Dandelion Leaves - Much More Than a Pesky Weed

The humble dandelion with its white seeds that float away on a single puff is often considered to be a pesky weed, although its importance and place in history cannot be undervalued. As a distant cousin of the cheerful sunflower (both flowers belong to the same botanical class), the dandelion was believed to keep depression and sadness away. The name of this plant however is a very interesting one and has been directly derived from the Latin phrase ‘Dens Lionis’ or lion’s tooth, which refers to the leaves that have a rough jagged shape. Eventually, over the years the Latin phrase became ‘Dent-de-Lion’ in French and then ‘Dandelion’ in English.   

The dandelion is a tough little survivor because it can grow anywhere and often doesn’t need a lot of space to thrive in. It has been found to bloom in well-tended gardens and to grow just as well in between the cracks of sidewalks too. However, what is interesting to note are the different symbolisms that eventually came to be associated with this flower. For instance, it is considered a symbol for upholding or fighting for a righteous cause, it is symbolic of the sun itself and little children have long believed that a single puff of breath which blows out the seeds is enough to grant a wish.

Over the years, scientists have begun taking a closer look at the actual benefits of the dandelion plant and its leaves in particular. It is believed that the first ever recorded reference made with respect to dandelions as such was in its use as a natural medicine in the 10th – 11th centuries by physicians in the Middle East. In fact, all parts of the plant including the flowers, roots and leaves were used in various preparations and for different purposes.

 

Profile of the Dandelion 

Dandelions contain an interesting mix of minerals such as folate, copper, potassium, manganese and zinc as well as of Vitamins like B, C and D. However, the green leaves of the plant are an excellent source of Vitamin K and they have been found to provide almost 535% of one’s RDA. Studies are being conducted to better understand how this vitamin can help in fighting Alzheimer’s disease besides strengthening the bones in the body. Vitamin A is also present in abundance in the leaves and can supplement around 112% of the body’s RDA. As it is well known, Vitamin A works wonders for the skin and enhances the vision too. The leaves have a naturally high content of fiber which removes toxins and other built up waste in the body effectively. The combination of steroids and alkaloids play a big role in boosting one’s health and the leaves are amply rich in antioxidants too. In short, the dandelion flower, root and the leaves have a whole wide range of benefits to offer which can greatly improve poor health. Let’s take a look at the many benefits that can be yours just by including this plant in your diet today.

 

Undercover Cancer Buster:

In many studies that were conducted using the dandelion roots, it was found that its many antioxidants and components such as carotene, lutein and cryptoxanthin to name a few have the ability to protect the human body from mouth and lung cancers. In fact, dandelion root also has been shown to possess near ‘super’ powers which aid in specifically targeting cancer cells without hurting or destroying other healthy cells. Extracts from the roots are being further studied to understand how they can prevent cancer from spreading to healthy cells and even reduce the size of malignant cells themselves.

Get a Grip on Diabetes:

The juice from dandelion leaves may actually be a safe and healthier alternative for diabetes control vis a vis the use of pharmaceutical drugs. The juice has been proven to be highly effective in stimulating further production of insulin from the pancreas thereby keeping a check on high blood sugar levels. Secondly, its diuretic properties makes diabetic patients urinate more often and this may also help in removing extra sugar from the patient’s body. Moreover, the frequent act of urinating itself can aid in maintaining overall better kidney health. This is undoubtedly a double benefit for a diabetic patient because possible renal failure is an unfortunate condition that many people suffering from diabetes are at a risk of suffering.

Hello Healthy Liver:

The liver is often called the ‘kitchen of the body’ simply because it plays such an important role in so many body functions that we often take for granted. Thanks to the high Vitamin C content found in the leaves and due to the presence of flavonoids, the extract from dandelion leaves helps keeps the liver ever young and functioning to its maximum. Dandelion has also been proven to boost overall liver function by increasing hydration in the body, maintaining electrolyte balance, improving digestion and increasing the release of bile. The ability to cleanse the liver naturally without causing any side-effects makes dandelion a popular option in jaundice recovery and a treatment for hepatitis too.

Bone Health Booster:

One look at the dandelion’s weak white seeds and it’s easy to assume that this flower has nothing substantial to offer in terms of improving bone density and health. But here’s the surprise- the plant is very rich in calcium and the ample presence of Vitamin C and other antioxidants each play an important role in contributing to better bone health. Drinking dandelion tea on a regular basis is like giving your bones a rejuvenation shot (thanks to the number of minerals!) and helps in bringing down any bone inflammation too. This also means that if you have any swelling on any part of the body, dandelion can help rid you of aches and pains.

Cholesterol Buster:

Studies conducted on animals show that dandelion can actually be the answer to every foodie’s prime health concern- high cholesterol. The natural high fiber content helps in removing toxins from the body and also directly improves one’s lipid levels. Its diuretic properties have a direct impact on lowering high blood pressure which is often a result of soaring cholesterol levels. So, in short, simply by making dandelion leaves a part of your diet, you get the twin benefits of low cholesterol levels and low blood pressure too.

Undercover Kidney Cleanser:

We often take our kidneys for granted and yet it is the two bean shaped organs that filter large amounts of waste from the blood in the body which results in the byproduct we call urine. The kidneys also play a vital role in regulating the amount of fluid that is present in the body and even produce hormones. Dandelion juice and dandelion tea have been proven to be effective in the treatment of kidney stones because they dissolve such stones naturally and increase the frequency of urination. Its inherent kidney cleansing properties are quite powerful and that’s why health experts recommend including dandelion greens in your daily diet.

A Slimmer You:

Replace your favorite soda with dandelion tea and you’ll feel the difference in no time. Dandelion tea helps rid the body of extra water which is very useful especially when water retention has been diagnosed as a health concern. On the other hand, this tea has been proven to spike up one’s endurance levels and this means that you can pack in some extra rounds at the gym which also directly has a positive impact on one’s body and health. Nutritionists recommend drinking dandelion tea as a part of a diet which is low in calories and nutrient rich.

Here are two more ways in which the dente-de-lion can benefit you- the leaves are a highly effective remedy for the control of acne breakouts and for improving overall skin appearance. You’ll see and feel the difference within hours of applying the juice on your skin. Secondly, if you ever face any gastric discomfort after a heavy meal, simply eat a few dandelion leaves and you’ll feel better in no time, thanks to the innate properties of the plant to address any digestive problems effectively.

 

The Edible Plant

All parts of the dandelion plant including the flowers, leaves and roots are edible and can be consumed without any side-effects. However, it is recommended that people who have a general allergy to flowers like marigold, chamomile and ragweed should avoid consuming the dandelion entirely. Pregnant and nursing women should speak to a medical practitioner first before consuming dandelion, to make sure that they do not suffer any adverse reactions later.

Dandelion leaves are an excellent substitute for other greens in your daily salad. We advise using young tender leaves as they are less bitter, if you intend on eating them raw. On the other hand, if you have slightly older leaves to use, cooking the leaves first along with the roots will make them soft and extra delicious by reducing the bitter flavor. Vitamin pills containing dandelion extract are easily available and are a great supplement to have on a daily basis. The use of dandelion in herbal teas is very popular. When you feel stressed out, a cup of freshly brewed dandelion tea will calm you down besides giving you a shot of antioxidants that make your body healthier from within.

Include the century old dent-de-lion in your everyday and you will be many steps closer to a perfectly healthier you.


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