Dandelion Health Benefits

Dandelion is a rich source of nutrients and other compounds that may improve liver function, promote weight loss, possess diuretic activity, and improve blood sugar control. In fact, the dandelion contains greater nutritional value than many other vegetables. It is particularly high in vitamins and minerals, protein, choline, inulin, and pectin. It has more vitamin A than carrots. In addition, dandelion is an excellent source of vitamin C, B1, B2 and B6, as well as calcium, copper, manganese and iron. It is also a rich source of medicinal compounds that have a "toning" effect on the body, and both the greens and the roots can be used for this purpose.

Research has also shown that dandelion root contains a very high concentration (up to 40%&) of an indigestible carbohydrate called inulin, which serves as a food source for colonic bacteria species Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus and promotes their growth. These bacteria crowd out other harmful bacteria, thus acting like a natural antibiotic and improving the health of the digestive tract. Inulin is found naturally in Jerusalem artichoke, burdock, chicory, dandelion root, leeks, onions, adnd asparagus. As nutritional supplement it is available in capsule, as tablets, and as a powder. Inulin is also helpful in improving blood sugar control and diabetes. In several animal studies, the water extract of dandelion improved the production of antioxidant liver enxymes, decreased blood sugar, total cholesterol and raised the level of beneficial HDL cholesterol.

In general, the uses in pets recommended for dandelion include: fluid retention (leaves), nutritional supplement (leaves), liver/gallbladder disease, constipation and various forms of arthritis. Dandelion acts as diuretic (prevents fluid retention) but unlike many prescription drugs (including furosemide) does not deplete the body of necessary potassium. It lowers bloo sugar and may be recommended for pets with diabetes. Dandelion is useful for improving digestion and removing toxins from the colon.

Dandelion greens are often available in open markets and health food store. Choose brightly colored, tender-crisp leaves. Store dandelion leaves unwashed and wrapped in damp paper towels in a plastic bag where they can be fresh for 3 to 5 days.

Tips for Preparing. The best time to gather dandelion is in the very early spring, even before the last frost, when the bloom but appears but before the stalk grows. After blooming, dandelion greens become too bitter and too tough to eat. The long taproot can be used as a vegetable or roasted and used as a coffee substitute. Cooked dandelion greens should be eaten within two days. To retain the best falvor, the leaves should be torn to pieces, rather than cut.

To reduce bitterness in more mature leaves, soak the leaves in a baking soda solution (one teaspoon of soda to 1 cup water) for one hour.

  • Young dandelion leaves make an excellent spring salad, either alone or in combination with other greens, lettuces, shallot tops, or chives.
  • Young, tender dandelion roots are delicious cooked. Peel them with a potato peeler. Slice thinly crosswise and boil in water to which you've added a pinch of baking soda. Pour off the water, cover with fresh water, and boil again. Drain and season with salt, pepper and butter.

Individuals with allergies to daisies 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 heavy traffic roads, where it will be exposed to pollutants from automobile exhaust. Dandelion safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established. Similar precautions probably also apply in pets.

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