory there was eating local dandelion leaves (they call it xorta) for almost every. single. meal.
The preparation was scaringly simple: you boil the dandelion leaves until tender, drain, and then douse it with olive oil, lemon and pepper. The end result was divine. Now when I see that dandelion is available at local stores in the summer here in Chicago, I go crazy with making large batches of my favorite Greek recipe.
Not only are dandelion leaves a delish side (or main) dish, it is one of my favorite superfoods! I know so many of us view dandelion as a weed, but it’s so much more than that. Dandelion has a slew of health benefits and multiple ways to use it. So behold, five ways to use dandelion.
I started eating dandelion before I knew of any of its wonderful health benefits. Now that I know all the various uses and nutritional profile of this plant, I’m even more excited to include it in my summer menu. Did you know that you can also use all parts of the plant?
What is Dandelion Root?
Well you may already know it as the weed that granted your wishes as a kid when it turned into a white fuzzy ball, yet dandelion is chalk full of nutrients that have been used for centuries as a medicinal herbal. The entire plant of the dandelion can be consumed and it’s full of antioxidant rich vitamins like Vitamin A, B- vitamins, C, K, and minerals such as choline, calcium, iron and zinc.
The root of dandelion is commonly used as a tea, or ground up to use as a coffee replacement. The leaves are what is commonly used in the leafy green Greek recipe and can also be consumed raw as an addition to salads or other healthy recipes.
Health Benefits of Dandelion
After perusing nutrition studies and journals, here are some of the health benefits of dandelion I’ve come across:
Full of Nutrients
As mentioned above, the entire plant of the dandelion flower contains all sorts of vitamins and minerals that provide a host of health benefits. The fact that dandelion root contains all of my favorite minerals that support so many functions within us is one of my favorites. Minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium all help with water retention regulation, energy levels, and even assistance with keeping our skin clear! Dandelion also contains inulin which is a soluble fiber that helps keep your gut working in tip top shape.
Acts as a Natural Diuretic
Dandelion extract has been studied to show that it has diuretic effects when taken internally as a supplement. The potassium levels specifically in dandelion have been noted to be responsible for the diuretic properties when consumed.
If you’ve read my article on the beauty benefits of zinc, you know that zinc is one of my favorite minerals to include in beauty boosting foods! Because dandelion contains zinc as well as other beauty boosting minerals, consuming it will help give you healthy skin from the inside out!
Detoxification and Liver Support
Even though it hasn’t been widely studied, cultures have used dandelion root for centuries to aid with natural detoxification. There have also been animal studies that show that dandelion leaf helps protect and support liver health. One animal study in particular showed that dandelion extract helped reduce excess fat stored in the liver. Since dandelion also contains B vitamins, consuming this plant can help your bodies natural process of methylation (the process of natural detoxification within your body).
Balances Blood Sugar
Specific compounds found in dandelion can help insulin production as well as glucose absorption (which helps regulate blood sugar throughout the day). This study shows how a specific acid found in dandelion, chicoric acid, assists with improved insulin release.
Five Ways to Use Dandelion Greens
With all the various uses of dandelion greens, you’ll be inspired to stock up on this not so pesky anymore weed in your fridge. Since you can utilize the entire dandelion plant, you can grow the plant yourself or source an organic (meaning it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides) in your neighborhood.
Here are five ways to use dandelion:
Boiled Lemon Dandelion Xorta (horta)
This one is my favorite. I always fine dandelion leaves at our local grocery store in the summer and make a big batch of boiled dandelion to eat for days on end. Here is the simple (and intuitive) recipe:
- 1-2 bunches of dandelion leaves
- juice from 3-4 lemons (start with three, then add more lemon juice if you wish)
- generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- Pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, throw all the greens in the pot and boil until they are tender (you can easily pierce them with a fork – about 25 minutes). Drain the water and place the greens in a serving bowl – douse with lemon juice, olive oil, some pepper and serve!
You can dry out and use the flower of dandelion to create a tea, or you can find dandelion tea at your local health foods store. You can add antioxidant rich manuka honey to your tea and reap the benefits, especially if you’re feeling bloated and are looking for a natural diuretic.
Dandelion Coffee Substitute
If you’re not into tea, dandelion root is also commonly found in coffee substitute mixes. I’ve tried the Dandy Blend brand before (but I personally found it to be a bit bitter), so I suggest doing a bit of research on other products currently available. There is no caffeine in dandelion coffee, yet those who enjoy drinking it believe it tastes similar to regular coffee without the effects of caffeine.
Add Dandelion Tinctures to Smoothies
You can add dandelion tinctures to your smoothie recipes to get the nutrients and diuretic properties into your smoothie blends.
Create a Dandelion Poultice
To use dandelion topically for a facial toner or quick topical soak that you can leave on for a few minutes then rinse off, simply ground up dried dandelion root, blend it with a bit of water to create a paste and apply to your skin (be sure to do a patch test first!).
And as always, be sure to consult your physician first before experimenting with any new tinctures or superfoods you have not yet previously used.