Traditional and Modern Use of Dandelion

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) grows abundantly in many parks and gardens. This easily recognisable weed was once a cure-all of herbal medicine and is still popular in food and drink.

Common Name

Dandelion

Scientific Name

Taraxacum officinale

Family

Asteraceae, formerly Compositae.

Botanical Description

Bright yellow composite flowers crown an erect stem (up to 1-30 cm) emerging from a rosette of large jagged, green leaves. Older plants have a long tapering white root and younger plants have thinner roots and rhizomes.

Status

Perennial. Distributed in temperate zones.

Habitat and Distribution

Native to many temperate parts of the world, dandelions are found growing in gardens, parks, lawns, roadsides, waysides, meadows, fields, orchards and woodlands.

Parts Used For Food

Roots, leaves, stem, buds and flowers.

Harvest Time

Early spring to late autumn.

Food Uses

Dandelion-and-burdock is a popular fizzy drink made in the north of England. Dandelion root has also traditionally been used to make a coffee substitute.

The leaves of the plant are considered to be very nutritious and can be eaten as a salad or fresh vegetable. In Asian cooking, for example, dandelion leaves are used like lettuce, boiled, made into soup or fried.

The flower-buds can be added to omelettes and fritters, the flowers baked into cakes, and even the pollen sprinkled on food for decoration and colouring. Dandelion blossoms make a delicious country wine and a beer is brewed from the whole plant before it flowers.

Nutritional Profile

Dandelion ‘greens’ contain vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, beta carotene, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.

Dandelion Recipes

Traditional Medicine Uses

Dandelion has been used as a herbal medicine to treat wide-ranging conditions, including stomach and liver complaints, diabetes, heart problems, anaemia, respiratory ailments, consumption (tuberculosis), toothache, broken bones and sprains, sore eyes, cuts and nervousness.

Other Uses

Dandelion provides a rich source of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects from early spring to late autumn.

Cautions

As a member of the same plant family as ragwort and daisies, dandelion may potentially cause allergies. However, there are few documented cases of the plant’s toxicity in humans.

More About Dandelion

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References

  1. Hatfield, G. Allen Lane, Penguin Books. London, 2007. ISBN: 978-140-51577-0.
  2. Jackson, PW. . The Past and Present Uses of Wild Plants in Ireland. Missouri Botanical Garden Press. St Louis, Missouri, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-915279-78-4.
  3. Thayer, S. . A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing. Forager’s Harvest Press. Bruce, Wisconsin, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-9766266-0-2.
  4. Tanaka, Y. Nguyen, VK. Edible Wild Plants of Vietnam. The Bountiful Garden. Orchid Press. Bangkok, 2007. ISBN: 978-974-524-089-6 / 974-524-089-3.
  5. Couplan, F. The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America. Nature’s Green Feast. Keats Publishing. Connecticut, 1998. ISBN: 978-0-87983-821-8.
  6. Facciola, S. Cornucopia II. A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications. Vista, California 1998. ISBN: 0-9628087-2-5.
  7. Mills, S, Bone, K. The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. Churchill Livingstone. London, 2005. ISBN: 0-443-07171-3.

4 thoughts on “Traditional and Modern Use of Dandelion”

  1. Lovely, thanks for the fascinating information and the delicious recipes, Robin! Young dandelion leaves are the perfect partner with cheese for a yummy granary sandwich.

  2. Lots of great research on the anti-cancer properties of Dandelion!

    Chatterjee, S. J., Ovadje, P., Mousa, M., Hamm, C., & Pandey, S. (2011). The Efficacy of Dandelion Root Extract in Inducing Apoptosis in Drug-Resistant Human Melanoma Cells. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011, e129045. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/129045

    News, C. (n.d.-a). Cancer-killing dandelion tea gets $157K research grant. Retrieved May 3, 2017, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/cancer-killing-dandelion-tea-gets-157k-research-grant-1.1248382

    News, C. (n.d.-b). Researcher honoured for work on anti-cancer properties of dandelions. Retrieved June 23, 2017, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/windsor-s-dandelion-tea-researcher-pamela-ovadje-recognized-for-anti-cancer-work-1.3331660

    Ovadje, P. (2014, January 1). Anticancer Activity of Natural Health Products (Dandelion Root & Long Pepper Extracts); Extensive Study Of Efficacy And Mechanism Of Action. University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario. Retrieved from http://scholar.uwindsor.ca/etd/5209

    Ovadje, P., Ammar, S., Guerrero, J.-A., Arnason, J. T., & Pandey, S. (2016). Dandelion root extract affects colorectal cancer proliferation and survival through the activation of multiple death signalling pathways. Oncotarget, 7(45), 73080–73100. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.11485

    Ovadje, P., Chatterjee, S., Griffin, C., Tran, C., Hamm, C., & Pandey, S. (2011). Selective induction of apoptosis through activation of caspase-8 in human leukemia cells (Jurkat) by dandelion root extract. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 133(1), 86–91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2010.09.005

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