Ask The Pharmacist: Surprising benefits of dandelion weeds

Suzy Cohen

Dandelion greens might be considered a weed, but this potent plant contains an impressive arsenal of nutritious compounds that you may want to your diet. I’m referring to dandelions as in Taraxacum officinale.

In traditional herbal medicine practices, dandelion are revered for their wide array of medicinal properties.

This notoriously bitter weed is packed with protein, minerals, and more vitamin C than spinach. The entire plant is edible, though I’ve never eaten the whole thing, just the leaves.  Some people literally harvest the yellow flowers before they open and fry them up in a pan with garlic, butter and other seasonings. 

Dandelion is very easy to harvest, remember it’s kind of like a weed, it grows everywhere! And interestingly, this inexpensive plant is also sold at health food stores, especially in the produce section where it’s usually near the collard greens and kale.

When development is complete, the mature seeds are attached to white, fluffy "parachutes" which easily detach from the seed head, glide by wind, and disperse.

Here are seven reasons to take dandelion:

Aids the digestive system

The plant is a mild diuretic, making you urinate more than normal. It can improve the functioning of the pancreas, stomach, kidneys, and spleen without depleting your body’s potassium stores. Diuretics are known to reduce blood pressure. With dandelions, the two compounds that work in this capacity are chicoric and chlorogenic acid. 

Regional and community banks are growing like weeds.

Good source of antioxidants

You can thank the dandelion’s bitter taste for its antioxidant properties which clean your blood. If you can get used to more bitter foods (and less sugary ones), then your detox pathways that operate in your liver will thank you with better health. 

Can Aid weight loss

Though the facts are still forthcoming, there is evidence today that consuming dandelions can support weight loss by improving your fat-burning rate and metabolism, and simultaneously reducing fat absorption. It’s due to the presence of chlorogenic acid- a compound also found in coffee. 

The common dandelion packs a nutritional punch, says Diana Beck. She’ll explain in “Dandelions and Other Edible Weeds,” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, at the Fond du Lac Public Library.

Helps fight inflammation

Could eating flowers help you with arthritis? Probably not, but it’s fun to think that way. I like herbal remedies that reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-6 and TNF alpha.  Dandelion does this very thing, helping you reduce risk for heart attack, cancer and diabetes.

Can help control blood sugar

Gig Harbor resident Diane Wiley captured what some see as weeds, while others see the annual return of dandelion blooms as a surefire sign that spring has arrived.

Two biologically active phytochemicals in dandelions (specifically, the chicoric and chlorogenic acid) show evidence of controlling blood sugar by regulating your pancreas’s insulin production. 

Useful as a skin treatment

Applying a leaf and flower extract immediately before or after intense sun exposure seems to reduce overall skin damage. Dandelion-containing creams or poultices reduce skin irritation and may help with acne.

Fresh dandelion greens can be used in fresh salads, sandwiches, smoothies, and teas. If they’re too bitter, make a 50/50 mix of dandelions with a subtler green like spinach or Swiss chard. 

The dandelion is one of the most prolific seed-producing weeds.

You could make a tea or buy a commercially prepared teabag. You could also sauté the dandelion greens with some sweet fruits like pineapple. While dandelions are considered a safe plant for most people, there are a few reported incidences of adverse reactions. People with ragweed allergies are sensitive to dandelions, so avoid if that’s the case. 

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit