6 Benefits Of The Dandelion Botanical + How To Make Dandelion Root Tea
Often thought of as no more than a common yard weed, you would never expect to find dandelions in your morning mug of tea.
But if the sudden rise in the popularity of kale taught us anything, it's that the most overlooked greens are sometimes the most nutritious.
From antioxidant actions to promoting gut microbial diversity, this pesky weed is due for a reputation makeover.
Despite being somewhat neglected, dandelions have a lot to offer. So, if you're used to only interacting with this plant when ripping these bad boys out of your yard all spring, read on to learn about how they are a unique botanical with a lot of health potential. So much so that you might just start sipping on these sunny flowers.
What is dandelion tea?
Dandelion tea is made from the leaves, flower, or roasted root of the dandelion flower, and hot water.
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Part of the daisy family, the entire dandelion plant (Taraxacum officinale) is edible, though the roots and leaves have a natural bitter flavor, while the flower is lightly sweet.
Dandelions are a rich source of vitamins A (in the easy-to-absorb beta-carotene carotenoid form), K, E, and C; the mineral potassium; and gut-loving fiber, so it's no wonder this botanical is chock-full of health potential.
You can find it in ready-to-brew bags in the tea section of your grocery store or in the form of capsules and powders.
But the easiest place to find dandelions might be right in your front yard.
6 potential benefits of dandelion tea
Sure, dandelions are literally weeds, but don't let that fool you. Weeds are strong and resilient plants—albeit annoying—after all.
By leveraging the phytonutrient power of dandelion (e.g., by sipping on dandelion tea), you can tap into that always-grows-back-despite-how-much-you-pick-it strength and other, more tangible, benefits.
Here are the top six science-backed benefits of dandelion:
1. May help reduce water weight
One of the earliest recorded uses of flowers from the Asteraceae family (includes dandelion!) dated back several centuries is as a diuretic, helping the body eliminate excess body water through the kidneys and urine (one of your body’s primary detoxification pathways and organs).
This may be due to the plant's high potassium content, which can signal the body to help flush out sodium.
Plants with diuretic properties can be helpful for relieving fluid retention, which may be especially useful for bloating and PMS-mediated fluid challenges.
2. May help support gut microbial richness and digestion
Because dandelion root is full of gut-friendly fiber (inulin), it's no wonder it's been researched for its ability to support the gut microbial balance and digestion.
Early preclinical research conducted in animal models (e.g., specific species of fish) found the dandelion plant to increase the diversity of key types of good gut microbiota, particularly Actinobacteria and Firmicutes, while decreasing the amount of bad bugs.
While clinical research is needed in humans to definitively determine if the dandelion botanical can improve functional GI issues like bloating, gas, and general digestive discomfort, the early science mentioned above indicates it’s biologically plausible (but there’s simply a lack of clinical trial evidence at this time).
Bitters made from dandelion greens have been a long-time, ancient remedy for digestive maladies, so anecdotal history of use is well established, and the prebiotic fiber (inulin) native to dandelion is a compelling feature.
3. May help improve blood sugar levels
The phytonutrients in dandelion root have been shown to have anti-diabetic properties such as enhancing insulin secretion and sensitivity and reducing hyperglycemic events (albeit, in preclinical rodent models, so clinical research is needed to suss out this effect in humans).
In one such clinical study, supplementing with dandelion root or leaf powder daily for nine days significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Given the epidemic of metabolic dysfunction in the U.S. and the entire world, more research is welcome, as the blood sugar-stabilizing effects of dandelion tea (both root and leaf) are definitely promising.
4. May help reduce oxidative stress and inflammatory burden
Several bioactive phytochemical compounds in dandelion, such as sesquiterpene lactones, taraxasterol, and chlorogenic acid, have been found to exert anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in preclinical in vitro research models..
Since oxidative stress and inflammation have been linked to everything from chronic disease to cognitive function, plant-based ingredients with balancing effects (i.e., helping neutralize free radical oxidants and counteract inflammatory pathways) are particularly compelling.
Clinical research utilizing biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation (e.g., C-reactive protein) would be useful to quantify the potential impact on health further.
