Ah, the humble dandelion. Ire of lawn-keepers and nosy neighbours. Spring is just around the corner, which means that the little yellow "weed" will soon be popping up everywhere. And while it is common practice to mow them down before they go to seed and spread even further, I implore you to think twice about it this year, or at least hold off for a couple of weeks.
You may have heard that dandelions greens are edible and that they pack a nutritional punch. But you may not know that all parts of the plant have medicinal benefits. The greens can be eaten raw or cooked. They are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, their bitter taste facilitates optimal liver function and stimulates appetite, and they feed the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. The roots can be dried and brewed as tea. They act as a diuretic, which benefits kidney function, helping them filter out salt, waste, excess water, and even help prevent urinary tract infections. The flowers are edible and can also be used topically as an analgesic (pain reliever) and decrease inflammation. Dandelions truly are a superfood!
If you are interested in harvesting some dandelions this spring to eat, make tea, or even make some homemade skincare products (recipe below), there are a few tips to keep in mind.
First, make sure that the place you are harvesting from doesn't spray any chemicals on them. You should also avoid picking them from the side of the road, as they will be dirty from the traffic driving by. Ideally, you can simply pick them from your backyard. Second, it is best to harvest the greens before the dandelions flower, as they will be less bitter and more palatable. You should harvest the flowers just as they begin to open and before they go to seed. And if you are interested in brewing the roots into a tea, they are best harvested in the fall.
If you are interested in a fun DIY project that puts all your spring dandelions to use, try making this dandelion body butter.
It can be used to relieve muscle and joint pain, as well as dry, itchy skin. You should be able to find all the ingredients (except the dandelions, of course) at your local health food store.
Small mason jar (250 ml)
Double boiler (or small pot and stainless steel bowl that fits on top)
Food processor or mixer with a whisk attachment
2 small jars for storing body butter
Olive, grapeseed, or jojoba oil
53g shea butter
26g coconut oil
33g dandelion- infused olive, grapeseed, or jojoba oil
½ tsp. arrowroot powder
3 drops vitamin E oil
20-30 drops essential oils of choice (optional)
- Pick enough dandelion flowers to fill a 250ml mason jar. Lay them out in a single layer on a flat surface for a few days until they are completely dry. Alternatively, dry them in a dehydrator. (They must be completely dry to avoid spoilage)
- Pack the flowers tightly into the mason jar and fill with oil of choice and screw the lid on tightly.
- Let sit for up to two weeks.
- When the oil has been infused, strain through cheesecloth into a clean jar.
- In a double boiler, melt the shea butter, coconut oil, dandelion-infused oil, and beeswax.
- Remove from heat and add the arrowroot powder, vitamin E oil, and optional essential oils. Stir to combine.
- Place in the fridge until it just begins to solidify, then whip in a food processor or mixer with a whisk attachment until creamy (about 10 minutes).
- Store in airtight containers and slather onto skin often.
If harvesting and using medicinal plants aren't your thing, at least make sure you don't mow the dandelions down right away. The flowers are an essential source of pollen and nectar for pollinators, especially bees. Let this be the year you learn to love dandelions. Happy spring!