6 Science-Backed Reasons You Should Be Drinking 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. Touting gut-healing and liver-supporting benefits, 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 ripping these bad boys out of your yard all spring, read on for why you should 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 water—simple as that. Part of the daisy family, the entire plant 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 form), K, E, and C; potassium; and fiber, so it's no wonder they are chock-full of benefits.
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 is right in your front yard.
Why you should try dandelion tea.
Sure, dandelions are literally weeds, but don't let that fool you. Weeds are strong and resilient—albeit annoying—after all. 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 root tea:
1. Helps reduce water weight.
One of the earliest recorded uses of dandelion tea is as a diuretic, helping the body eliminate excess body water through the kidneys and urine. This may be due to the plant's high potassium content, which can signal the body to flush out sodium. Diuretics can be helpful for relieving fluid retention, PMS, and bloating.
2. Improves liver function.
Vitamin-rich dandelion root is a good source of antioxidants, which protect the body from oxidative stress and damage. Antioxidants work all over the body, but beta-carotene, in particular, has been shown to have a protective effect on the liver. Plus, a specific carbohydrate found in dandelion root has been shown to act like an antioxidant, protecting the liver from cellular damage that can lead to acetaminophen-induced liver toxicity.
What's more, animal studies suggest that dandelion root may prevent diet-related fat accumulation in the liver, which can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
3. Helps improve digestion and gut flora.
Because dandelion root is full of gut-friendly fiber, it's no wonder it improves digestion. Research has found the dandelion plant to increase Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, the two most common species used as probiotics and associated with gut health. Dandelion tea may therefore decrease bloating, gas, and general digestive discomfort.
Bitters made from dandelion greens are also a common remedy for digestive maladies.
4. May help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes.
Dandelion root has been shown to have anti-diabetic properties such as enhancing insulin secretion and sensitivity and reducing hyperglycemic events. In one study, supplementing with dandelion root powder significantly reduced fasting blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes. More research is needed, but the blood sugar stabilizing effects of dandelion tea are promising.
5. Helps reduce inflammation.
Several phytochemical compounds in dandelion, such as sesquiterpene lactones, taraxasterol, and chlorogenic acid, have been found to exert anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Inflammation has been linked to everything from chronic disease to cognitive function, so keeping it under control should be a priority for everyone.
6. May help reduce risk of obesity.
According to one study, dandelion exerts similar triglyceride-lowering and pancreatic lipase inhibitory effects to the weight loss drug Orlistat. Pancreatic lipase is the body's primary way of absorbing fat, so reducing this enzyme may result in 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.
Safety and side effects.
Dandelion is generally safe, although if you're allergic to the daisy family, ragweed, or other flowers, you may 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, Cipro, or diuretics.
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. Yup, you can actually harvest dandelions right out of your lawn, just as long as you don't use herbicides or pesticides—can you get any more local than that? Just be sure to give them a good rinse before use. Also, it is important to note that you should avoid harvesting dandelion from roadsides due to the common practice of chemical application on grasses and medians.
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.
Roots: 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 healing properties from dandelion tea, astralagus root, and garlic.
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