Revered since earlier times, dandelion herb is one of the most sought-after herbs to enliven your daily meals. Almost all the parts of the plant, leaves, flower tops, and root, can be used either for culinary purpose or as a curative remedy for certain medical ailments.
Botanically, dandelion belongs to the family of Asteraceae; in the genus "Taraxacum", and known scientifically as Taraxacum officinale. There are many common names for this herb like priest's crown, Irish daisy, monk's head, blowball and lion's tooth.
|Dandelion herb-Taraxacum officinale.
Note golden yellow color flower.
Photo courtesy: John Tann
|Dandelion leaves. Note for succulent, long lion tooth appearance pinnate leaves.|
Herb-dandelion is believed to have originated in the Central Asian region, from where, it become naturalized in many parts of the temperate and semi-tropical regions including Mediterranean. It is a very hardy plant that grows vigorously everywhere in the fields, lawns and meadows. It features long stout taproots from which long-jagged dark-green leaves arise directly from the soil surface in radiating fashion.
Golden yellow color flowers appear at the end of hollow-stalks by late spring to early autumn. Its hollow flower stalks filled with sweet-scented nectar, attracting bees. Flower-stalks rise straight from the root.
Completely grown plant reaches about 45 cms in height. Almost all parts of the plant exude milky, navajo-white color latex from the inured site.
Dandelion root is a stout, fusiform and fleshy taproot. It externally features dark-brown and white pulp inside, which somewhat appears like that of root yam. The root indeed carries more bitter milky latex than in stems and leaves. Roots generally dug-out of soil when the plant turns into its second year of life. In general, roots meant for medicinal purposes harvested in summer and in autumn for drying and grinding to make coffee.
Certain chemical compounds in fresh dandelion greens, flower tops, and roots are known to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
Fresh leaves are very low in calories; providing just 45 calories per 100 g. The herb is also a good source of dietary fiber (provide about 9% of RDA per 100 g). In addition, its latex is a good laxative. These active principles in the herb help reduce weight and control cholesterol levels in the blood.
Dandelion root as well as other plant parts contains bitter crystalline compounds Taraxacin, and an acrid resin, Taraxacerin. Further, the root also contains inulin (not insulin) and levulin. Together, these compounds are responsible for various therapeutic properties of the herb.
Fresh dandelion leaves carry 10,161 IU of vitamin-A per 100 g (about 338% of daily-recommended intake), one of the highest source of vitamin-A among culinary herbs. Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble vitamin and anti-oxidant, required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and vision.
Its leaves packed with numerous health benefiting flavonoids such as carotene-ß, carotene-a, lutein, crypto-xanthin and zea-xanthn. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-A and flavonoids (carotenes) help human body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers. Zeaxanthin supposed to possess photo-filtering functions and therfore, may help protect retina from harmful UV rays.
The herb is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids which helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Iron is essential for red blood cell production. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
It is also rich in many vital vitamins including folic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine, niacin, vitamin-E and vitamin-C that are essential for optimum health. Vitamin-C is a powerful natural antioxidant. Dandelion greens provide 58% of daily-recommended levels of vitamin-C.
Dandelion is probably the richest herbal sources of vitamin K; provides about 650% of DRI. Vitamin-K has a potential role in bone strengthening by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. It also has established role in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
Dandelion herb contains notable nutrients and is a great source of nutrition during winter
This humble backyard herb provides (%of RDA/100g)-
9% of dietary fiber,
19% of vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine),
20% of Riboflavin,
58% of vitamin C,
338% of vitamin A,
649% of vitamin K,
39% of iron and
19% of calcium.
(Note: RDA-Recommended daily allowance)
Oftentimes fresh dandelion greens can be gathered from the fields, as a wild herb. However, it is better selected from known source like farmers markets. Actually, in many parts of the Mediterranean, it is grown as annual crop or sometimes as garden herb.
In the markets look for fresh, succulent, soft young leaf tops. Fresh leaves are superior in flavor and rich in many vital vitamins and anti-oxidants like ß-carotene, vitamin C and folates. Once at home, store the greens in plastic bags and store in vegetable compartment as in spinach, kale etc.
Fresh greens and flower tops have been in use in cooking since ancient times. Generally, pre-washed greens blanched in boiling water for a minute or so and cooled immediately by plunging into ice-cold water. Blanching reduces bitterness.
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh greens may also used in soups, stews, juices, and as cooked leafy-vegetable.
Dried leaves as well as flower parts used to make tonic drinks and herbal dandelion tea.
Dandelion flowers can be used in the preparation of wines, schnapps, pancakes; and favored in Arab baking.
Gently roasted and ground root can be used to make wonderfully flavorful dandelion coffee.
Dandelion root is also used in Japanese cooking.
Almost all the parts of the dandelion herb found place in various traditional as well in modern medicine.
Certain principle compounds in the herb have laxative and diuretic functions.
The plant parts have been used as herbal remedy for liver and gall bladder complaints.
Dandelion herb is also a good tonic, appetite stimulant and is a good remedy for dyspeptic complaints.
Traditionally, flower stems used as soothening agent for burns and stings (for example in stinging nettle allergy).
Although dandelion herb contains some bitter principles, it can be safely used in healthy individuals without any reservations. However, in patients on potassium sparing diuretic therapy, it may aggravate potassium toxicity. Dandelion herb can also induce allergic contact dermatitis in some sensitive individuals. (Medical disclaimer).
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1. Toraxacum officinale-Pdf.