Dandelion herb, revered since earlier times, 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 found use as culinary greens 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. Some of the common names for this herb are 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 herb leaves. Note for succulent, long lion tooth appearance pinnate leaves.|
Dandelion plant 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 the Mediterranean. It is a very hardy plant that grows vigorously everywhere in the fields, lawns, and meadows. It features elongated, stout taproot from which, long-jagged dark-green leaves arise directly from the ground surface in a 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.
A fully grown-up plant reaches about 45 cms in height. Almost all parts of the plant exude milky, navajo-white color latex from the injured site.
Dandelion root is a dark brown, stout, fusiform, and fleshy taproot. Inside, its meat appears somewhat like that of root yam. The root indeed carries more bitter milky latex than in the stems and leaves. To harvest: roots pulled out off the ground when the plant turns into its second year of life. In general, roots meant for medicinal purposes collected in the summers. They allowed to dry further and gathered by autumn for grinding to prepare coffee.
Certain chemical compounds in fresh dandelion greens, flower tops, and roots are known to have antioxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties.
Besides, its latex is an excellent 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 Taraxacin, a bitter crystalline principle, and Taraxacerin, an acrid resin. 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 essential fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant, required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin.
Its leaves packed with numerous health benefiting flavonoids such as carotene-ß, carotene-α, lutein, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin-A and flavonoids (carotenes) help the human body protect from lung and oral cavity cancers. Zeaxanthin supposed to possess photo-filtering functions and therefore, may help protect the retina from harmful UV rays.
The herb is an ideal 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.The human body uses manganese 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 osteoblastic 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)
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.70 g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber||3.50 g||9%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.084 mg||1.5%|
|Vitamin A||10161 IU||338%|
|Vitamin C||35 mg||58%|
|Vitamin E||3.44 mg||23%|
|Vitamin K||778.4 µg||649%|
In many parts of the Mediterranean, it is grown as an annual crop or sometimes as a garden herb. Often fresh dandelion greens can be gathered from the fields, as a wild herb. However, it better selected from the known sources like farmers markets.
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 the vegetable compartment as in spinach, kale, etc.
Fresh greens and flower tops have been in use in cooking since ancient times. Pre-washed greens blanched in boiling water for a minute or so and cooled immediately by plunging into the ice-cold water. Blanching reduces bitterness.
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh greens may also be 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 delicious dandelion coffee.
Dandelion root is also employed in Japanese cooking.
Almost all the parts of the dandelion herb found a 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 gallbladder complaints.
Dandelion herb is also a good tonic, appetite stimulant and is a good remedy for dyspeptic complaints.
Traditionally, flower stems used as a soothing 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 a potassium sparing diuretic therapy, it may aggravate potassium toxicity. The dandelion herb can also induce allergic contact dermatitis in some sensitive individuals. (Medical disclaimer).
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