What is dandelion root?
Eskymaks/Shutterstock Many people look at dandelions as pesky weeds that overtake lawns and gardens, but they're actually useful plants. Dandelions are perfect for herbal remedies and are filled with vitamins and minerals. Herbalists have been known to use it to detoxify the liver and gallbladder, treat infections, relieve muscles aches, and use it as a diuretic. Here are some things to consider before you start a detox.
adriaticfoto/ShutterstockAlthough there aren't a lot of studies on the herb, dandelion root may contain some promising substances in the fight against diabetes and certain types of cancers. Research published by Korean scientists in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences suggests that the root may help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels by helping control fats in the blood. In a study on chemo-resistant melanoma—an aggressive form of skin cancer most prevalent in Americans 25 to 29—researchers of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Windsor found that specific antioxidants in dandelion root extract helped prevent the drug-resistant melanoma cells from multiplying. Other research findings suggest the herb may be useful in taming inflammation, preventing urinary tract infections, taming an upset stomach, and easing arthritis-like pain.
Why people turn to dandelion
ESB Professional/ShutterstockWhile the herb has been popular for detoxing (here are some other detoxing ingredients to add to your skin-care routine), dandelion root has a long history of use in a variety of cultures: Native Americans were known to boil dandelion in water and take it to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and upset stomachs. Traditional Chinese medicine turned to dandelion for stomach problems, appendicitis and breast issues. And early Europeans used it to remedy fevers, diabetes, and diarrhea.
One possible reason dandelions are prized for their medicinal value is that they're chock-full of vitamins. They're a great source of vitamins A, C, and K. Once cup of dandelions has 112 percent Daily Value of vitamin A, 32 percent vitamin C, and 535 percent vitamin K. These vitamins help to support a healthier immune system, maintain bone health, and regulate normal blood clotting.
How to use dandelion root
Creative Family/ShutterstockTraditionally, the root was roasted and consumed as a beverage while the leaves were used in salads, along with other raw-vegetable meals, soups, and sandwiches. Today it's still used very much the same way, most popularly in tea and as a coffee substitute to act as a dandelion root detox. It's also available in capsules, powders, and extracts.
Are there any risks?
Pandora Studio/ShutterstockWhile there are at least 13 home remedies that can harm you, dandelion is one of the least problematic medicinal herbs. Some experts believe they're a better source of nutrients than commonly eaten greens. "However, people with ragweed allergy should be cautious when using dandelion, as it may cause an allergic reaction," says Andrew Weil, MD, Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. He also explains that dandelion can counteract antibiotics, decreasing their efficacy, and slow down the rate in which the liver breaks down certain medications. It's important to note that medical professionals know little about its impact on pregnancy and breastfeeding, so if pregnant or nursing, it's recommended to speak to a doctor first.
You can pick your own
Shebeko/ShutterstockThink of a yard overgrown with dandelions as your own personal pharmacy. Josh Axe, DNM, founder of draxe.com and author of Eat Dirt, says it's safe to pick your own as long as you avoid areas where weed-killer has been sprayed. "Try to pick from an area that is free from pollution, too," writes Axe in a blog post. "You want to look for the younger and tender plants; they're less bitter." Dandelion roots and leaves can be refrigerated for up to a week, and if wrapped in a paper towel they can stay fresh longer.
Dry your own root
KaTci/ShutterstockDried and stored correctly, dandelion roots can be kept for up to a year. The process is simple: After picking the roots, soak them in water for several minutes, and then rinse them until completely clean. Chop the roots into small pieces and roast them in the oven at 200 degrees for about an hour. This will shrink and fully dry them out, and then you can then place in an airtight jar and use for tea. Want to know the best way to store a variety of herbs? You're welcome.
Implement dandelion into your diet slowly
Degtiarova Viktoriia/ShutterstockLike anything, it takes the body a little to adjust to new substances. Due to dandelions' diuretic nature, it's suggested to start consuming dandelion products gradually. For instance, only drink one cup of dandelion tea for several days to give your body time to adjust. You can start to increase to two or three cups a day. Its effects are similar to that of coffee, which is known to cause people to go to the bathroom quicker. (This is why coffee makes people poop.)