According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) contain plentiful amounts of Vitamins A, B, C and D, iron, potassium, and zinc. The entire plant has an active biochemistry that has made it a valuable medicinal for centuries, from flower, to leaf, to root. The root in particular is high in phenolic acids (which protect against oxidative damage) and inulin (a prebiotic that encourages beneficial bacteria to grow in the gut).1
Perhaps the most important benefit of consuming dandelion root, however, is in its liver protecting abilities. In fact, a study showed that mice who were given ethanol showed no liver damage when they also received a hot water extract of dandelion root. Beyond benefiting the liver, in the past, dandelion root has also been used:
- to treat gallbladder problems
- to increase bile production (which is great for anyone who has had their gallbladder removed)
- for digestive issues, such as heartburn or constipation
- as a diuretic
- as a blood purifier
- to treat hepatitis and jaundice
- as cancer prevention
Though many studies proving the dandelion's medicinal value have been conducted using animals, such as mice and rabbits, unfortunately, not many are published concerning human use. It seems that modern science and "big pharma" shy away from herbal remedies that our ancestors have known to work for hundreds of years.
Still, if you would like to try dandelion root, it is very easy to come by and to process for consumption. Most of us have dandelions growing wild in our gardens and lawns, and if you do garden, you'll likely be pulling some of them up anyway, so why not put them to good use? Not only do they have medicinal value, but when roasted, it is actually quite pleasant tasting, and some find a suitable substitute for coffee (personally, it just isn't the same as drinking real coffee to me, but still, it is an enjoyable beverage).
To make your own dandelion root tea, locate dandelions that are in an area free from pesticides or herbicides. It is said that dandelion roots are best harvested in the fall, when inulin levels are highest, but I find that they can be harvested year round, and still provide benefit no matter when picked.
How to Make Roasted Dandelion Root Tea
1. Remove the dandelion roots from the ground, being careful not to damage them. This can be tricky (as gardeners know), since the dandelion has a long taproot that resists being pulled up. You can use a shovel to dig around the dandelion in order to make it easier, or you can try a weeding tool. I also find that they are easier to pull from wet soil than dry.
|A weeding tool may make it easier to remove the dandelion's long taproot.|
2. Thoroughly clean the roots. If it is a nice day, I hose them off outside before bringing them in. Once in, I soak them in the sink for 15 minutes or so, and then I use a soft bristled brush to scrub them, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies, to remove all traces of dirt.
|Soaking the roots helps to soften dirt particles for easy removal.|
|All of the root can be used, even the smallest pieces.|
|To prepare the roots for roasting, you will first need to chop them.|
5. Roast the roots. Once the roots are dry, you could store them, and use them as is, but the flavor is nothing compared to roots that have been roasted! This extra step will only take about 10 minutes and is well worth it!
You will need to preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and spread your roots in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast them in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until they are browning and fragrant. Watch closely so that they do not burn.
|Dandelion root tastes best roasted until it is golden brown.|
|Grind the roasted roots for use in tea.|
7. To make the tea, use one tablespoon roasted dandelion root per cup of boiling water. Pour the water over the roots and allow to steep, covered, for 15 minutes. Drink as is, or add heavy cream or sweetener to taste. I generally avoid using sweeteners, but find that stevia tastes good in dandelion root tea.
It is best to drink this tea about 15 minutes before you plan on eating, as it helps to better digest the meal.