Are they a weed or a flower? Or maybe a really really amazing herb? If you have a yard overrun with springtime dandelions, never fear! They aren’t a pest to eliminate, but a gift to use and benefit from!
History of the dandelion
The name dandelion comes from the English butchering “dent de lion” which means “lion’s tooth” in French, referring to the jagged shape of the leaves.
Maybe that’s because the name sunflower was already taken.
Its scientific name is “Taraxacum officinale” (source). You can use that when talking to your neighbors about the awesome herb you’re cultivating in the front yard! This name comes from the Greek words for “disorder” and “remedy”, because the Greeks thought it would help with absolutely any remedy you needed. (source)
Taxonomy aside, I think that dandelions are some of the happiest flowers on the planet, and some of the most useful! You can use every part of the plant in some way or another. The Chinese have been using them for over a thousand years for various conditions!
Dandelion has been used to stimulate the appetite, help with an upset stomach, for muscle aches and viral infections.
There are many dandelion salve uses: to decrease inflammation, to remediate eczema and bruises, and more.
Dandelion is also used as a laxative, digestive tonic, skin toner, and for adding flavor to salads or drinks.
The flavonoids, sterols, and other compounds in dandelions make them useful in bolstering the immune system, cleansing the blood, energizing, and detoxing. (source)
And according to childlore, they grant you a wish when you blow all the white seedlings off in one breathe! But *cough*, of course, I’m wayy too mature and adult-y to believe that….
Foraging for dandelions
When you’re looking for dandelion to harvest, make sure you aren’t getting false dandelion- such as Cat’s Ear. Cat’s Ear gets its name because of the hairy leaf, and it can have more than one flower branching off the main center stem. (source)
You can tell it’s a true dandelion because it will only have one flower per stem, and smooth leaves with pointed ends.
Make sure that you’re getting dandelions from a field or somewhere away from pesticides or commercial fertilizers.
It’s also important to clean your dandelion greens, roots, and blossoms no matter where you get them from.
If you’re taking them from your backyard and have a dog or other pet that poops there, make sure you wash the plants very thoroughly to avoid any ringworm that might be in the soil.
Harvesting and storing dandelions
Harvest on a dry day. Dandelion flowers and buds are best when eaten fresh, especially in April and May. There’s lots of nutrition in dandelion greens! Dandelion leaves have loads of Vitamin K, A, C, iron, and more. (source)
The leaves also taste best when picked when young- they become bitter with more exposure to the sun.
For storing dandelion, you can tie up the roots and leaves in bunches and leave them to dry. Don’t crush the leaves until you’re ready to use them.
Roots have different medicinal properties at different times of the year- in the spring, they are better as a digestive aid. In the fall their levels of inulin increase, which is good for diabetes.
Fresh and dried dandelion roots also have slightly different benefits- fresh roots are good as an anti-inflammatory and for cooling the liver, and dry roots are optimal for detoxing and digestion.
Dandelion uses and recipes
So now you have some super useful, readily available herbs to put to use! But how do you make things out of dandelion plants? And what are some of the best dandelion recipes? Read on to find 11 ways you can use and benefit from all those happy little flowers in your yard.
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Note: Dandelions can cause an allergic reaction in some people. It might also decrease the absorption and effectiveness of antibiotics in your body, and could interact with other medications as well. Talk with your healthcare provider before adding dandelion to your diet.
1. Dandelion Vinegar
Photo and recipe from Fresh Bites Daily
Did you know that vinegar lowers cholesterol, modulates hypertension, and improves your metabolism? Add dandelion to that, and you also get a vinegar that aids in digestion!
This vinegar infusion is super easy to make, and can be enjoyed about a month after you prep it. You can even eat the pickled dandelion that you get when you strain out the plant material!
I like putting my artisanal vinegars and oils in a cute little container like this one… It makes using them even more fun. =)
And why not try using your dandelion vinegar with some olive oil as dressing for a fresh dandelion greens salad?
2. Dandelion Root Coffee
Dandelion coffee is a great digestive aid, natural diuretic, weight loss supplement, and a cheap and readily available coffee alternative.
Lots of the recipes for dandelion coffee require a dehydrator, but this one simplifies it into just four easy steps to make a delightful dandelion drink– no dehydrator required!
The ingredients are three plant roots that give it a sweet, earthy, chocolate-y, coffee-like flavor. It’s absolutely delicious with a little bit of heavy cream and maple syrup. There are also options for mocha and pumpkin spice versions!
You can even make your own almond milk to go with it for a healthy vegan option!
Get the recipe for root coffee here.
Photo and recipe from Martha Stewart
This yummy tonic tastes a little bit like an old-fashioned root beer.
What the recipe doesn’t tell you, however, is that it’s detoxifying (dandelion and burdock root are natural diuretics- get burdock root here), anti-inflammatory, good for your digestion, and promotes balanced hormones. Not bad for one drink!
