Today I’m excited to share information about using dandelions, plus a yummy dandelion recipe from the new book, Wild Remedies, written by Rosalee de la Foret and Emily Han.
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At around 400 pages, it’s chock full of information about how to forage healing foods and craft your own herbal medicine, plus gorgeous full color photos and botanical illustrations.
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The following text was excerpted and adapted from Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine (Hay House Inc, 2020) by Rosalee de la Foret and Emily Han and reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Using Dandelion Leaf & Flower
Dandelions tell us that spring is here!
Dandelion is both tenacious and generous and is one of our most-needed plant medicines.
Here’s some helpful information to know about dandelions:
Botanical name: Taraxacum officinale
Family: Asteraceae (aster)
Parts used: leaves, flowers, sap, seeds, roots
Energetics: cooling, drying
Taste: leaf is bitter, salty; flower is bitter, sweet
Properties: leaf is alterative, digestive stimulant, diuretic, nutritive; flower is anodyne, antioxidant, inflammatory modulator, nutritive
Uses: food, liver function, poor digestion, skin eruptions, water retention
Preparations: food, oil, tincture, vinegar
Gifts from Dandelion
Leaves Support Digestion
When dandelion leaves are young and tender, they have a slightly bitter taste, which stimulates many digestive functions and secretions. For this reason the leaves are considered a spring tonic, something that is taken to enliven digestion after a winter of heavy meats and stored vegetables.
Dandelion leaves are filled with nutrients, including fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, phosphorus, magnesium, beta-carotene, zinc, and manganese.
The leaves also have high amounts of inulin. This starchy carbohydrate is broken down in the intestines and provides nutrients for healthy gut flora.
Leaves Act as a Diuretic
Eating many dandelion leaves will make you urinate. A lot. This is such an obvious effect that the common name for dandelion in France is pissenlit,which translates to “pee the bed.”
Herbalists commonly use dandelion leaves to address edema, urinary stagnation, and symptoms of high blood pressure. Preliminary human clinical trials have confirmed the diuretic effect of dandelion tincture (alcohol and water extraction).
Flowers Bring Joy and Nutrition
Spend a sunny morning picking bright yellow dandelion flowers and you’ll undoubtedly experience one of their “side effects”: they bring joy and laughter to those who spend time with them.
Dandelion flowers are both food and medicine. As a food, they have a sweet, bland taste and are high in nutrients like lutein and beta-carotene, both known for the ability to support eye health.
In addition to vitamins and minerals, dandelion flowers are high in flavonoids. One study looked at dandelion leaf and flower extracts and determined that the flowers have especially high flavonoid content. The study concluded they may be beneficial for diseases associated with oxidative stress (e.g., atherosclerosis, cancer, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular diseases).
Flowers Relieve Pain and Protect Skin
Freshly wilted dandelion flowers can be infused into oil and used to relieve muscle aches and pains. Herbalists also recommend dandelion flower–infused oil as a way to support healthy lymphatic tissues topically.
The infused oil can be made into creams or serums to support skin health. One in vitro study found that dandelion leaf and flower extracts act as potent protective agents against UVB damage.
Related: To harness these benefits, please see my recipes for:
- Dandelion Salve
- Dandelion Lotion Bars
- Dandelion Magnesium Lotion
- DIY Herbal Deodorant for Women’s Health
HERBAL SALVES & BALMS
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- Build Your Own Salve eGuide
- 18 Herbs & Flowers for Salves Chart
- Salve Building Printable Worksheet
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How to Harvest Dandelion Leaves & Flowers
Leaves and flowers can be gathered by hand or with scissors throughout the growing season. The leaves are best when young, as they become more bitter and tough as they age. There’s no set rule as to when they are tasty and when they’re not. Look for visibly young leaves then nibble some to let your palate decide.
Flowers and buds can be used whenever they are available. The flowers will readily go to seed, so it’s best to harvest them and then use them immediately.
Harvesting Cautions: Every year billions of dollars are spent on herbicides attempting to eradicate the dandelion. Harvest dandelions in an area that hasn’t been poisoned for at least three years and is free of heavy metals. Potential look-alike plants include cat’s ear (Hypochaeris radicata), hawkweed (Hieracium pilosella), sow thistle (Sonchus spp.), chicory (Cichorium intybus), and young wild lettuce (Lactuca spp.).
Dandelion Maple Syrup Cake Recipe
Here’s a delicious way to enjoy sunny dandelion blooms. Serve this cake as part of a brunch or as an after-dinner dessert.
Yield: One 9-inch cake, about 8 medium servings
Ingredients for the Cake
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3/4 cup freshly picked dandelion flowers (with sepals & bracts removed)
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour OR gluten-free all purpose flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup raisins, chopped (optional)
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Ingredients for the Frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup freshly picked dandelion flowers (sepals & bracts removed)
Directions to Make
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9 x 2-inch glass pie plate.
- Mix the butter, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the dandelion flowers and mix well. Set aside.
- Mix the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
- Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir well. If using, mix in the raisins and/or walnuts.
- Press the batter into the greased pie plate. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.
- For the frosting: Use a handheld mixer to combine the cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup. Taste and add more maple syrup if desired.
- Assemble the cake: When cooled, invert the cake onto a sheet pan or large, flat plate. Frost the top and sides. Sprinkle the dandelion flowers on top.
Rosalee de la Forêt, RH, is passionate about inspiring you to enjoy plants every single day, whether it’s marveling their beauty or using their gifts as food and medicine. She is the best-selling author of the book Alchemy of Herbs, the Education Director for LearningHerbs, and a registered herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild. In addition to writing books, Rosalee teaches online courses about herbs, including Taste of Herbs, Herbal Cold Care, and Apothecary. Rosalee lives in a log cabin in the northeastern cascades of Washington State with her husband. She’s an avid gardener and excels at cuddling up with her cat and a good book. See more of Rosalee’s articles and recipes at Herbs with Rosalee.
From teaching nature workshops to creating botanical cocktail recipes, Emily Han helps people slow down, nurture their senses, and cultivate their connection to the earth. Her work as a naturalist, herbalist, writer, and educator focuses on intersections of nature, culture, and food. She is the author of Wild Drinks & Cocktails, the Communications Director for LearningHerbs, and co-founder of the International Food Swap Network. Emily is a Certified California Naturalist and Master Food Preserver. She lives Los Angeles with her husband, Gregory. As citizen scientists, their claim to fame is discovering two previously unknown populations of snails in their backyard. To learn more, visit EmilyHan.com.