Put down that weed killer. The dandelion, that yellow flower that turns into a puffable white ball may be a weed to some, but there are many benefits of having dandelions in your yard. Here are a few reasons you should think twice before trying to eradicate these lovely yellow flowers from your yard.

Dandelion Health Benefits

Did you know that the dandelion (also known as the taraxacum officinale) has been used for years to fight everything from cholesterol to aging to high blood sugar? It’s one of those superfoods. And believe it or not, while you may try to rid your yard of it, some people will pay more for dandelion than prime rib or lobster!   Let’s look at why this pesky weed plays such a vital role in health:

The dandelion plant is a rich source of beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A. It is also loaded full of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. It contains vitamin D, B complex vitamins, organic sodium, and even has more protein than spinach. Yes, you might say that dandelion is a true wonder food worth the hefty price. And it’s actually very tasty too.

“Dandelion leaves act as a diuretic, increasing the amount of urine your body makes,” according to Penn State’s Hershey Medical Center. “The leaves are used to stimulate the appetite and help digestion. Dandelion flower has antioxidant properties. Dandelion may also help improve the immune system.”

So, are you ready to add dandelion to your diet? Here are some ways to incorporate it and what they’ll do for you:

Dandelion Roots

Dandelion roots may be a real pain to remove from your lawn, but when you see how good they are for you, you just might want to keep them around. The root of the dandelion is often dried and ground to make a dandelion tea or coffee substitute.  Or you can use dandelion root extract as herbal medicine by mixing in a favorite tea such as chamomile. Some of the benefits of consuming the root include:

  • Supporting liver health and function.
  • Fight bacteria such as staph infections.
  • Neutralize free radicals.
  • Reduce bad cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol.
  • Potential to kill certain cancer cells.
  • Protects bones.
  • It helps brain function.
  • Balances metabolism.
  • Anti-inflammatory qualities.
  • Reduce heartburn.

Dandelion root, combined in a specific formulation with leaf extract from another herb, uva ursi, relieves urinary tract infections in women.

Dandelion tea is quite simple to make. You can find organic dandelion tea bags at most health food stores, and it’s becoming more common even at grocery stores. Look for a quality brand and follow the instructions on how long to steep the tea bags.

You can also make dandelion root tea yourself by steeping a tablespoon of the roots in about five ounces of boiling water for 30 minutes.

If you want to make more of a coffee-like beverage, you’d chop up the root and dry it out by roasting it in the oven for about two hours at 300 Fahrenheit. Then steep it for 10 minutes in hot water.

The tea is also a mild laxative.

Dandelion Leaves

Dandelion leaves also have many health benefits. They are packed with vitamins and nutrients that your body needs like vitamins K, A, and C, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins. Some of the benefits of dandelion leaves include:

  • Reducing high cholesterol.
  • Promoting eye health.
  • Decreasing water weight.
  • Reducing bloating.
  • Promoting weight loss.
  • Protecting against liver disease from oxidative stress.
  • Improving the immune system.

Dandelion greens have an earthy, nutty flavor to them that is similar to endive or radicchio. To eat them, you can add them to salads, sauté them, or even chop them up and mix them in salsa or pesto sauce.

You can buy them mixed already into salad greens or as a bunch that you can add the dandelion leaf to a favorite salad recipe. They are available at health food stores and many grocery store chains. Or you can order them online.

Dandelion Flowers

Yes, even the dandelion flower is good for you! While the flowers haven’t been researched as extensively as the roots and leaves, here are some of the benefits that have been found:

  • Stomach cramp relief.
  • Alleviates depression.
  • Pain relief from backaches, headaches, etc.
  • Improved vision, including night vision.
  • Rich in antioxidants.

There is all kind of creative ways to eat dandelion flowers. A simple google search reveals everything from dandelion flower cookies to dandelion blossom jelly. You can also dry them and steep them in water for a refreshing (and healthy) tea.

Precautions

Dandelions aren’t for everyone. Those who have allergic reactions to ragweed and related plants such as daisies, marigolds and chrysanthemums are more likey to be allergic to dandelions, as well.

Benefits of Dandelions in Your Yard

Yes, the health benefits of dandelion are numerous, but they are also great for your yard. According to garden expert Mary Nielsen of Buchanan’s Native Plants in Houston, dandelions are super beneficial.

“Dandelions are very good for the beneficial insects and pollinators in your yard,” she said. “And they have tap roots that accumulate nutrients deep down in the soil and bring them to the surface, which helps the other plants in your yard.”

Not only do they help surrounding plants get much-needed nutrients, they aerate the soil.  “You can leave dandelions in an area of poor soil and they will actually improve it,” said Nielsen. Unfortunately, when most people visit stores like Buchanan’s about dandelions, they are looking for ways to get rid of them. But this wasn’t always the case…

Dandelions have been around since ancient times. It grows all over the world and has for thousands of years and was used by the Chinese, Romans, and Greeks for medicinal purposes. It is believed that the dandelion was first brought to the U.S. by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. It wasn’t by accident, but because of its medicinal purposes.

Yes, up until recent times, dandelions were a beloved flower and deeply rooted in Americans’ hearts and gardens.

While they are not native, they’re now a naturalized plant throughout the entire country. They’ve found a niche in nature — because they’re one of the first plants to flower in spring, they play an important role as an early source of pollen and nectar for bees and other pollinating insects.

Bee on a dandelion
Early flowering dandelions help bees and other pollinators.

6 Fun Facts About Dandelions

1. The name: It derives from French, “Dents-de-lions,” which is in turn taken from the Latin “dens leans,” or lion’s tooth.

2. The white puffy part is called the pappus.

3. While more than 99% of dandelion seeds land within 10 yards of the parent plant, the right wind can carry a seed up to 60 miles.

4. It is native to Europe, and probably came to the United States on the Mayflower, in a medicine kit.

5. In the 1800s, girls would blow on dandelions to see whether the person they loved, loved them in return. All the seeds blown off in one breath meant the feelings were mutual.

6. In the British Isles, it is often called the “piss-a-bed” or “pish-th’bed.” In France, it’s “pissenlit.” All the nicknames are based on its diuretic properties, which increase urination — and the odds of a wet bed.

Dealing with Dandelions in Your Yard

If you see these lovely flowers spring up on your lawn, don’t make a mad dash for the weed killer. You won’t be doing anyone a favor, and especially not your yard. It’s best to let them grow and die off naturally. This is very beneficial to your soil.

To keep them tidy and more garden-like, cut their leaves back on a monthly basis and lay the trimmed leaves on top of the soil to decompose. When the plants die off, leave the roots intact. They’ll either come back the following year or decay and enrich your soil for other plants.

Now, if you must get rid of them, it’s best to do so naturally. And this requires digging — lots of digging. Dandelion taproots run long and deep. Once you’ve removed them, you’ll have a hole in your yard. In that hole, pour regular white vinegar to kill weed roots that were not extracted. Boiling water can also do the trick, or you can make a natural herbicide.

After all the work it takes to remove the dandelions, don’t forget that you can actually use them for health purposes — unless you use pesticides on your lawn. But if you don’t, cut up the leaves to use in salads and make tea from the nutritious roots. You may just find that these lovely little flowers aren’t so bad after all!