Surprise: Dandelion is not just a pesky weed. In this video, fitness expert and author Tim Ferriss explains how to replace your coffee with dandelion, and the benefits you'll reap from doing so.
Wild dandelion is plentiful in most parts of the United States. Dandelion greens are often available commercially as well, especially at open markets and health food stores. The fresher the dandelion, the better. Though dandelion greens are available until winter in some states, the best, most tender greens are harvested early in the spring, before the plant begins to flower. Cultivated dandelion greens sold in markets are typically longer, less bitter, and more tender than their wild cousins. Choose brightly colored, tender-crisp leaves; avoid those with yellowed or wilted tips or brown spots. Usually, the lighter green the leaf, the more tender the taste.
As anyone who has ever removed one from the lawn knows, dandelion plants have a long, dark brown tapering taproot, from 2 to 3 cm in width to at least 15 cm in length. The whole plant, including the root, contains a milky white sap or latex. On top of the root, but still below the surface, is a crown of blanched leaf stems, which dandelion aficionados consider the tastiest part of the plant. They can be used in salads or as a cooked vegetable. Next, comes the rosette of leaves. These are the dandelion greens, which must be gathered before the plant blooms or they will become quite bitter and tough. The young greens, which have a slightly bitter, tangy flavor that adds interest to salads and can also be cooked like spinach, are the part most often consumed. Dandelion roots can also be eaten as a root vegetable or roasted and ground to make "coffee," and the flowers can be used to make dandelion wine and tea.
Chemicals in dandelion can sometimes cause mild skin irritation. You should use caution when handling dandelions. If you have gallbladder problems or diabetes or take a diuretic, risks will increase as these conditions or medicines can interact with dandelion.
Dandelion may interact with other medication, even though it is a natural herbal supplement. Dandelion interacts with medicines that treat diabetes or control blood sugar levels. These drugs include insulin, glipizide, glyburide, metformin, acarbose, and tolbutamide. Diuretics, or water pills also have a negative effect on dandelion, so do not take these while on dandelion.
Do not use dandelion if you are taking a blood thinner, such as warfarin. You should also avoid dandelion if you have gallbladder problems, have diabetes or are taking medicine to control blood sugar levels, or are taking a diuretic. If you are allergic to pollen, you may also be allergic to dandelion, so avoid taking it.
The dandelion is a perennial plant with an almost worldwide distribution. While many individuals consider the dandelion to be an unwanted weed, herbalists all over the world have revered this valuable herb. Its common name, dandelion, is a corruption of the French for "tooth of the lion" (dent-de-lion). This name describes the herb's leaves, which have several large, pointed teeth. Its scientific name, Taraxacum, is from the Greek taraxos (disorder) and akos (remedy). This alludes to dandelion's ability to correct a multitude of disorders. A hardy perennial, which grows in all temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, dandelion reaches 3 to 35 cm in height. It is easily recognized by its deeply toothed, hairless leaves, measuring 5 to 30 cm in length and 1 to 10 cm in width, which form a rosette at ground level, and the single golden yellow flower that emerges from the rosette's center on a straight, purplish, leafless, hollow stem. The flower, which is actually a collection of tiny florets, appears from early spring until late autumn. When the florets mature, they produce downy seeds that are easily dispersed by the wind, giving rise to dandelion's aliases of "puffball" and "blowball."
Although its flowers are most evident in early summer, dandelion may be found in bloom, and consequently prolifically dispersing its seeds, throughout most of the year.
Individuals with allergies to daisies or other members of the Compositae family may wish to avoid dandelion. If picking wild dandelion greens from lawns or meadows, be sure the area has not been treated with weed killer or fungicides and that it is not located close to a heavily traveled road, where it will be exposed to pollutants from automobile exhaust.