Save the Dandelions!
As kids we made wishes on dandelion puffs, but as adults, we curse them for marring our perfect lawns and try to kill them with herbicides. Stop! Dandelions are good for us and good for the insects we rely on—let them stay awhile.
Dandelions bloom and provide pollen and nectar right when bees emerging from hibernation are desperate for nutrition. But bees are dying off in record numbers because of pesticides and herbicides, parasites, and lack of forage plants. We need bees to pollinate crops—they’re responsible for one-third of all the food we eat!
And dandelions aren’t just good for bees: according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, they are also “chock full of vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals, such as iron, potassium, and zinc.” Dandelions are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients important for healthy eyesight. The plant’s root has been used for the treatment of liver and gallbladder disorders, while its root and leaves have been used to treat breast diseases, water retention, digestive problems, diabetes, joint pain, and skin diseases. In fact, the plant’s Latin name, Taraxicum officinale, roughly translates as “official remedy for disorders.”
Showing up on the menus of top chefs, in farmer’s markets, and at natural foods stores, dandelion greens are downright trendy! There’s dandelion wine, of course, and dandelion greens that you can eat fresh in a salad when they are young and tender or sauté or steam just as you would other leafy greens. The flowers can also be also be added to a salad, blended into a smoothie, or dipped in batter and fried as a fritter. And then there are teas made from the dried leaves or the flowers and even a dandelion coffee substitute made from the dried and roasted roots of the plant. Dandelion greens are naturally bitter so their taste takes some getting used to. In the recipe for greens below, the leaves are boiled first before they are sautéed to remove some of the bitterness. The youngest greens (picked before the plant flowers) will have the mildest taste.
Dandelions have been used for centuries for both health and beauty. The milky sap of the plant is highly alkaline, contains germicidal and fungicidal properties, and is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. It has been used to treat acne, fungal infections, warts, wrinkles, and age spots. It has been used in Chinese medicine to treat poison ivy, sunburn, and hives. You’ll find recipes below to use dandelions for a steam facial, face mask, and a relaxing soak for your feet or whole body.
Dandelions are on the FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe list and their full nutritional information can be found here. However, as with all herbs, ingest it only under the supervision of a health care provider who knows your supplements and medications, especially if pregnant or nursing. Some people are allergic to dandelions. If you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow or daisies, avoid the dandelion. And don’t ingest dandelions if you have kidney or gallbladder problems. Make sure you harvest the plant from a chemical and pet-free area.
Super Simple Dandelion Blossom Tea
4 to 6 dandelion blossoms
1 cup water
Honey, sugar, or stevia to taste
Wash your dandelion flowers well, and place them in a tea strainer. Experiment to see if you like the taste better with or without any of the green plant material at the base of the blossoms. Boil the water, pour it over the flowers, and let it steep for five minutes. Add sweetener to taste.
Sautéed Dandelion Greens
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large handful of dandelion greens
Salt (to taste)
Chop off the tough ends of stems, then rinse the greens under cold water to clean. Add them to a large pot of boiling water and let them boil uncovered for 10 minutes. Drain well, removing any excess water. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat and then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for about a minute, add the greens and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and lemon.
Dandelion Steam Facial
Cup of dandelion flowers
3 to 4 cups boiling water
Add dandelion flowers to the bowl and add 3 drops of essential oil to the flowers (don’t overdo the oil). Carefully pour the boiling water over the flowers and essential oil. Lower your face to about 12 inches over the bowl and tent yourself with the towel. If steam is too hot, draw back and let it cool off a bit. Relax and enjoy the steam for 5 to 10 minutes. Then splash lukewarm water on your face and apply any serums or moisturizers.
Dandelion Yogurt Face Mask
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup dandelion flowers and/or leaves
1/4 cup honey
Blend the yogurt and dandelion flowers in a blender until smooth. Stir in the honey. Apply to clean face, avoiding the eye area, and leave on for 15 minutes. Wash off with warm water.
Dandelion, Rose Petal, and Clover Bath or Foot Bath
Rose petals and clover blossoms (see Note)
Cheese cloth or strainer
(Note: you can substitute or add violets, nasturtiums, or chamomile)
Wash the blossoms and petals under cold water, then place them in a pan. Add boiling water to the pan and let the plant materials steep for 15 to 20 minutes. For a foot bath, add directly to a small tub of warm water to which you’ve added a half cup of sea salt. For a bath, strain the contents of the pan through a strainer or cheesecloth into a tub of warm water to which you’ve one cup of sea salt.