5. May help reduce fat digestion (and thus, absorption)
According to one study, dandelion exerts similar triglyceride-lowering and pancreatic lipase-inhibitory actions to the weight loss drug orlistat. To be clear, this preliminary study of obesity-related physiological pathways was preclinical in design, using in vitro cell culture and in vivo mouse models. So research in actual humans is needed before the leap is made for this flower’s impact on overweight and obesity more broadly.
Pancreatic lipase is the body's primary way (i.e., digestive enzyme) of digesting and thus, absorbing fat, so reducing the actions of this enzyme in the gut may result in less fat absorption (and theoretically, improved weight maintenance).
Bonus: Dandelion tea can act as a coffee substitute. While dandelion tea is caffeine-free, it has a similar aroma and flavor to coffee (but without the acidity).
It's a great natural alternative for those looking to reduce their coffee consumption.
6. May offer liver-protective properties
While dandelion as an ancient, medicinal remedy has folkloric use for liver complaints and ailments, the research to elucidate this old-school application is still quite new and thus, emerging.
Science to date demonstrates that dandelion root contains unique water-soluble polysaccharides that, at a cellular and animal model level, activate hepatoprotective (i.e., liver-protective) pathways.
Research in rodents demonstrates that dandelion leaf extract is able to confer liver-protective benefits via the plant’s well-established antioxidant properties.
Oxidative damage (a common mechanism of liver disease) was shown to be reduced by dandelion in this early preclinical research. This beneficial, antioxidative effect has also been shown in rodent models of liver damage caused by excess alcohol.
And 2021 research (again, in rodents) has shown the ability of dandelion root extract to reduce several well-known markers of liver damage, like AST and ALT. Clinical research in humans is definitely warranted to glean the potential impact of this unique botanical on liver health.
Safety and side effects
Dandelion is a generally safe plant that has been consumed for hundreds of years across the world, although there are always exceptions to the rule. If you're sensitive or allergic to the daisy family, ragweed, or other flowers, you will want to skip the dandelion and stick to other beneficial herbal teas.
It is also important to note that dandelion tea can interact with some medications, so talk with your doctor, especially if you are taking lithium, antibiotics in the family of fluoroquinolones (e.g., ciprofloxacin [Cipro] or levofloxacin [Levaquin]), antidiabetics (i.e., glucose-lowering drugs), potassium-sparing diuretics, or medications related to blood clotting (i.e., anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs).
Dandelion tea is also not recommended for those with kidney problems.
How to make dandelion tea
Never fear if your local grocery store isn't stocked with dandelion flowers, roots, or greens; your yard may be the ultimate convenient source.
You can actually harvest dandelions right out of your lawn, just as long as you don't use herbicides or pesticides and animal contact (e.g., your dog doing his business) is physically separated from your dandelion “garden”.
Just be sure to give them a thorough rinse before use. Also, it is important to note that you should definitely avoid harvesting dandelions from roadsides due to the common practice of chemical application on grasses and medians, not to mention the pollutants from cars and other sources that have rained down.
1. Flowers and leaves:
Harvest when the plants are young, and wash well. Place 6 leaves and/or flowers in a mug. Add hot water, then steep for 10 to 20 minutes, remove plant material, and enjoy!
Store extra dandelion leaves by patting dry after washing, then leaving on the counter for several hours or overnight until completely dry. Store the dried leaves in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.
Wash thoroughly, chop or mince, then roast in the oven for 2 hours. Steep 1 to 2 teaspoons in a mug of hot water for 10 minutes before enjoying. Store leftover roasted dandelion root in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.
Loving this dandelion tea thing? Enjoy this daily detox soup packed with powerhouse plants from dandelion tea, astragalus root, and garlic.
Keep in mind
Here at mbg, we honor traditional health practices and remain curious and open to a food-as-medicine approach, which is why we're not quick to dismiss the existing, albeit preliminary, research and anecdotal evidence for the beneficial use of the dandelion plant, including dandelion root and leaf tea. That said, more research is needed, and we always recommend considering a doctor's guidance before making any health-related decisions. As The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health writes, "We know very little about dandelion’s health effects. There’s little scientific evidence on this herb."
Editor's Note (June 21, 2022): A previous version of this article indicated that dandelion root tea may help protect the liver. We have since clarified that statement to indicate that the dandelion plant and its extracts have hepatoprotective properties that are mostly preclinical and thus, preliminary, in nature.