Photo and recipe from The Herbal Academy
This oil isn’t just for your salad- you can use the infusion in lip balms, salves, and more!
You’ll also find tips on harvesting blossoms, prepping your batch, and an entire guide on making fresh herb infused oils using the heat infusion method! The steps will help ensure that you don’t get bacterial growth, fermentation, or rancidity from the water found in fresh herbs.
Definitely give this a read if you want to learn anything about infusing oil with fresh herbs!
Find the recipe for fresh dandelion blossom oil here.
Photo and recipe from Montana Homesteader
Now that you know how to make a dandelion infused oil, why not use it in this wonderful salve?
This recipe has lots of skin-hydrating ingredients to ensure that your skin stays soft and moisturized. Use it anywhere you have cracked skin, aches, or pains.
And you can make a fantastic massage oil just by adding a few drops of essential oils like lavender or rose to the leftover dandelion oil you’ll have from this recipe!
Get the recipe for dandelion salve here.
6. Dandelion and Honey Liquid Soap
Photo and recipe from The Nerdy Farm Wife
This is the perfect springtime addition to make your house a tad more cheerful! It uses an infused oil and dandelion tea to make your own liquid dandelion hand soap.
You’ll need a good glass dispenser pump -like this one– to show off your pretty soap.
Note that this is an actual soap recipe -it doesn’t just have soap added- and it’s fairly labor intensive, but it’s well worth it! It should be fun for the more science-inclined out there. Just remind the kids (and yourself) not to give in to the temptation of licking your hands. 😉
If you want more DIY cleaning recipes that don’t use toxins or other nasties, check out my post on how to clean your whole house all-naturally!
Find the dandelion hand soap recipe here.
7. Dandelion Root Tincture
Recipe from Wellness Path
You’ll find so much information here! Besides links to lots of other ideas for using dandelions, there are recipes for both fresh and dried dandelion root tinctures, and massage oil!
If you like making tinctures, you should definitely try making an echinacea root and flower tincture.
The tinctures can be used to help appetite and digestion, high blood pressure and cholesterol. There are dosage recommendations as well.
8. Dandelion Syrup
Photo and recipe from Nature’s Nurture
Ok, I’m drooling a little over this one. It isn’t too labor intensive (you do have to pick quite a few flowers, but what better excuse to spend some time in the sun?) but does take some time to steep and simmer.
There are refined-sugar-free options too- I think making it with just honey would make it even yummier!
Use this syrup on pancakes, toast, in tea, add it to your kombucha, or use it as the key ingredient in the following recipe!
Find out how to make dandelion syrup here.
Photo and recipe from the Southern Forager.
Ohhh yes. I didn’t even know it was possible to make dandelion mead, or any sort of mead, without specialized equipment until I came across this recipe! It’s incredibly easy- the hardest part would be waiting for it to age.
You could also add burdock root (like in recipe #3) to make your own dandelion and burdock mead!
I, for one, am making this ASAP, with the Grolsch-style bottles I use for making kombucha!
Get the recipe for dandelion mead here.
10. Dandelion Jelly
Photo and recipe from Teaspoon of Spice
This is an easy recipe for beginner jelly-makers. The jelly will turn out with a consistency closer to honey than jam, but that just makes it super easy to spread! Unfortunately, I’m not sure if there are options to reduce the sugar in this recipe.
The recipe also suggests using a yellow food dye– it’s optional, but the jelly will turn out a bit green without it.
Since artificial food dyes have chemicals linked to hyperactivity, allergic reactions, and tumor growth (source), opt for a natural dye like these, or you could even try adding saffron or turmeric! You’ll only need to add little to get a lot of color.
Why not grab some pectin and give this recipe a try!
Grab the recipe for dandelion jelly here.
11. Dandelion Pesto
Photo and recipe from David Lebovitz
This pesto is just as good for you as the basil variety, but it can be made year-round when only leafy greens are available!
Make sure you rinse the leaves well. And use a good blender or food processor- dandelion leaves are a bit tougher than basil.
I always store my homemade pesto with the top as flat as I can get it, with a thin layer of high-quality olive oil poured on top. This will help preserve it and keep the top from going brown. You can also make a large batch and freeze the extra.
Find the recipe for dandelion pesto here.
Enjoy these delightful dandelion uses!
Now that you know some awesome and healthy things you can easily DIY with dandelions, why not go find a big (pesticide free) field, gather some of these happy little plants, and try out these dandelion uses for yourself?
Want to go a step further?
Making DIY recipes -especially with foraged herbs– are a great way to make sure you’re removing toxins from your life, since you know exactly what you’re putting in your products.
Herbs are a great tool for healthy, holistic living.
Related: The best herbs for Lyme Disease
Did you know that there are lots of other things you can do to reduce harmful chemicals from other areas of your life also? For more information, download my free guide on reducing toxins!